Interview with Master Alberto Katz - Chairman of ITF Umpire Committee
Master Katz, can you give us some background on your own involvements in ITF Tournaments over the years please?
I have been involved in ITF Tournaments since 1981 when I was a competitor in the World Championships in Argentina. I was then 23 year old. I competed in patterns and came in 4thplace. I was 3rd degree at that time. I was not able to compete in free sparring because I had a broken rib only a couple of days before the Tournament. Later on in 1992 I was national coach and went to North Korea for the World Championships. We came 2nd in the overall country standings and 3rd in Male team Sparring. In 1988 I started as an Umpire in World Championships in Budapest and returned in 1997 in the World Championships in St Petersburg, 1999 in the World Championships in Argentina, and later on in WCH in Poland and Germany 2005. I was then involved in the World Cup in Benidorm 2006 and in 2007 I was Chairman for the Tournament & Umpire Committee for World Championships in Canada, World Cup in Riva da Garda , World Championships in Argentina 2009, and Chairman of the Umpire Committee for World Championships 2011 in New Zealand, and for World Cup 2012 in England .....Of course the next event will be Oct 24th Umpire Chairman for World Championships in Spain.
In your opinion what have been some of the key improvements in ITF tournaments over the last number of years?
I think we have made quantum leaps in interpretation of the rules and of course standardization. For this last issue we used the German electronic System, which indeed helped not only for this purpose but also to improve operations over all.
In the area of umpiring, since taking over as chairman of the ITF Umpire Committee what have been they key areas that you have been involved in?
Designing a training program for Umpires, creating an on site scenario each time we train them so they can appreciate the feeling of being in a virtual tournament. We also insisted on Procedures and lately in redefining scoring criteria for pattern and prearranged sparring...We look now for defects and we lower points accordingly ...We need, for this, precise observation and a profound skill in detecting these mistakes.... So Umpires need to be real specialists in performing patterns, as the competitor with fewer mistakes will win in the end.... They need not only to see but also to feel precision and power as much as with closed eyes...
Are you happy with the progress of umpire training in ITF at present?
We have improved a lot. We still have to work and train for the years to come in many aspects...A core value and objective must be to reach to all the Umpires of the world. We must reach developed, developing and emerging countries equally...Everyone must have the right to learn. Technology makes this possible today.
Do you think that the status of ITF umpires is changing as a result of the extra IUCs available? Are the referees gaining more respect and importance among ITF members?
I think they are. We have increased not only quantity of courses but also in quality.... and we are indeed using technology to leverage training.
How would you like to see the ITF Tournaments continue to improve, what are the key areas you would like to focus on from an umpiring point of view?
Standardizing is one very important point. In order to do that we need to train Umpires to observe with precision. We need to start with e-learning technology, using videos and other handy information we have to improve Umpire skills.
Can you give us an insight into the schedule of the Umpire committee and the team of umpires at this upcoming World Championships? What will be the daily schedule and responsibilities for example?
Sure. On Wednesday 23rd we will have a full 5 hours meeting to form ring councils and to get acquainted with the stadium...We will practice directly on 2 rings in the arena so that all questions are answered in the light of the real scenario. Each day Umpires will arrive 1 hour before the competition starts to debrief them on the past day and to give them proper coaching on their previous days performance. We are also going to give feedback during the tournament to oversee any problem or questions that may arise during the competition.
In your opinion is it as important that the coaches and competitors are aware of the rules as the umpires? What advise would you like to give to them ahead of these championships so that the event runs as smoothly as possible and that it is as positive an experience as possible for everyone involved?
Rules are rules. Umpires are there to make their best to score under this framework in order to obtain the fairest results. Competitors and coaches see the rules as a constraint for their strategy to win. So they see them in a different way. How to bend them until they almost break.....in their ability to do this will determine, in a great percentage, if they are going to win or not...For example...if a coach does not know how to read the screen where the results are being displayed during a match in free sparing, it will jeopardize the result of his/her competitor by giving him or her wrong advice at the wrong moment. Coach strategy has changed with technology and they need to adapt themselves.... Otherwise their competitors will lose.