PLAYER-turned-umpire Paul Smith has urged any cricketers coming to the end of their careers to dump their whites in favour of a white coat.
DACO - the Devon Association of Cricket Officials – has just launched a recruiting drive and Smith has put his full weight behind the initiative.
Smith, 50 this year, was a well-known figure on the Devon and North Devon League circuits as a doughty all-rounder with Sandford. He started playing in 1984 and packed in for good two years ago.
He is one of those people who just can’t walk away from the game and has served as a Devon League official and is currently Sandford’s secretary.
Smith took the view if he had to stop playing the next best thing was officiating. He started umpiring in 2012, passed his umpiring exams between 2013-2014 and has been a man in the middle ever since.
Smith quickly rose from the lower ranks of league cricket to the Devon Premier Division and was elevated to the Minor Counties panel last season.
Colleagues in DACO – the Devon Association of Cricket Officials – recognised Smith’s rise through the levels by naming him umpire of the year at their annual meeting.
Smith said although it took him a while to go from dabbling in umpiring to making it his cricket priority, it is a decision he has never regretted.
“Any player contemplating leaving the game should seriously think about umpiring to give something back,” said Smith.
“DACO have some excellent tutors who run the courses and, after attending, I would urge players to consider attending to learn more about the game.
“I have been lucky enough to umpire at a standard far higher than my playing ability would ever let me.
“I hope I can continue to grow and get the majority of decisions right, and to ensure I learn something new every day.”
Smith first toyed with the idea of umpiring way back in 2005 when he missed six weeks cricket while recovering from a broken finger.
“To stay involved I did some 2nd XI umpiring for Sandford and enjoyed it so much I knew what I wanted to do when I stopped playing,” said Smith.
“I cannot sit still and watch. I need to be involved and umpiring does give you the best view in the ground.”
Between 2012-2014 Smith added umpiring qualifications to his level-two coaching badge and was gaining experience umpiring in the North Devon League.
“I will always be eternally grateful to the North Devon League for giving me the chance to gain practical experience,” said Smith.
Smith was promoted to the Tolchards DCL Premier panel in 2015 and his learning curve continued.
“I have stood with some fabulous umpires along the way, whom I have watched and tried to learn from,” said Smith.
“Everybody has their plus points and I try and mirror these while using my own experiences as well.”
Smith still umpires in the North Devon League when he can, although Minor Counties appointments do limit his Sunday outings.
Minor Counites cricket is the pinnacle of the recreational game and Smith is spending his Sunday, some Mondays and a few Tuesdays, in pretty good company.
“Minor Counties cricket has opened up a whole new world of cricket to me,” said Smith. “The intensity and quality of cricketers on show has been eye opening.
“I was also asked to umpire the Dorset Minor Counties team in the annual T20 warm up fixture with Somerset prior to the T20 Vitality Blast this year and that was an amazing experience.”
Anyone interested in taking up umpiring should contact education officer Chris Shelton on 01803 400951, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org