Newly-minted New Zealand netball umpire Tapeni Simmons wasn’t always a great fan of pounding the pavement or working out but is now a convert and it has helped him achieve a significant milestone.

The Netball Central Zone umpire recently attained his NZ C Award, a goal many community umpires strive for and which is a long haul for some. Simmons is no exception, gaining the coveted honour six years after passing the New Zealand theory paper.

The NZ C Award is the Netball New Zealand classification that follows the NNZ theory paper and something Simmons had struggled with for quite some time, his main stumbling block being fitness.

``When I was going through the processes, fitness was one of my main barriers and when they said to do off-season training, I didn’t think anything of it up until the beginning of this year when I thought, `stuff this, I’m going to be really serious about this, I’m going to start doing it’, he said.

``I hadn’t been getting the actual target yoyo (fitness) test results that I needed in order for me to gain my NZ C practical, so because I never got to that target I was not being looked at or being considered for assessment.’’

That all changed when Simmons started with 4km runs near home, in Plimmerton, in the summer months with gym work added to his regular schedule. And now, there’s no stopping the chirpy whistler on the fitness front or the excitement of the doors that have subsequently opened on his umpiring career.

``It had all turned into sheer frustration for me, ‘’ he said. ``But on top of those sheer frustrations, I was finally able to conquer everything I actually wanted.

``It’s more than satisfying…..over the moon, over the rainbow, over the earth. It’s over everything and I’m just really happy to have gained it.’’

After umpiring largely at club and lower representative level, attaining the NZ C Badge will allow Simmons to umpire at a higher level, including national U18s and with more development, New Zealand Secondary Schools and Open championships.

A teacher at Porirua College, Simmons netball involvement started when he was an assistant secondary school coach and assistant coach/manager for various other teams in the area before a change of tact came about quite by chance in 2005.

``We were having a school tournament and someone asked me to umpire, so I thought `sweet as’,’’ he said.

``After that tournament I was asked to go down to our local Centre at Kapi Mana in Porirua and run through some classes where a (umpire) coach was on hand to help me on specifics to look for and ever since then, it hasn’t stopped as I’ve looked to get better and better as the years have gone by.

``I stopped the assisting coaching and managing side of things and just started assisting and managing myself and trying to get to the best that possibly can be.’’

Based with the Kapi Mana Centre for many years, Simmons has more recently operated out of Wellington where he has the necessary assistance to help him work towards the next level of his umpiring career.

``I would like to see where life can take me in regards to umpiring,’’ he said. ``I would like to tip my hat to all the coaches and the volunteers who have helped me on my journey and now I just really want to see where this 42-year-old body can go.’’