Um­pires sac­ri­fice a lot, of­ten for free – let’s sup­port them

The Hockey Paper - - FEATURE | COMMENT -

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

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