Newly qualified officials reflect on Wimbledon debuts
• 3 MINUTE READ
Amongst the 327 on-court Officials selected by the LTA to work at the 134th Championships at Wimbledon this year were four newly minted Line Umpires who qualified in May this year.
Kevin Fang (20), Anya Gough (20), Sophie Kitson (20) and Victor Prelici (19) all passed LTA Officiating Academy Line Umpire courses held in May at Loughborough University.
The programme is an opportunity for existing tennis players aged 16-21 to get involved in officiating as LTA Officiating Manager Matthew Morrissey explains “We’ve had great success in the past recruiting groups of young players into officiating – Officials such as Ben Anderson, Lucy Davies, James Keothavong and Kelly Thomson – all came through a similar way and having people feel part of a group can help to retain them as Officials.
The two one day courses were a combination of classroom learning and on court practical sessions with those passing becoming part of the Officiating Academy.
Kevin gave his view of the course: “I found it really engaging, I have been a tennis coach for the past 4 years and I have also been watching tennis since forever, so it was great to see tennis from a new perspective.”
Impressing with their performances on the course Kevin, Anya, Sophie and Victor were each offered the chance to officiate at The Championships, which as Victor explains was a surprise. "It’s honestly really surreal how quickly everything happened. I remember being in my kitchen receiving the email saying I’ve passed the course only to then to see I’ve been invited to work at Wimbledon in six weeks. It definitely took me a few days to process it all.”
To be eligible to work at The Championships all four had to first work as as Line Umpires at the major events in Nottingham or Birmingham to ensure they had some experience before starting at Wimbledon Qualifying and then the Championships.
Working for the first time at a professional tournament can be daunting as Sophie outlines “My first major event was the Nottingham Trophy, it was a fantastic experience although slightly nerve wracking to start with! But after the first few calls was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the whole experience”
Moving onto Wimbledon, to work at Qualifying and then Main Draw, Victor, Sophie, Anya and Kevin stayed with all other Officials in a Minimum Risk Environment (MRE) secure bubble in a hotel for the duration of their selection.
How did they find the Wimbledon experience?
Victor: “I remember my first shift being after a very long rain delay with the back drop of centre court on the court and thinking to myself that this doesn’t feel real and just feeling really privileged to be there.”
Sophie: “Being on court with some of the best players in the world and seeing yourself everyday on BBC iPlayer was pretty cool! But also all the people I’ve met from all over the world has been amazing.”
The plan will be for the quartet to be joined for The Championships in 2022 by the other new Officials in the Officiating Academy. In addition they will be receiving further training in chair umpiring and off-court officiating roles such as refereeing and court supervising.
After an intense few weeks what have they learnt about officiating?
Kevin: “The main thing I’ve learnt about it is that it is a very rewarding branch of tennis. Officiating is such a crucial component of the sport, you really start to notice how important officials are in how tennis runs when you become a part of the team.”
Sophie: “It requires a lot of concentration over a long period of time but is a lot of fun. But overall my first experience of line umpiring and being at Wimbledon has been fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone who’s interested in getting involved!”
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