This is the first article in a series called “Ask The UMP.” A number of members at Edmonton Table Tennis Club (ETTC) are certified umpires at the provincial and national levels and they’re here to answer your questions. First up is John Gunraj. Not only is he the president of our club (and a member for over 40 years), he’s also a provincially (2009) and nationally certified (2010) umpire. He has officiated in numerous local and regional tournaments and most notably officiated at the US Open. Let’s thank John for stepping up and being the first to take our questions about the life and times of a table tennis umpire.
What are the duties of a table tennis umpire prior to the start of a match?
One of the aspects of good umpiring that we take for granted is the preparation phase. We hardly ever get to see what happens behind the scenes as an umpire and officiating crew work hard to ensure that the match starts on time and that all requirements are met.
When I posed this question to John Gunraj about preparations, he sent me a checklist that umpires use as a guideline to ensure that the important things are not missed. The checklist includes a section on “Things To Have” at the table: (1) stopwatch (2) pen/pencil (3) match slip (4) table tennis balls (5) coin/disk for toss (6) net measure/net gauge (7) red/yellow cards. Another section of the checklist contains reminders on important actions prior to the start of the match: (1) check net (2) check barriers (3) check shirts and number (4) select ball (5) coin toss (6) identify coach (7) time warm-up.
Here’s a video clip from the recent 2014 World Table Tennis Team Championships in Tokyo, Japan. The video is the semi-finals match between China and Singapore. You can observe the umpire and assistant umpire presiding over match preparations such as delivering the ITTF inspected and approved player rackets, measuring and adjusting net height and tension, performing the coin toss, monitoring and timing the warm-up, and delivering the match ball to the player for the first serve.
Courtesy http://www.52waha.com & Youtube user janus770
If you think that’s all there is to the preparations for a match, think again. John referred me to a list of “all the boring stuff,” which can be found here (go to page 26 of 50 at the link). “Boring” things such as checking the suitability of lighting conditions, verifying racket coverings, and determining the legality of player’s uniform colour and sponsor logo sizes are just a few of the critical match preparations for an umpire. Remember it this way about the umpire’s preparations: the officiating crew are there to ensure safe and fair playing conditions which in turn allow the competitors simply to focus on playing their best and being the centre of attention.
Don’t just play table tennis. Learn how you can contribute more to the sport by becoming an umpire. Table Tennis Canada has a convenient link on its “Officials” page that can get you on the path to certification. The first step is getting qualified as a Club Umpire. Click here to get started. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask any of our members who also happen to be certified umpires (John Gunraj, Harry Parenteau, Don Chan, Jonathan Lau).
More articles in our ‘Ask The Ump’ series: