Umpires sacrifice a lot, often for free – let’s support them
I WAS interested to read Ian Jennings’ piece on umpiring (The Hockey Paper, December 14) and wanted to write back and make a few comments.
I’ll respond from my experience as a former team manager at National League and European club level, an international hockey photographer as well as a Level 2 umpire aspiring to NPUA standard.
Hockey is getting quicker and quicker, it’s inevitably difficult for umpires to keep up.
It is inevitable that the umpires will make mistakes, just as it is inevitable the players will too.
I’ve witnessed over zealous and nervous umpiring at EHL level, but never incompetent. Fitness levels could be better, for players as well, they always could be, but there are plenty of umpires who take it as seriously as the players do.
As we all know, hockey is not a fully professional sport for players, let alone professional for officials. Very few umpires in this country get paid for their time, yet they still sacrifice career and family to develop their game.
Last season, one of our junior internationals was growing frustrated with what he perceived to be bad umpiring resulting in losses. I asked him “Who has more influence on the result? Two umpires or 32 players?”.
Begrudgingly, he accepted that in most cases a team loses because it deserved to lose, certainly where neutral umpires are involved. Of course there are exceptions but the coaching counter argument is the players should put it beyond the influence of a few off decisions by the umpire.
From what I understand, the men’s and women’s Premier NPUA Panel have to attain inter- national umpire marks to be able to umpire on it for example. The NPUA continues to produce world class international umpires at all levels of the game who regularly feature in the key final stages of tournaments.
In my time providing feedback on NPUA umpires as a team manager, I found the vast majority to be willing to discuss matters after the game, sometimes during it if possible. They took genuine interest in developing their performance as well as helping players.
Of course there were difficult umpires, just as there are difficult players. They are certainly not the enemy though and I’d encourage people to view the relationship between players, coaches, umpires, match officials and the league managers as symbiotic. Working together will benefit all. SIMON WEBB