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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Farnill

How Sport can Teach us (from my experiences as an umpire)

Most of my clients know I am an international hockey umpire. Wanting to perform for the love of the sport and competition is a connection many can share.

But umpiring in the normal season is slightly different to playing. As an umpire we train by ourselves, develop our skills mostly by ourselves, don’t have training or practice where we can go over skills, our only way of knowing how we are performing is by dealing well in situations on the field. Please don’t get me wrong, I know playing has many trying factors including getting along with people who you may not normally come into contact with, different age groups, different levels of commitment, just to name a few.

The above umpiring struggles make it a very individual pursuit yet if we don’t work as part of our team, the game becomes dangerous to the players we should be protecting. An athlete can shine regardless of the result of their team. But sometimes as officials we can survive or sink together (can I hear a “ride together or die together” from my umpiring pals).

Over the many years I have been at state championships in NSW and Nationals for Australia, I have had many heartaches and times where I have questioned about what things are worth to me. And I would like to guide you through questions I answer myself and I have given to many other umpires. The advice is answering the questions:

1. Is this worth it?

2. Is the pain right now, worth the potential of reaching the dream?

3. Do you still love it?

4. Can you somehow have fun while getting through the thing that hurts?

I think this goes for any hobby, life goal, career, study, aspiration. If you honestly feel something is worth the temporary pain in your heart, then you’ll keep going. And once it isn’t worth it anymore, you have the moment you might want to give it up or move on to something else that will spark that joy and love again.

I feel life is as simple as that,

Love something equals you go and do it, including all the crappy things you don’t really like doing but following the ultimate love needs some crappy tasks to be completed.

If the crappy parts out weight the love, then it isn’t really worth it anymore.

Now let’s go to some other lessons I have learnt through sport:

· Working in a group

· Turning up on time

· Commitment

· Socially getting along with different people

· Setting and chasing dreams

· Communication in all its glorious forms including general manners but also conflict resolution

· Listening to someone else, learning and applying that

· Perseverance and patients

· Mental resilience

And it is here, with mental resilience that I love spending my time in clinic. Essentially mental training is a lot of what I do with my clients. We take what is mentally stressing them out, understand where this comes from (either a bad past experience, expectations on themselves or negative emotions just to name a few ways this stress can come about), and then we rewire the brain and body so we can mentally behave and react differently in the future.

Because this is ultimately the aim of any good umpire, and for me the aim of life. Take a situation where I didn’t like my reaction or what I felt on the inside (in my heart and body) or didn’t like the words running through my mind, go about understanding these feelings and thoughts, process them and in a future situation I hope to react in a more balanced way that leaves me feeling content within myself.

If that contentment doesn’t happen (and let’s be truthful, good intentions can sometimes go unnoticed) then I try again to understand my reactions, re focus my mind and head out into the world again to practice what I have learnt.

So through sport I have learnt to love what you do, or don’t bother doing it and my aim in life is to keep growing to be the person I want to be. The super cool part is being able to share these aims and life lessons with others so they can love their life and be the best person they possibly can be.

I am really interested in others journeys so be sure to send me an email with what you have learnt from sport (or a hobby) and I can find inspiration in your story 

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