July 16, 2009

Courtesy of Cal State San Bernardino Athletics

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Courtney Schumacher has been playing tennis since she was a child but didn’t take up the game seriously until she took lessons from a pro and began playing competitively at age 21.

In fact, she played softball in high school and in her first year of college at Georgia Southwestern State University.

The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., resident not only found competitive tennis to her liking but she also was intrigued by the officiating side of the sport.

As she enters her senior year at Cal State San Bernardino where she plans to continue playing for the Coyotes’ women’s tennis team, the 27-year-old Schumacher is active in the sport as a line umpire for professional tournaments and has been since 2004.

Her schedule of tournaments this summer will be capped off by working the 2009 U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows in New York City Aug. 31-Sept. 13, just 11 days before the start of fall classes at CSUSB.

Schumacher’s introduction to officiating at pro tournaments came at a tennis club in Claremont, Calif., not far from her home, where she also played tennis.

“I used to help run the tournament desk….and one day I said to a couple of the officials there, ‘Line calling looks fun. I think it’d be something I’d like to do.’ They took me up to a court and showed me the proper technique and then I went out and started working,” Schumacher recalled.

She has hop-scotched the country working professional tournaments in Indian Wells, Calif., Cincinnati, Ohio, the Pilot Penn event in New Haven, Conn., and men’s and women’s events in Los Angeles.

“The first professional tournament I worked was the 2006 Countrywide Classic ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) event held at UCLA every year,” she said.

This month, Schumacher is set to work as a line judge at the World Team Tennis  events July 17 and July 21 at the Newport Beach Breakers home court at the Newport Beach Country Club. Those matches will feature among others, Maria Sharapova, Andre Agassi and John McEnroe.

She is also working the L.A. Classic men’s tournament that begins July 25 at UCLA and the East-West Bank Classic women’s event at the Hope Depot Center in Carson, Calif., starting Aug. 11.

“Including the futures and challengers tournaments, I usually work 50 days a year as a line umpire. I also usually work about 50 days officiating local USTA (U.S. Tennis Association) and college events,” Schumacher said.

Her first exposure to one of the tennis Grand Slam events – the U.S. Open – came in 2008. Since it was her first year at the Open, she worked only one significant match at Armstrong Stadium, the second biggest court at the event behind Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“The day session was running too long on Ashe so the women’s quarterfinal match between Jelena Jankovic and Sybille Bammer was moved to my court,” Schumacher said. “Jankovic won.”

Schumacher has rubbed elbows with some of the top players in the world during her officiating career – Sharapova, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and others. She even worked a “legends” match featuring Pete Sampras and Jim Courier.

As a line umpire, she has to do her job while dodging some of the blistering serves made by the best pros in the world.

“Thankfully, I have pretty quick reflexes so I have only been hit once by a serve,” she said. That serve at 106 miles per hour came off the racket of Dinara Safina. “I have almost been hit on many other occasions, though,” she said.

Schumacher said line umpires aren’t just there to judge lines, although that is their primary responsibility.

“As a line umpire we pretty much have to just get the calls right. If we hear something from the stands, like coaching, it is our responsibility to report that behavior to the chair umpire since it is not allowed.

“We also have to escort players to the restrooms if they request a bathroom break (on a same-gender basis) to make sure the rules are followed. As a service line umpire it is our responsibility to measure the net at each set break and get the balls ready for a ball change,” Schumacher said.

“As a regular official, such as the officials who come out to work the college matches at Cal State, it is my responsibility to make sure all matches are being played fairly and I need to know all the rules in case a situation comes up where the players are unsure of what to do. I get called out on court a lot for players who disagree about line calls. When that happens, I can overrule any obvious mistake when a player calls a ball out that is really in. However, if a player plays a ball that is out and doesn’t call it, I don’t say anything.”

Pay scales for umpires vary from tournament to tournament but generally range from $85 to $135 a day.

“Lodging is covered for all professional events and we usually get breakfast and lunch. If we work into dinnertime, our dinner is provided as well but otherwise we are on our own. At the U.S. Open, we get $25 a day to spend on food and we can use that money either in the cafeteria that is provided just for umpires or we can into the food court where spectators dine.

“The U.S. Open always pays for our airfare to get there and back. Other tournaments usually don’t pay for travel, although for many of the men’s professional events you get travel points and wind up getting about half your airfare back,” she said.

As a reserve player for the Coyotes in 2009, Schumacher was unbeaten in singles at 2-0 in 2009 and was 0-1 in doubles. A graphic design major, she volunteered to produce the team’s season brochure and a summer camp brochure.

She enjoys the excitement of playing competitive tennis at the collegiate level and has one year of eligibility remaining. She also enjoys working the lines at tournaments.

“I love the excitement in the air. There’s just something about the cheering fans and the ooh-ing and ahh-ing that goes on during great points. You can’t help but enjoy the tennis while you’re out there,” Schumacher said.