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In case you missed it, netball is also represented by two South African umpires at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Seasoned campaigners Anso Kemp and Elizna van den Berg are no strangers when it comes umpiring big netball tournaments. We spent some time with Anso and Elizna whilst umpiring at the Games.

Some background information. Anso Kemp was born in Paarl (Western Cape) and currently resides in Strand. She’s been an umpire since 2002 and received her NSA C+ grading in 2003 at the u/21 SA Championships in Oudtshoorn. She’s been and International Umpire (IUA) since 2016 and has umpired more than 65 test matches.

Elizna van den Berg was born in Bethlehem (Free State), studied Human Movement Science and did an Honours Degree in Child Kinetics at the University of the Free State. She’s been officiating since her varsity days and became an NSA A umpire in 2008 and an International Umpire (IUA) in 2016 – starting off her international career at the Summer Series in Northern Ireland. She has umpired over 50 test matches. Elizna currently resides in Durbanville in the Western Cape.

How did your netball journey begin?
Anso: When I was in Primary School, I only got to play in a B team.  When I was in High School, I was the youngest to get chosen for the school’s first team, when I was in Grade 10. During that time it was still called Standard 8. When I was in High School I went to play trials for Boland and never made the team. Only five years after school, I was chosen for a Boland team, now called Cape Winelands.
Elizna: My mom was a netball player and coach and we grew up next to the court… It’s in my blood.

How did you get into umpiring?
Anso: The “umpiring bug” bit me in High School.  When we had our Interschool’s matches, they always had these top umpires to come and umpire the first teams’ matches, as it is done currently as well. Jeanette Gersbach and Annamaré Francis were the two most inspiring umpires and I always thought one day I want to be like them. I first started of as a u/19 Boland coach, playing for Boland and in 2004 tore my cross ligaments. I continued coaching and umpiring when I was at the SA Champs. After seven years of coaching ending with the u/21 Boland, I decided I want to only focus on umping. Dr Hannette Brewer mentored me back then.
Elizna: I’ve coached school teams since varsity days and have been involved with umpiring since then.

Which international and domestic tournaments have you umpired at so far and which one’s are your favourite(s). Any memorable moments and/or matches?

Inaugural World University: 2011
Fast 5: 2012, 2018
Africa Qualifiers: 2016
Youth World Cup: 2013, 2017 (umpired the finals)
Quad Series: 2019, 2020, 2022
Constellation Cup: 2018, 2022
World Cup: 2019
Commonwealth Games: 2022
Test Series between different countries: Africa Netball Championships, Pent Series

SPAR Senior and u/21 Netball Championships
Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League
Telkom Netball League
Varsity Netball Cup
And obviously school matches too.

Most memorable, every single tournament! Each tournament had its own memories. Friends and colleagues met and made all over the world.

Quad Series: 2022
World Cup: 2019
Youth World Cup: 2017
Fast 5: 2017

Telkom Netball League
Varsity Netball Cup

The most difficult part about being an umpire?
Anso: Balance between family and work. Most important is my family. Difficult when missing birthdays and special milestones. Being away for netball and the “stress” of getting time to get your work done in between. Watching matches of my daughters when they are playing netball and the reality of then being a mother and NOT the umpire next to court. Hahaha! I will rather umpire the most difficult match. Hahaha! When players get injured while umpiring right in front of you and you had/have NO control of the outcome.
Elizna: To be consistent in every single game.

Your favourite part about being an umpire?
Anso: That absolute thrill I get when stepping up on court and knowing that it’s me, my co-umpire, the 6 lines and the 14 players. The spectacular athleticism the players get to show case. And still getting nervous no matter what level of match I have to umpire.  When conducting courses and there are umpires who have been on the “job” for many years and I can make a difference for them to keep on umpiring.  Age is just a number.
Elizna: To been involved in the game and let players be able to play according to their skills within the rules.

What advice can you share as an umpire to someone who would like to pursue it?
Anso: Be prepared to work hard, on and off the court! The game is NOT about you. But what you can bring to the game for the players to show their skills. Age is just a number, so start whenever you can.  Attend as many theory courses as possible. Always good to get a feel of different umpires and what they bring to the table. Umpire any level of match. Different things happen in different levels of matches and that is a challenge on its own, to really KNOW your rules. When going to a tournament and you are there to be graded, don’t go in with pre-conceived ideas and think about the outcome. Umpire every match as if it might be your last.
Elizna: Get Up, dress up, show up, NEVER give up!

You’re currently umpiring at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, how’s it been so far?
Anso: Appreciating the privilege and enjoying the experience.
Elizna: Once in a life time experience to be part of a world event.

How has umpiring grown over the years? Any advancements, changes that has benefited the sport? Do you think it will change more?
Anso: At the last Telkom Netball Junior Championships there were almost 100 umpires attending and more than 70 umpires received new gradings! That was spectacular, and this means the umpiring game IS alive! BUT, we as umpires are not always seen as professional athletes. And that needs to change.  All the time of training, money spent on physio/bio treatments, supplements etc. needs to be acknowledged and supported.  Things are changing in World Netball and this came through with a two day workshop we had pre-camp of the  Commonwealth Games in Birmningham.  All 13 umpires had a voice, no matter which country you are from.  So yes, I think there are great “changes” coming through.
Elizna: There’s a shift towards more relevant umpiring rather than the letter of the law.

The Netball World Cup is coming to South Africa, how does that make you feel or what it excites you?
Anso: Excitement overload! This will be GREAT for South Africa and all of us have to bring our A-game to make this one for the history books. Speaking to so many people abroad makes one realise how big this event will be and all over the world people can’t wait for the 2023 World Cup in Cape Town.
Elizna: This means a lot to our country to host a world event. The exposure to the sport at all levels will lead to growth in the sport and subsequent attractions of sponsorships. It will elevate netball to a major sport in SA. I can’t wait for the 2023 World Cup!

Thank you Anso and Elizna, all the best for the next chapters

Photo Credits: Reg Caldecott, Ben Lumley, Thuli Dlamini, Skhu Nkomphela and Supplied