"I was made to feel a real part of the GB Special Olympics team, and the spirit and camaraderie within the team was excellent. Their hard work and dedication meant they were a credit to their country." - Martin
I think it's fair to say that umpiring at the Special Olympics European Tennis Tournament, which took place in Luxemburg between 15-18 November, was one of the most enjoyable events I have ever officiated in.
There were 80 athletes taking part from 20 countries in Europe and Asia, including as far away as Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, and over the course of the three days I umpired 31 matches in total. This included 13 matches on the first day, which was set aside for 'divisioning' when the players were observed so they could be placed in the appropriate level according to their tennis ability.
Apart from the back-to-back matches, extra challenges included umpiring a range of formats on a range of size courts, various coloured balls, a variety of languages and captains being on court. The role of the umpire proved to be far broader than the traditional one, there was often a need to remind players where to stand and also to be more flexible on foot faults.
About Martin Etheridge: I am a tennis official volunteer with Special Olympics Great Britain.