I have been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been the umpire who made a bad call, you know the one that cost the team a goal, a win (it sucks!). I’ve been on the losing side of one of these decisions (it sucks even more!). I’ve also been the player that loses it at an umpire for making a mistake, and I am now the player that checks herself every time she steps onto the pitch because I have learnt from being an umpire that losing my cool at them, won’t make them umpire any better.
What I have learnt from umpiring extends far beyond the rules of the game.
- Umpires are human…Guess what. The umpire isn’t out to get you. They didn’t miss that foot just to bug you. Were they in the best position to see it. Probably not. As a player, are you always in the best position to receive a pass. Probably not. When I accepted that the umpire was going to make mistakes and just got on with the game and didn’t yell and belittle them, all of a sudden the umpires I got were better. They made fewer mistakes, they got into better positions because they didn’t have to manage my tanty and could focus on the game.
- The strategy of hockey… I loved running around with a piece of carbon fibre, but I never really put a whole lot of thought into what I was doing as a player. When I started umpiring, I had to start thinking more about the game. About the strategy of play. To anticipate where the ball was going, I needed to understand the different structures teams play, and the impact that has on the way they play. Guess what! The more I understood hockey, the better I got. I went from playing Metro 1 as an 18-year-old to Premier League reserves 10 years later. And it is way more fun.
- The umpire can be your ally… We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf. If you get upset about every decision the umpire calls, they stop listening. So when they actually make a mistake, at a crucial time of the game, they aren’t going to be interested in talking to you or asking their co-ump for assistance.
- Abuse doesn’t have to be that abusive… ‘Come on?’ ‘Are you joking?’ ‘It didn’t hit my foot’. It’s not rude. It’s not even an insult. What it is, is annoying. If every single time you blow your whistle, someone makes a comment it builds up to abuse. So while you feel the umpire might be ‘overreacting’ they are actually just fed up with you, or your team’s constant jibes.
- Umpiring is actually really fun… Believe it or not, but they people who pull on yellow and pink every weekend, do it because they love it. There have been plenty of games as an umpire when I have wanted to walk away because it wasn’t fun anymore. And I have lots of friends who have. As soon as something isn’t fun anymore, you lose the drive to do it. So as players, we need to make sure that the environment is inviting for umpires. Because without them hockey isn’t as fun to play either.
And one last thing I have learnt… There are some really lovely players out there who make the game a lot more fun. Not all players are out to get umpires. We should be #OneTeam and work together to make our sport great. #ThanksUmp #Thankagreatplayer