Legendary softball umpire Margo Koskelainen has added yet another accolade to her already-impressive list of achievements.
The central Victorian city of Shepparton has produced its fair share of sporting success stories over the years, so it made sense for the city council to introduce a Sports Hall of Fame. And with a lifetime of softball umpiring behind her, Koskelainen was a standout candidate to be in the first batch of inductees.
Koskelainen, who has lived in Shepparton since 1968, has achieved just about everything a softball umpire can achieve.
She has travelled to about 20 countries in her role as an on-field umpire, selector and administrator. But it is a much shorter trip – to Sydney in 2000 – that remains a career highlight.
“The Sydney Olympics were an amazing experience,” she says. “There was pressure to make sure the umpires were consistent.”
The 2008 Olympics in Beijing were another career highlight. “I was the chief umpire, which is a bit like being the referee at a major tennis tournament. You’re not on the field but you are there to make sure everything goes according to law.”
The Olympic experiences were the culmination of an umpiring career that began in humble circumstances back in 1971. “I was just a standard player, nothing special,” Koskelainen recalls. “It was finals time in Shepparton and we needed umpires. I knew how to score, and I was told that if I could score and I could learn the rules, then I could umpire.”
Thus began a career that continued for almost 50 years, with Koskelainen involved initially in on-field umpiring and coaching junior players in Shepparton before moving into administrative roles, including selection for Olympic and World Championship events, plus becoming president of the Shepparton association and eventually Softball Australia’s National Director of Umpiring.
Now, she takes great pride in seeing Australian umpires receiving recognition as being among the world’s best, as shown by the recent performances of Australians Leigh Evans and Jason Carter at the Men’s World Championship in Whitehorse, Yukon, plus Jay Gibson and Warren Duff at the Junior Women’s World Championship in Florida.
“We have some great umpires and they are now being recognised for it,” Koskelainen says. “The process we put in place in 1985-86 still hold true, and that process has helped develop world-class umpires.”
A member of the Softball Australia and Softball Victoria Halls of Fame, Koskelainen was also inducted into the International Softball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Other honours bestowed on her included an Order of Australia Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2000.
Koskelainen was not the only umpire inducted as an inaugural member of the Greater Shepparton Sports Hall of Fame. She was joined by Glenn James, who umpired 166 Victorian Football League games including the 1982 and 1984 Grand Finals.
The 27 inductees also included Louise Dobson (hockey), Lee Naylor (athletics) Steve Fairless and Brett Lancaster (cycling) and Liz Boniello (netball).
Margo Koskelainen’s umpiring career
- 1991 DUIC Jr. Women’s World Championship, Adelaide.
- 1995 UIC Asia/Oceania Region Olympic Qualifier, Auckland, New Zealand
- 1998 DUIC Women’s World Championship, Fujinomiya, Japan
- 1999 UIC Asia/Oceania Region Olympic Qualifier, Kao Shiung, CTP
- 1999 DUIC Jr. Women’s World Championship, Taipei
- 2000 DUIC 2000 Olympic Games, Sydney
- 2001 UIC Jr. Men’s World Championship, Sydney
- 2003 UIC Asia/ Oceania Region Olympic Qualifier, Sydney
- 2006 DUIC Women’s World Championship – Beijing
- 2007 UIC Asia/Oceania Region Olympic Qualifier, Tainan City, CTP
- 2008 DUIC 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing
SOFTBALL AUSTRALIA APPOINTMENTS
- 1980 Umpire “Mini World” Series, Brisbane
- 1985 UIC Sth Pacific Classic, Melbourne
- 1988 UIC Women’s International Bicentennial Challenge, Brisbane
- 1989 UIC Jr. Women’s Australia v NZ Series, Canberra
- 1993 UIC Arafura Games, Darwin
- 1994 UIC Sth Pacific Classic, Sydney
- 1995 UIC Women’s Australia v NZ Challenge, Brisbane
- 1995 UIC Arafura Games, Darwin
- 1995 UIC Women’s Australia v USA Series, Sydney
- 1996 UIC Women’s 4 Nations Challenge, Brisbane
- 1996 UIC Women’s Australia v CTP International Series Melbourne
- 1997 UIC Arafura Games, Darwin, Australia
- 1998 UIC Jr. Women’s Oceania Region World Championship Qualifier, Brisbane
- 1999 UIC Arafura Games, Darwin
- 1999 UIC Men’s Oceania Region World Championship Qualifier, Canberra
- 2000 UIC Women’s Five Nation Challenge, Sydney
- 2000 UIC International Women’s Challenge, Brisbane
- 2001 UIC Women’s Australia v NZ Series, Melbourne
- 2001 UIC Arafura Games, Darwin
- 2002 UIC Women’s Australia v Japan Series, Melbourne
- 2002 UIC Sth Pacific Classic, Perth
- 2003 UIC Youth Olympic Festival, Sydney
- 2004 UIC Blacktown City International Challenge, Sydney
(UIC = Umpire in Chief. DUIC = Deputy Umpire in Chief)