Secondary School Student Officials In Sport Profile: Safari Hynes

College Sport Wellington recently finished their student coaches and officials workshops for the year, with collectively 400 students attending one day events around the region. The workshops are a joint initiative between College Sport Wellington, Sport Wellington, ACC and the Regional Sports.  Over the course of the day long workshop, the students will cover off the principles of good sport coaching and officiating, injury prevention and then they get to put what they’ve learnt into practical sessions.

In addition to coaching, there are a number of secondary school students involved in officiating sport throughout Wellington, refereeing or umpiring to a high level within school sport or higher up in the senior or representative ranks.  Hutt Valley High School Head Boy Safari Hynes is one such person.

Name: Safari Hynes

School: Hutt Valley High School

Sport: Netball

What competitions are you are officiating in?

I’m currently umpiring outdoor netball at premier secondary school and senior level.  I umpire in the Premier 1 Secondary School’s competition on a Monday.  I also umpire the Premier Senior netball grades on a Saturday.  On the occasional Sunday when I am available, I umpire at rep tournaments all over the lower north island.  I’ve recently been selected to umpire at the Netball New Zealand U17’s tournament in Palmerston North.  I’m one of 12 umpires selected from our zone to umpire at this tournament.
When did you start umpiring and how did you get involved?

My mum was an umpire, she used to take us to her games and the game became etched into my siblings and me.  After I realised there was no pathway for male netballers after intermediate, I started to pursue umpiring.  I umpired my first game at age 11. 

When did you umpire your first serious competition game on your own steam at any level?

I did this at the age of 11, there is always a co-umpire, usually they pair inexperienced umpires with experienced umpires.  Because there were many grades, I did start at the bottom grade and slowly worked my way up. 

You also play netball, what about other sports?

I play for HVHS Mixed Netball 1 in our Mixed grade competition.  I play outdoor netball for Wellington U23’s and was recently selected to play for the NZ U20’s in the Trans-Tasman Men’s and Mixed Netball Series in October, in Adelaide.  I also just finished playing in the new Premier Men’s Netball competition that was held at Walter Nash every week and finished last week.  I play for Hutt U19’s or Indoor netball, this year we came 3rd at our national tournament. 
Do you have an umpiring highlight?

The best games I have umpired were the last two years, the finals of the U15’s national tournament in Taranaki.  Both games coming down right to the wire.  It is a great test of mental strength to be able to absorb the atmosphere and stick with the game physically and mentally. 

The hardest games mentally I always find the best, because you are in the “zone” for your entire game. 

Last week I had what was basically the Prem 2, 1st v 2nd.  This game was greatly anticipated with many experienced players and having to stay in a strong mentality for a whole hour game was difficult, but I will remember it. 

What are some of the challenges of netball umpiring?

When you make the wrong call and you realise in the moment, you reverse it immediately if you 100% know it’s right to – umpire’s mistake.  Abuse and verbal comments are a given in officiating sport.  Someone is never happy, regardless of what you call, that is why it’s easier to block everything out.  However, there is a clear distinction between directed abuse from a team official and moaning from an un-knowledgeable crowd.  In the case that the abuse comes from a team official, there are protocols to take care of that problem if it arises and has a real effect on my umpiring, otherwise, I just tune out. 
Do you think you have a good handle on the rulebook – how much is there to learn?

It was an easy transition from player to umpire because I had a basic understanding of the rules already.  I was also lucky to have my mum who would always point me in the right direction in terms of rule knowledge.  Theory-wise, I’ve completed my NZ Theory examination which is the last theory exam I need to do in order to get further qualifications.  Most people believe that the point of the umpire is to blow the whistle the entire game and disrupt the flow.  However, when you get to the higher level, the game is more about letting the players play the game and you only coming in when you need to and butting out when you don’t. 
Do you have the help of a mentor or coach to improve your performance?

Yes, I am lucky to have been raised at the courts among all of the umpires.  Therefore I was inundated with great mentors throughout the years to help guide me, but was more of my aunties that mentored me.  Now, I have Gareth Fowler who has been awarded his International Umpire Award – the first from Hutt Valley.  He comes to my games and critiques me and makes me a better umpire.  Also, there’s Tasi, she’s been there with me since day one and still tells me what I need to do to be a better umpire.

What are your goals?

Personally, I don’t go into anything to not reach to the top.  I want to be an international umpire.  However, I recognise that there are many hurdles between that far away goal of mine and my current predicament.  To umpire at a Netball World Cup would be a dream-come-true as.  The pathway is clear and the U17 tournament I will be umpiring at is one small step in the path. 

Are there other people your age or school umpiring netball? 

There are many girls umpiring throughout many schools and clubs in my area, there is a lack for young male umpires.  Though this is sad, it has always put me in a unique position. 

What advice do you have for someone your age considering joining you?

  1. Take criticism and let it make you a better umpire
  2. Mental strength is key in critical games
  3. Have confidence, nothing worse than an official of the game not confident in their knowledge of the rules
  4. Let the players play the game
  5. Have fun and enjoy it

Article courtesy of College Sport Media