Based on reaction in the room, there is no doubting that Maxine Groce from South Cave BC in Yorkshire was an extremely popular winner of the Official of the Year award for 2021.
And the reason for this popularity becomes immediately apparent when hearing the experienced umpire’s self-deprecating reaction to her success.
“I was absolutely thrilled to be one of four nominees for the award and with it being the inaugural event I was doubly delighted when I was announced as the winner,” she recalls.
“I felt that I accepted the award not just for myself but on behalf of umpires everywhere who put so much time in all year round – it was recognition for all of us.”
“When the nominations were shown on the screen, I knew all four names as we have all umpired together at the Nationals and to be honest any one of us could have won it.”
“It was just really nice for umpires to be appreciated by an award being given and it now has pride of place on my mantelpiece at home.”
“The others congratulated me and I would have done the same if one of them had won – maybe I just did a little bit more last year, I don’t know.”
Maxine quickly glosses over the wide range of administrative support she provides to assist her fellow officials have a smoothly-run day at big events with: “You just muck in.”
Although she does eventually admit to “helping out in the office” and to making plenty of cups of tea and delivering them to colleagues who are busy umpiring on the greens in all weathers, her award nomination is a little more forthcoming.
It reads: “Maxine helps with organisation of the office for the National Finals, being organised, helpful and cheerful at all times. Her flexible work ethic made an enormous contribution to the smooth running of the office
“Maxine shows great commitment to her role and is always keen to help and support others. She is a credit to the EBUA.”
Maxine is clearly also a popular umpire – and her approach to the job makes it easy to appreciate why this is.
“As an umpire I always think it is important to remember that it is not your game – you are there to assist the players if they can’t decide or need you to measure,” she says.
“It is important to be accurate at measuring and to know what is right and wrong – and sometimes you need a thick skin when the players don’t agree with you.”
“I think it is really important to be flexible as occasionally you come across something which is not covered by a rule and have to make a common-sense decision. Sometimes something happens which the players are unsure about and when they ask you all you can do is offer advice so it is important for players and umpires to have a mutual respect for each other.”
It quickly becomes apparent that there is no need to apply the tag umpire, player or administrator to Maxine – she very simply is someone who loves bowls.
“I would really encourage people to try umpiring as it is very rewarding. I have done it for the love of the sport and would really encourage those who have stopped playing but could still stay actively involved to share their wealth of knowledge and understanding of the game by doing the same,” she says.
“I started bowling later than most and I then decided to try my hand at umpiring. I did the paper workbook and a workshop to then qualify as a county umpire – this is now regional. After two years I took another exam to become a national umpire and I have been doing that for quite a few years now.”
“This has this year taken me to Leamington to umpire National Finals – where my involvement was limited to providing administrative support by a fractured elbow – as well as a range of other events.”
“These included recently going across to Ireland with the British Isles championship and also umpiring the PBA competition at Newport in Wales. I also marked and umpired at the Test Series in Leamington prior to the Commonwealth Games.”