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Katelyn Pope: Pushing the Boundaries

M eet Katelyn Pope. South Australian Scorpion, Adelaide Striker, SANFL umpire, SACA high performance trainee, soccer player … the list goes on and on.

Katelyn genuinely doesn’t have a lot of spare time. Her schedule is full of strength and conditioning, gym sessions, fitness testing, cricket trips and matches, soccer, umpiring training, football matches and an almost full-time job.

She is prioritiser, a go-getter, a ball of energy. And she is dedicated, talented, respected by her peers.

Yet, when Katelyn was informed there would be a feature on her in Stumps, her face broke into a half smile – expressing excitement and flattery – before she quickly fired the question, “why?”
“Why would people want to read about me? I’m not that interesting,” she said.

But being in the spotlight is what happens when you’re particularly good at a lot of things.

Katelyn’s modesty is an admirable quality. Dressed in her relaxed SACA kit, she finished up her GPS reports and quickly appeared on the balcony for a chat, as being interviewed in the office was “too embarrassing”.

Born and bred in Adelaide, Katelyn’s interest in sport was sparked by watching it from a young age and playing with her family. Dabbling in backyard cricket with her brother and his mates, the now 21-year-old quickly discovered she had a natural aptitude for the game.

But Katelyn wants to make one thing clear. Despite sharing surnames, Premier Cricket clubs and both sporting mops of flaming-red hair, West End Redback and fellow Kensington bowler Lloyd Pope is not Katelyn’s brother.

“Last summer, I was trying to tally (how many times people asked if Lloyd was my brother) and I lost count,” said Katelyn, who was named player of the match in Kensington’s one-day grand final victory earlier this year.

“It would have been more than 20 people asking me. Umpires, people in the (SACA) office, everyone. It just came up continuously!”

Samantha Betts, Katelyn Pope and Tahlia McGrath celebrate a wicket during the WNCL match against Western Australia at Adelaide Oval No.2 on October 6, 2017.

Katelyn is making her mark as one of just two female boundary umpires in the SANFL.

After looking for something to do in the cricket off-season almost seven years ago, her dad suggested she try football umpiring and she hasn’t looked back.

The first female in 20 years to boundary umpire SANFL reserves, she has officiated in eight matches at this level and aspires to step up to league footy, even though this may be a difficult balance due to the overlap between cricket pre-season and football.

“Umpiring has definitely helped heaps with cricket in terms of fitness, which is one reason I have stuck with it – the benefits are amazing,” said Katelyn, who for part of the year has to juggle cricket training with an intense running program for umpiring. Katelyn’s exceptional fitness and agility boosts her confidence, especially in the “male world” of footy.

“It can be very, very intimidating running with the boys, particularly the AFL umpires – they’re elite. But they all know me now and will chat to me about cricket. I really do my best to keep up with them.”

No stranger to sexism in sport, Katelyn was once questioned by an older male in the football community if her two-week absence from umpiring for a cricket trip was due to ‘lady issues’.

“I was literally gobsmacked,” she said. “I didn’t know what to say.”

Katelyn is quick to praise the SANFL for its encouragement and acceptance, however, and more specifically Academy boundary umpire coach Quentin Brewer, who has mentored and nurtured her through her umpiring journey.

“The SANFL works really well with females in umpiring but early on some of the boys I was umpiring weren’t that respectful,” she said.

“Women now get their own changeroom and the reserves guys in particular are great.”

Despite her tiny stature, Katelyn stands out on the oval – and it’s not just because of her hair colour.

Her athleticism is next-level. She holds the quickest time for the 2km time trial for the Scorpions squad and is an absolute dynamo in the field.

In 2016-17, Katelyn was selected in the XI for five of the six Scorpions matches and made her WBBL debut. However, the left-arm medium-pacer hopes to eventually become a mainstay bowler in both squads, rather than being selected largely for her fielding ability.

“It can be frustrating getting picked and then not bowling or only bowling a couple of overs but I know I just have to keep working hard,” she said.

Completing a Bachelor of Human Movement last year, Katelyn needed to make the decision between committing to further study or finding herself a job, with gaining employment looking to be difficult around her sporting commitments.

“The Basil Sellers Scholarship (at SACA) became available, so I applied for it and I was lucky to get it,” said Katelyn, who has almost completed her 12 months in the role.

“I was able to move the position more from an admin role into a high-performance role, learning more about the practical side of strength and conditioning with athletes. I’ve learned so much.”

If you ask anyone who works with Katelyn, they’ll all tell you the same. She’s hard working, thorough, optimistic.

Pathways strength and conditioning coach Anthony Gallomarino said Katelyn had exceeded his expectations in her professional position.

“She has an amazing work ethic,” said Gallomarino, who this year was behind possibly the toughest pre-season the Scorpions have had.

“Anything you ask her to do, she does it. Sometimes I think I ask too much of her but she just smiles, gets it done and she doesn’t take any short cuts – everything is done right.”

Katelyn has even taken charge of the strength and conditioning for the under-18 female State squad, which Gallomarino says has given her a new understanding of what staff do behind the scenes for players.

“Her appreciation of the importance of these processes has rubbed off on the other female players, which is great to see,” he said.

For many within the squad, the chaos of training with the Scorpions or Strikers at least four times a week, plus individual net sessions and gym time, all while balancing a job or study, is the norm.

Adding soccer to her repertoire three years ago, Katelyn plays with a group of friends for some fun and competition.

“It gives me a good run around and I like the competitive nature of it,” said Katelyn, who found she had a natural talent for the sport due to her athletic nature and exceptional hand-eye coordination.

Scorpions and Strikers coach Andrea McCauley occasionally worries Katelyn is keeping herself too busy.

“Max (McCauley) told me a couple of times ‘you’re doing too much’ and is sometimes concerned about me injuring myself,” Katelyn said.

The female program at SACA is thorough, intense and has shaped Katelyn into a strong and healthy athlete, who is rarely affected by injury.

“I love my sport, I can’t sit at home and not do anything. I have to be moving – I get too jealous of watching other people play sport if I’m not!”

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After lending more than half-an-hour of her time on this Wednesday afternoon, Katelyn was quickly back to work. On most days, work is followed by helping out the under-18s squad and either cricket or umpiring training until late in the evening.

Spare time is something Katelyn genuinely doesn’t have a lot of … but she sure is generous with it.