CATCHING UP WITH – Christelle High
Welcome back to Catching Up With – which is an occasional column that looks at the activities and people around the Bay Oval. Over the next few weeks we will talk to a variety of men and women that assist in making the big-time games happen at the Mount Maunganui international ground.
First-up, we engage in a question and answer with Christelle High, who has been seen in action in televised NZC Dream 11 Super Smash games this season.
To set the scene we have asked, Kevin Earl, Former NZC Match Manager and current NDC Match Manger among his many titles, to give us an overview of Christelle’s progress along the NZC Umpires pathway.
“Christelle approached me in the 2015/16 season, as the Bay of Plenty Cricket umpire recruitment and training officer, with an interest in umpiring. She was initially appointed to Women’s development matches followed by Bay of Plenty club cricket assignments”.
“This was a huge learning curve for her, with adverse comments and criticism which she took on board and handled in a diplomatic manner. Her determination and drive to succeed in her role became very apparent”.
“Christelle used mentors to talk umpiring with. In the 2018/19 season she studied hard to complete and pass the NZC Umpires Level 3&4 exams, achieving excellent pass marks through hard work and application”.
“Over a five-year period her on-field umpiring performances reached a high standard. Today she is now regarded as one of the NZC leading female umpires and is receiving appointment to NZC List A matches”.
Where were you born and when did the High family immigrate to New Zealand?
I was born in South Africa in a town called Vredenburg on the West Coast. We came over here in 2001.
Why New Zealand?
Before coming to New Zealand, we lived in the UK. After spending a couple of months figuring out that we didn't want the UK to be our final destination to live, we settled on New Zealand. The reason being that there are many things here that are very similar to South Africa.
How did the interest in becoming a cricket umpire come about?
Our son started playing cricket, and I started umpiring some of his games, I went and did his games in the Hawkes Bay junior cricket tournaments and realised I like standing in the middle and watching the game happen. I've always liked watching cricket growing up. I guess one thing led to another and I took up umpiring.
Tell us about your early days in the middle.
My early days in the middle came with many challenges both personally and professionally. I was probably not as prepared and equipped to do the level I did in the beginning. Through many challenging moments, and huge amount of learning through making mistakes and taking on feedback, I’ve ended up where I am today. So not an easy journey, but worth every struggle and challenge.
Who are the people who provided support when the going got difficult?
I've been lucky that I've been surrounded by people who have my back and are always supportive of what I'm doing. That support come in feedback, honest and hard conversations, passing on knowledge and by just being around them learning from each one of them. These people are my family, other umpires, Match Referees, players, friends, NZC and mentors.
Tell us about the NZC Umpires Level 3&4 examinations and the work necessary to receive the qualifications.
These exams are the theory behind umpiring. I remember studying for a couple of months, working with Kannan from Otago on questions and scenarios to help me prepare for the exams. It happens to be that my husband and I did the exams together which helped with the studying side of it. Kevin (Earl) supplied us with questions to help us get ready for the exams every bit helped. The exams help as it gives you the law knowledge you need when in the middle.
What do you enjoy about umpiring?
Being part of what is happening in the middle. Seeing players developing and achieving their milestones and being there when it happens. The interaction with other umpires and applying my skills and knowledge the best way I can and doing it with a smile. Pushing myself to keep developing, to take onboard feedback and criticism, and using that to become the best umpire I can be. My job is to facilitate the game for the players so that we can get the best game of cricket at the end of the day.
What are the absolute skills needed to be an umpire?
You need people skills, communication skills. You need to be able to reflect, and take onboard feedback and have a growth mindset. Team work is very important and being able to work with many different people of different abilities and do it well.
Who is the biggest character that you have encountered on the field?
Hard question as there are many with big characters, and they make your day in the middle interesting. So trying to name one is impossible.
Tell us about umpiring your first List A/Super Smash game.
My first list A was in Hamilton with Damian Morrow and I was very nervous, but he was very supportive and this helped making that debut easier. My first Super Smash was in the 2020/21 season and I made my debut at the Bay Oval with Wayne Knights. Once again the team was very supportive and I do remember it felt like I only took my first real breath after two overs.
Earlier to this, I did my first TV Umpire role in the Super Smash and have since done two more this season. All these moments are unique and awesome in their own way, and the people that were part of my team made those moments special. There was a lot of hard work that went on behind the scenes to get ready for those games, many hours in the middle, practice sessions, and working on my processes.
Tell us about your umpire mentoring.
I give my time to run umpiring sessions for clubs to help those who are interested in umpiring, especially player umpires, who feel more confident to stand in the middle. It is something I enjoy doing as it helps with my development as an umpire. I'm happy to give my time to pass on knowledge and answer questions where I can, the best I can.
How do you manage the hectic schedule, with husband Chris, being a NZC scorer?
Haha, there are times when we are like passing ships in the night. It is great to have another cricket mind around, and have him scoring some of my moments in the middle. Summer time is busy for both of us, but we both enjoy cricket scoring, umpiring and watching.
Where to from here, in the cricket umpiring ranks, for Christelle High?
My ambition is to go as far as I can, I have so many inspiring female role models currently on the world stage. I will keep working on my craft and hope that I can one day join them on the world stage doing what I love, umpiring.