What are the steps to becoming a recognized Badminton umpire, eventually at the Olympics? What resources are helpful in becoming a (good) umpire?
Before becoming an international umpire, you must first acquire the highest national qualification. In large countries, in order to become a national umpire, you must first acquire the highest regional qualification. Peruse your country's national and regional federations' websites to find out more - note that many may use the term technical officials (TOs), which also encompasses referees and line judges.
The courses and tests of the Badminton associations will cover everything you need to know, but may only be offered annually. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do right now in order to become an excellent umpire:
First of all, you should familiarize yourself with the Laws of Badminton. You may know the basics from playing, but there are some prevalent misconceptions or simply ignorance about the finer details. Note that your federation's translation/adaption of the Laws may introduce important additional notes. For instance, the German Laws add default rules for the shuttle hitting the roof, and specify minimum free space around the court.
Afterwards, make sure to read and understand the Instructions to Technical Officials (ITTO) and the Vocabulary. Again, make sure to consult your local federation's adaption - most notably, national-level matches are typically umpired in the local language, so you need to know the local-language translations of the vocabulary. Laws, ITTO, and vocabulary form the basic knowledge you need for umpiring.
There are, however, a number of other regulations you should be aware of. Look through your federation's and BWF's regulations for
- Code of Conduct for umpires (in short, being impartial and avoiding any impression to the contrary, notably betting)
- Umpire regulations, covering structure of the TO organizations, details of umpire education and testing, expense handling etc.
- General competition regulations of your tournament, which cover player's clothing and minimum standards you may have to check (e.g. court mats), result reporting, among many others. You can have a look at the GCRs for international tournaments, but national regulations are likely to be different.
- Player's code of Conduct, which describe potential misconduct by the players
In addition to the regulation, there is some training material and more complete written advice; I'm aware of the BWF Umpire Training Manual and BWF umpire training tips. The book The Art of Umpiring also offers some unique perspectives, albeit being rather short and general.
In order to get a feel for umpiring, the correct vocabulary and much more, you can simply watch the umpires at a tournament. While the BWF channel shows very high-level play, umpiring is typically different at lower levels where you don't necessarily have a service judge, let alone a dozen line judges or an Instant Review System. As such, it is highly advisable to visit national-level matches, and not only enjoy the game, but also take note of the umpires. Of course, you can also watch the umpires at low-level tournaments, but be aware many of them may be inexperienced and thus prone to errors themselves.
To pass your umpiring test, you should also try umpiring a couple of matches beforehand, for instance in your own club. If you are feeling somewhat comfortable doing that, try recording yourself and spotting all the (minor) mistakes, for instance vocabulary inaccuracies or an incorrect score sheet.
You can employ software like the badminton umpire panel¹ to verify the precise notation in the umpire's score sheet and correct vocabulary - simply input your match and press a to show/hide umpire announcements, and s to see the score sheet.
Finally, in order to be an umpire, you'll need a couple of utensils and clothing. Since you should now be aware of your federation's regulations, look up whether and how the federation distributes them; you may have to buy some yourself. These are:
- Umpire shirt. For higher levels, you usually need to buy (or sometimes are provided with) a specialized shirt or sweater.
- Long black trousers - my fashion-cognizant colleagues tell me this should be no problem in most households.
- Black socks.
- Black shoes. Since you'll be stepping in the player's area and on court, these must be clean - if possible, get a pair for umpiring only.
- A coin to make the initial selection (if you're unsure of how that works, it's time to review §6 of the laws, the ITTO, and the umpire training tips). Any coin will do, but many umpires prefer specialized coins for clarity when dealing with non-native speakers. I have seen shuttle/racket coins (instead of tails/heads), but personally prefer primary colors (white/blue, white/black, yellow/black etc.) since these will be very easy to distinguish, and color names are understood by most non-native speakers.
- Red and yellow cards. Yellow and red penalty cards can be bought at many online retailers. If you're umpiring without a referee, you'll also need a black card, which is somewhat harder to acquire. I used a 3D printer to make a nice black card; you can also repaint a white or even yellow card.
- A stopwatch to measure interval and interruption lengths.
- A clipboard to hold the score sheet, unless an electronic scoring system is provided (very rare at lower levels).
- A 2 meter stick in order to check the net height.
If you have any additional questions about laws or umpiring, you can ask them right on this site. Despite being essential for high-level competition, Badminton umpiring can be hard and and ungrateful. However, you also get to experience the sport at a highest level up close from a unique perspective. Best of luck!
¹ Disclaimer: I am the prime developer of bup, the linked software. If I ever become aware of any other software that can do the same, I'll add a link here as well.