2001 AFL Umpire & Coach Clinic

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The first ever AFL attended umpire and coach clinic was held over the weekend of March 2nd-5th. Peter Hanlon, AFL National Training Manager, was in attendance to conduct the coaching clinics while Adrian Panozzo, AFL Umpire Assistant Coach, instructed the umpires. A total of forty members, primarily from the Western region, attended the Level One Umpire and Coach Clinics, along with the Coach and Umpire Coaches courses.

Attendees of the Coaches Clinic

"The AFL congratulates the USAFL on such a tremendous effort in getting this many people to attend this weekend" stated Adrian Panozzo. Peter Hanlon backed this up by stating that the AFL is committed to providing the USAFL's Umpires and Coaches with whatever education and training materials they need in order to take the sport to the next level, particularly with regards to the recruitment, training and ongoing certification of both umpires and coaches.

The weekend was hosted by the San Diego Lions, and much thanks must go to Bill Dusting USAFL Western VP, Wayne Calliss CAFL President, and all the Lions players who came out on Sunday to give both the umpire and coaches some invaluable match situation practice.

Attendees of the Umpires Clinic

Nineteen keen USAFL members arrived for the Friday umpire Level One clinic, with about half of these completing the entire four day weekend to progress toward their Umpire Coach accreditation. Adrian Panozzo took the day, mixed with team building and field activities, along with an insightful look into the world of umpiring, including the often maligned scene of AFL umpiring. Every attendant came out of the first day knowing umpiring was a crucial part of any football organization and were all keenly looking forward to expanding their experiences and knowledge both on and off the field.

After Adrian had run a brisk 15 kilometre run that morning (winning his age group), the remainder of the attendees arrived. It truly was an amazing sight to see 40 people in the same room, all there to better their own knowledge regarding football. This knowledge will now be passed onto the rest of the league over the next twelve months. The Saturday saw the two groups, under the guidance of their AFL expert counterparts, rotate between the field and the hotel conference room. With the constant presence at the field of either the coaches or the umpires, the locals had a lot to stare and wonder about, especially when there were 20 guys running around blowing whistles for no apparent reason.

Saturday night saw everyone complimenting both the AFL and the USAFL on the professionalism and organization that the clinic was being conducted with. Some attendees who had initially been reluctant to attend, later stated " It's the best thing I could ever have done, those that didn't attend should be very disappointed". The energetic group then headed into the Pacific Beach area, sharing some great food, a few beers and of course, plenty of good stories.

Sunday was the culmination for more than half the participants. Following some early morning sessions, the day was highlighted when both the umpires and coaches were working together, in conjunction with the players from the local San Diego Lions. To see that many people out on the same field, concentrating and being educated on so many different tasks at the same time, was a true testament to how far this league has come.

Sunday afternoon saw the taking of group photographs and the awarding of prizes for those who had excelled over the weekend. Richard Mann, USAFL President, also presented the two AFL guests the unique usfooty "A driving force behind the USAFL" rugby tops and signed National Tournament footballs, from the members of their respective clinics.

Following a more sedate Sunday evening, the Coach and Umpire Coaches attended the final days sessions. These were aimed at "teaching the teachers" in order to allow these umpires and coaches to not only supervise and provide feedback to the Level One coaches and umpires, but also to look at conducting the future clinics that will be held later this year.

The AFL will now be in constant contact with all of these participants as they continue to practice their newly developed skills. This will culminate with the AFL officially signing off and accrediting the appropriate people to a Level One Certification at the 2001 National Tournament.

As the USAFL looks to the two upcoming clinics, one in the East and one in the Central region, the path looks a lot clearer and well defined, particularly when compared to this time twelve months ago. The people who attended this clinic need to keep the enthusiasm going, if for no other reason than to prove that the USAFL can and will improve the professionalism of two of the most important non-playing parties, the coaches and the umpires.
The goals set out at the start of this year regarding the certification of Level One umpires and coaches, which looked ambitious at the time, now look to be very reachable goals. The difference in the professionalism of the umpires at this years' National Tournament will be a testament to all the hard work the National Board has done to improve this area of the sport, which was identified as a priority by the players, teams and the AFL.

Rich Mann
USAFL - President

- Rich Mann - USAFL President

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