February’s Featured Umpire: Margy Braga
Club Affiliation: Don Rowing Club
Current City: Toronto
Number of Years Umpiring: 1 (rounded up!)
What was your background in rowing before you started umpiring?
I’ve been involved in rowing for years (as a coxswain, as a coach, and also as a previous Board member at Row Ontario). In 2023, I was looking for new adventure, and decided to pursue a role as a Coastal Coach at Don Rowing Club and Umpiring.
When and why did you become an umpire? And what interested you most about becoming an umpire?
I think many people in our community can relate to these reasons… but I became an Umpire because I love challenges, I am dedicated to give back to this sport, and I above all else love see athletes succeed.
I found the transition from cox/coach to Umpire somewhat straightforward, but welcome the leadership opportunity to not only uphold the values of our sport by enabling safe and fair racing opportunities, but also bring attention and promote new volunteers to Umpiring (there is a need for new Umpires, as many current volunteers are set to retire after decades of service).
Although Umpiring doesn’t quite replace the thrill of being in a racing shell myself, I’m at a stage in my life where I’m more passionate about enabling athletes. It’s not about me… it’s about the athletes! I take the responsibility to uphold the rules of racing impartially very seriously, but also see Umpiring as an opportunity to continue to create a positive vibe in our sport. I look forward to enabling athletes (in our province and country) on their racing journeys through safe and fair racing opportunities.
What has surprised you the most about the role of an umpire and is there anything you’ve learned that people outside the umpire community would find interesting about the role?
Growing up in rowing, I had two misconceptions about Umpires:
1) I viewed them as the “suits” of rowing, and
2) I also wondered “what do umpires really do?”
Boy was I wrong!
First, don’t let the khakis fool you! Umpiring is a lot of fun, and there’s it’s a great group of friends. I’ve been blessed with some great mentors, and during our downtime in between races, I love asking them about their experiences in other races/events. There’s definitely an apprenticeship aspect to Umpiring, but it’s also great to bring in perspective as an athlete and coach to the role.
Second, after reading and memorizing the Rules of Racing cover to cover, and successfully completing my training and assessments, I humbly appreciate that there are a lot of things that happen “behind the scenes” to make sure regattas run smoothly. That’s thanks to Umpires as well as regatta organizers and volunteers.
What role during a regatta do you enjoy the most?
I personally love the Start Umpire and Race Umpire roles:
Start Umpires are at the start tower and they call crews to the start zone, do the roll call, and ensure the start is in good standing. I personally LOVE watching athletes in those sacred “two minutes” countdown. Unless you’re sitting in a coxie seat, you don’t get to “see” that so up close.
Race Umpires follow the race down the course. I appreciate having to be very focused on all the lanes and apply the rules to make sure everyone is safe and has a fair race. You have to be willing to brave the elements, but I guess I’m used to that part of rowing.
What advice would you give to new umpires or someone thinking about becoming an umpire?
Please reach out to me, or any other Umpire! Any Umpire would be more than happy to talk to you about the role, how to get started, and the awesome benefits the role brings.
The Rules of Racing can be overwhelming, especially if you’re relatively new to rowing. But there’s no rush to the training/certification, and you are given great mentors along the way to help you apply the rules in the appropriate ways. If you’re not sure or it seems too much, try it out by volunteering at a regatta. I volunteered for many years, and that gave me a closer connection to Umpires and the behind the scenes.
Finally, I challenge the “next generation” of leaders in our sport to step up and try it out! Especially those that still love rowing, but maybe don’t have the time to fully commit to training or coaching; Umpiring is a great way to stay involved and participate at a few regattas.
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