“My first ever international event was the China Open 1987 in Nanjing, therefore it was very special to finish my BWF career back in China”
41 years after her first-time volunteering to umpire at the Australian Under 17 Championships in Melbourne, Susan Taylor, reflects on a tremendous International umpiring career as she flew up the ranks to BWF accredited (in February 1994) and BWF certification (in February 1998) – the highest possible rank.
At only 14 years of age, Taylor admired the work of the ‘real umpires’ at work – and went on to become a Badminton Australia level 1 umpire. Since that time, Susan has become a familiar face on the regional and international circuit, with events spanning from the Oceania Championships, to the Youth Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships and many more.
Tasked with the difficult job of picking out her favourite moment, she was able to narrow it down to two career-defining moments:
“Umpiring the Men’s Doubles at the 2014 Super Series Finals – this was the first year they were held in Dubai. The whole event, although extremely hard work and very long days, was amazing”
“The other special moment was umpiring the Gold medal match for the Mixed Doubles at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games – made even more special because this is the only time the Mixed Doubles event has been held at a Youth Olympic Games.”
However, being an international umpire is not all roses. Taylor’s career opened in a ‘challenging’ climate, with many cultures conforming to norms which wasn’t as accepting of female authority. Moreover, aspects of travelling, language and social media have added to the pressures of being an umpire:
“Language is a challenge, particularly in the early years when google translate didn’t exist”
“It was also difficult travelling with a young family at home – this was made possible due to the never-ending support from my parents”
“More recently, social media has allowed fanatics to enter your life and put forward their views about your in-court performance – death threats are not something I enjoy”, says Susan.
Nevertheless, with every challenge comes an opportunity to learn. There are plenty of life experiences and learnings to take away from a role as umpire, both on and off the court:
“The things I have learnt the most from becoming an umpire include:
To judge every situation in its merits.
- We have laws that govern the game but not every play is covered by them.
- This has taught me (on court and in life) to
- Be open minded
- Consider all options
- Be compassionate
- Be inclusive
- Be adaptable”
Thankfully, it isn’t the end of the road for Taylor, as she will continue to umpire in regional events, as the retirement age is only specific to BWF certificated and accredited personnel. Her time as a BWF certificated Umpire has sparked some new ideas, which she hopes to pursue in the near future.
“I will continue to be available for local events in Victoria, Australia and Oceania, and I also hope to mentor and assess technical officials, particularly across the Pacific countries.
“There are still a few events across Asia and Europe that I hope to attend as an Oceania Umpire, while working on increasing my level as a referee too”, says Susan.
For all those aspiring umpires and technical officials, Susan signs out with some words of wisdom:
“Follow your heart. If it is really what you want to do, go for it. Work hard to improve yourself, listen to advice and learn from your mistakes and never think you are beyond learning”