Bounce can mess with umpires' heads says Peter Schwab

Outgoing AFL umpires boss Peter Schwab claims the bounce is the bane of most umpires' lives.

Schwab, who left his post as AFL director of umpiring a fortnight ago, said the mental stress of having to execute near-perfect bounces in front of huge crowds was affecting many leading umpires. It is believed Ray Chamberlain is one, for example, who struggles with the pressures of that constant public performance and scrutiny.

While Schwab said he couldn't verify claims that the repeated act of bouncing caused injuries to umpires, he saw first-hand how it could erode the whistleblowers' confidence and morale.

"The mental side of it is very big, there's no doubt," Schwab told ESPN. "The data shows that after one really bad bounce, the next two or three can also be poor - it can mess with their head."

The AFL Commission this week discussed the future of the bounce after the umpires association claimed the action caused mental and physical stress among its fraternity. (AFL umpires coach Hayden Kennedy feels the problem is physical, and that the bounce is putting too much strain on officials' bodies, leading to shoulder and back injuries.)

After considering the evidence produced, the Commission decided to retain the bounce - which has been a unique feature of the indigenous game since its inception.

In announcing the AFL decision, newly installed football operations boss Steve Hocking said: "From our point of view if you want to be an AFL umpire, this is part of being an AFL umpire. This is elite, this is the best competition going around so if you're going to find your way through you're going to have to practice that.

But Hocking did offer them some solace, saying training would be stepped up - and support given - for those umpires who needed a hand.

"We're going to do a lot more with umpires to support them and look after them from their mental skills training, performance management, there's a range of things we need to work on to support them and we'll do that over the next 12 months," he said.

For Schwab, the ruling was bitter-sweet.

"The members (umpires) wanted it out there and they were pushing hard for the bounce to be scrapped. That's why the umpires association took this issue to the AFL Commission," he told ESPN.

"At least they got a hearing this time; they'd never managed to get it heard at Commission level before, so that's some kind of progress.

"But it will be very interesting to see what happens now. Now they've marked their patch, so to speak, they may have another crack at getting it banned."

Schwab said there were two things the AFL could do to make the job of umpiring easier - and a more attractive option for would-be whistleblowers: one was to scrap the bounce; the other was to stop changing the laws so often. That would give the men and women in fleuro a chance to practice their craft rather than constantly have to keep abreast of the latest rule amendments.

The former Hawthorn champion player and coach said he was now weighing up his career options, both inside AFL club football and outside.