ASKED to find a sportsman or woman to come into your school to motivate senior students about their roles and responsibilities as school leaders, you might not naturally go to the AFL Umpires Association for role models.
But it turned out to be an inspired choice last Tuesday when AFL Grand Final Umpires, Mat Nicholls (field) and Chris Appleton (goal), joined students from three primary schools at St Joseph’s in Korumburra.
Following a session facilitated by AFL Victoria Umpiring Development Manager, Russell O’Toole, and supported by President of the South Gippsland Umpires Association, Graham Laird, the kids walked away a little taller and a lot wiser for the experience.
The fact was, however, that while they were fascinated by the two umpires’ journeys to the top of their profession, it was through the skilful handling of a question and answer session by Russell O’Toole, that the students themselves came up with the important lessons about leadership.
Encouraging others, being a good example, empathy, taking the initiative, respecting others, demonstrating what’s acceptable and what’s not, leading by example, being reliable, making good choices… the list about how to be a good leader was a long one.
But it was the way the kids from St Josephs, the Leongatha Primary School and Korumburra Primary School responded to the session that was the secret to its success.
There’s no doubt they walked away with a much better appreciation of their role as a school leader and their efforts are so important in building a positive environment for students, teachers and parents.
“I think it was an excellent session and credit goes to the students from each of the three schools for the way they responded to the challenge presented by Russell and his group,” said host principal Greg Synan.
“We always try to do something to demonstrate how important these leadership roles are and I think the students got a lot out of it. I certainly know I did.”
While the focus was firmly on leadership, there was time set aside for asking the umpires about their experiences through a combined total of almost 400 senior AFL games.
Mat Nicholls acknowledged during question time that one of the answers students always wanted was “who do you barrack for?”
“I just to have a favourite team when I was younger but as soon as I made the decision to be an umpire I knew that I had to set that aside.”
Mat said that he found umpiring to be a great way to earn pocket money when he first started, never thinking then that it would lead him to umpiring his first AFL Grand Final last year.
He described the First Elimination Final between Carlton and Richmond last year, his 200th as a senior umpire, as the most thrilling he’d officiated at, made all the more special because he earned AFL life membership by passing the milestone.
“As long as I live, I’ll now get a ticket to the AFL Grand Final and be able to attend any match I like,” said Nicholls.