First published with The Courier – http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/4433841/ball-up-girls-in-charge/?cs=62
Fifteen-year-old Maeve Clark has been an umpire in Ballarat for two years.
Her dad convinced her to become a boundary umpire before she moved into field umpiring last year.
Maeve said it was intimidating beginning as one of only a few female umpires in the region, but she now feels comfortable umpiring with the boys.
“There is not much difference whether you umpire boys or girls because everyone is accepted,” she said.
Ballarat Football Umpires Association head coach Roger Le Grand said there has been an increase in female football umpires in Ballarat.
He said 15 girls have expressed interest in umpiring during football’s off-season.
There are currently about four female field umpires and 15 female boundary umpires with the association.
“Female umpiring is a growth area for us with the advent of girls youth football and the women’s competition,” Mr Le Grand said.
Eighteen-year-old Ballarat field umpire Holly McEldrew said it was great to be a part of the growing female football movement.
Holly has been playing the game for about three years and was captain of the first youth girls team with North Ballarat Football Club last year.
She said there were a few other girls she umpired with, but she was excited to see the number grow each year.
“An umpire doesn’t have to be the stereotype of an old man running around in a white shirt,” she said.
“If you see people like myself and other girls running around out there it’s not as taboo as it has been in the past. It becomes accepted.”
Ballarat Football Umpires Association operations manager Gary Learmonth said women’s involvement has grown throughout the AFL and in local regions. The Goldfields has been no different.
“There is a large influx of girls playing the game and an extension of that is umpiring,” Mr Learmonth said.
“Girls are less intimidated if they are umpiring girls.
“It’s great for us. We had 250 members last year and with this increased interest from girls we’ll hopefully reach up to 300.”
The Victorian Government announced a new program, Change Our Game: Advancing Gender Equality in Sport, to push for gender equality in sport on Tuesday.
An information session for those interested in football umpiring was held last night. Anyone interested in umpiring can call the BFUA.