Archive for month: September, 2018

Written by Geoff Northam, RACT Chief BRO

At a recent FISA regatta, I was asked by an
umpiring colleague why we volunteer to be umpires.  At the time we were standing on the large
concrete boat pontoon structure at the course, which we had come to call “the
human griller”, because it was oppressively hot, there was no escaping the heat
and at the end of the day you were cooked. 
In such circumstances it was a fair question – are umpires mad?

Our conversation turned to the health of
the sport of rowing, where we agreed but for volunteers, the sport of rowing
would not prosper, and the opportunity for athletes to compete and excel in
their chosen sport would be limited and less fulfilling than desired.  We climbed down from our FISA stratosphere
and were soon discussing local regattas in places like Argentina and Nicaragua.

So why do we volunteer to be umpires?  We found a common joy of being part of and
enabling young people to do their best, giving them the opportunity to
participate in a safe environment where enjoyment is the primary objective.  For my colleagues who rowed competitively,
there was a strong sense of giving back to the sport.  For my part, having no competitive rowing
background, it was about providing opportunity for all the young and emerging
competitors.  It was about being
supportive and sharing the joy of their ‘moments’, sometimes forgettable and
sometimes of great achievement.

I recalled that on an ordinary day, at an
ordinary regatta in Canberra, the rowing master from the school my children attended
said “those guys over there need some help” [motioning to the finish
line].  I went over and offered my time
with no expectation of personal benefit. 
They seized the opportunity and quickly put me to work!

I look back at that moment, and contrary to
my low expectation on personal benefits, I find myself continuously receiving
benefits from that moment.  I have shared
in the camaraderie of the greater body of fellow umpires.  I have witnessed and shared the heartbreak
and enjoyment of countless rowers achieving their goals, knowing that my role
was to keep them safe while they competed without being able to see what lay
ahead. I have witnessed the expected and unexpected moments and incidents that
will live in my memories forever.

From that one moment I have gained immeasurable
enrichment and opportunity.  Volunteering
as an umpire is an irresistible excuse to enjoy sports competition at every
level, and to get something in return from that experience.

RACT will be hosting BRO training October 14th. Please email for more details.

Know someone who should learn to row? Registrations are now open for Talent Identification Testing, as part of a National Rowing Talent ID Week. 
This is aimed at non-rowers, aged approximately 13-16 years who show an interest in learning to row and reaching a competitive level. Those selected for the TID program will be coached by Olympic and National Level coaches.  

Please register here:

If you have any questions, please contact Katrina at