Nearly 650 athletes, on 38 teams, in three age-group divisions (U14, U16, U19), from across the United States have arrived to Virginia Beach, VA, to compete in the National Futures Championships.
Of course, where there are players competing for wins, there are also umpires.
USA Field Hockey decided to ask the umpires who will be officiating at the 2010 National Futures Championship about their umpiring and upcoming experience.
The umpires for the 2010 National Futures Championship who responded to our survey are from a wide range of states including California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Virginia. One comes to the championships having grown up in the south -- South Africa that is. Another grew up in the east -- or the west, depending on how you like to travel to France.
Perky Nellissen is a Level II Umpire who began officiating when she was 22. She's coming to her first National Futures Championship from Rhode Island. "I am nervous but excited to be a part of such a national campaign for girls to move forward in this sport. I only wish there were half the opportunities such as this, when I was their age."
Susan Burke began officiating when she was 34. She is a Level II Umpire from New York and this is her first trip to the National Future Championships. Later this summer this mother of three will be officiating at the ESPN Rise games. "I truly enjoy and have fun umpiring field hockey and feel really fortunate to be part of this event. I look forward to learning from and working with some of the best in the game."
Nikki Yaba won't have to go far to officiate at her first National Futures Championships, she's from Virginia Beach. She started umpiring when she was a teenager and has a Level II Umpire certification. "I am looking forward to meeting umpires from various areas, and seeing some really great hockey!"
Paula Childs is the South African native mentioned earlier. She now lives in Ohio and she has twice officiated at the National Futures Championships. She didn't start umpiring until she was 28 but she is no stranger to the hockey pitch, saying that she grew up beside a hockey field watching her mother play and umpire. Her brother still plays at a high level. Paula is a Level II Umpire."The National Futures Championships are a unique environment where most everyone attending - players, coaches, selectors, recruiters, umpires, and parents - has a knowledge of field hockey, so one is continuously awash with hockey strategies, interpretations, potential situations! As an umpire, I find this to be an ideal setting for me to look to my Umpire Managers for input on nuances and techniques; and to look to my peers for support and encouragement. This is a moment to absorb all that one can, because this is US field hockey at its best!"
Alice Harwell knows how important it is to start umpiring early. When asked how old she was when she started umpiring she answered, "Not young enough!" She began developing her officiating skills on the lacrosse fields and now has her Level II Umpire certification in field hockey. This is her first trip to the National Futures Championships, although it's not a very long trip as Alice is another of the National Futures Championships umpires from Virginia Beach. She going to be making up for that by being doubly busy -- not only is she umpiring at the National Futures Championships, she's a Technical Judge for the Women's National Championship. "I am really excited to be working at the Women's National Championship during the National Futures Championships as a technical judge. Both tournaments will showcase the countries top talent and provide another level for younger players to aspire to reach in their playing careers."
Christine Couteau might not look comfortable umpiring -- not because she's not ready but because she's had a hockey stick in her hands since she began playing as six year old in France. She played on French national teams (U16, U18, U21 and A squad from 1978 to 1991). This mother of two started umpiring when she was 35, is a Level II Umpire, and last month officiated at the California Cup. This will be the fourth time that she's come to the National Futures Championships but her first time as an umpire."This will be my fourth time at the National Futures Championships as a parent; my daughter is playing on the San Jose U16 team. I love this tournament, and it's a great honor to umpire this year. I got my Level II a year ago, and umpired at the Rumble last year. That was a stepping stone towards the National Futures Championships. The level of play is so good, and I know I will get some constructive feedback on my games, which I love. It's the only way to improve. I am nervous, of course, and excited. I look forward to meeting new umpires from all over the country, and I love working with these great partners, who really understand that umpiring is a team effort."
Judy Strong, like Christine, is no stranger to high level hockey competitions. She was selected to her first Olympic team in 1980, and won an Olympic bronze medal as a member of our 1984 Olympic Team. She began officiating when she was 25 and is now a Level III Umpire. She coached field hockey and lacrosse at Smith College for 20 years. She's looking forward to umpiring her fifth National Futures Championships. "The high level of play and the feedback from the umpire managers to improve my game for the up coming season. Always a little nervous, when I am no longer nervous it's time to retire!"
Steve Walker is a Level II Umpire who is no stranger to the National Futures Championships, returning for the seventh time in 2010. He started officiating in his 40's because his wife coaches field hockey and his daughters played throughout college. "Great tournament to work on your umpiring, excellent people involved."