Flying High in the Umpire Chair
November 24, 2008
There is no better example than Mieszko Pyszak of someone who has learned to balance a love for tennis officiating with other hobbies and passions in life. He is a man who lives in Yellowknife working as a Medivac pilot while still managing to maintain his Bronze Badge in officiating.
After moving to Canada from Poland in 1990, Pyszak started officiating in 1994 under the tutelage of George Rustscheff. He took a line umpire clinic with six other people in the spring of that year and ended up working several tournaments that summer in consecutive weeks.
“George was a real mentor to me,” said Pyszak. “He helped me so much when I was starting out and he made me want to be a better official and continue with it for the long-term. I realized that I could actually be a part of the game in a sport I loved by taking advantage of this opportunity.”
The following summer he went back to the job by working events in Toronto and other stops on the ATP Tour.
“For a student, it was a great summer job because it was an opportunity to be around tennis and to travel but it didn’t have to be year-round,” he explained.
Eventually however, Pyszak decided to make a full-time commitment. In 1999 he attended an International Tennis Chair clinic and became a White Badge umpire. He then worked his first US Open and went to events in Europe for the following month. After that he took the job full-time for two-and-a-half years. Then in 2002 he was invited to a Level 3 Chair Umpire clinic where he earned his Bronze Badge.
“The problem was that I always had another passion… flying,” he said. “I always wanted to be a pilot but I didn’t want to give up officiating so I pursued both at the same time. It wasn’t until I finished my commercial airline pilot license that I stopped working officiating full-time. I decided it was time to find a good balance between the two.”
Pyszak has now been in Yellowknife flying an air ambulance plane for three years while still officiating enough tournaments to maintain his Bronze Badge status.
“I have to do 40 matches a year to maintain the level I’m at so I make sure I fit it in,” he said. “There are a lot of tournaments that don’t have the right number of required officials so I still get to apply for them and travel to exotic places to fulfill my duties as an official. I like that it takes me out of the routine now and then.”
Pyszak also has some good advice for officials just getting into the game.
“Officiating is like playing the piano,” he said. “One day you start playing with two fingers and eventually you end up playing in an orchestra in front of 5000 people. With a musical instrument training and practice makes you really good. Officiating is the same thing.”
For Psyzak, his ability to practice and train hard at both of his careers is what allows him to live the life he’s always dreamed of.