Riddell Umpires Association senior coach, Michael O’Keeffe, has been named the Victorian Australian Football Coaches Association Umpire Coach of the Year.
Michael attended the 26th running of the awards at the MCG on Friday night and took the honour in front of more than 300 guests who had gathered to acknowledge the work of more than 10,000 community coaches in Victoria.
“I was very surprised and extremely honoured,” Michael said, “Although my main focus is to always improve the environment around umpiring, it is nice to receive some individual recognition.”
He also paid tribute to the people around him, including his wife, Rachel, who supported him during the many days of the year dedicated to umpiring.
Nominations were sought from all umpire coaches in the the state. Umpires from the AFL PD program could nominate any umpire from inside and outside their league before the Umpiring Development Department at the VFL made the final decision.
Michael crossed to the RUA from the Northern Football League in 2010 after a very successful career as a field umpire. The school teacher enjoyed a stellar career in the NFL that included umpiring in multiple senior grand finals and felt that it was time to look into another aspect of umpiring.
“I felt I had some of the skills required for coaching,” Michael said.
Michael was selected to be the head coach at the 2012 AFL Under 16 Championships in Sydney, to add to his achievements.
“It was great to coach some of the best young umpires in the country over a week and a half,” Michael said.
Anyone involved in a big way at this level of football puts in a lot of hours which cuts into family time. Fortunately Michael was able to balance his dedication to umpiring with time as a part-time stay-at-home dad to make up for the weekend work on the field.
Michael has used some of his spare time at home to help take the RUA to the next level. Video self assessment was introduced this year with umpires who officiated in a game that was filmed. Umpires watched their games to assess free kicks that were paid, not paid and their position before discussing their critique with their coaches.
Regular umpires sessions include watching videos and assessing all areas such as free kicks, positioning, communication with players and other umpires.
This initiative has been on the back of participating in an extended interleague program, sending umpires to Cairns and doing half-panel matches with the Ballarat Football League umpires. Billy Mitchell also conducted additional training sessions at Salesian College in Rupertswood and boundary coach, Cam Black, introduced a four-boundary umpire system into senior matches. These were added this year on top of a solid coaching program.
“I am sure that the public don’t always agree, however if you compare our top umpires to other leagues, we punch well above our weight,” Michael said, “However there is always room for improvement.”
“We are in a good place at the moment. We have grown our group over the last four years and we continue to improve. The Riddell Umpires have much respect amongst the umpiring community and I think that is a good reflection on the work that we are doing.”
The future is looking bright for the Riddell Umpires. They are looking to recruit more female umpires and improve the standard across the board to match the introduction of new teams joining the competition next year. They will continue to build their professionalism and will launch their new website on December 1 to enable the community to interact more with what they are doing. If you’re interest in umpiring next year, you’re welcome to express your interest early by contacting general manager, Glen Shilling, on 0408 507 293.
Michael O’Keeffe with wife Rachel after winning the award as the AFCA Umpire’s Coach of the year.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.