The Wide World of Umpiring Several weeks ago we conducted the first USA Field Hockey National Club Championship in Richmond, Virginia's SportsQuest. It was a good event in spite of the heat. We have made a good start in establishing the ‘national championship’ for our sport. Frankly it seems strange that we did not have one already. We are committed to the USA Field Hockey National Club Championship being the pinnacle annual club tournament, focused on competitive play, played at the best venues, with the best players, clubs, and umpires. So we will work to build on this now by listening to all within our sport. Next up is to explore ways to continually make the event ever more premium as well as to launch the USA Field Hockey Regional Club Championships next year. The regional championships will serve as the qualifiers for the National Club Championships (NCC) and sending well deserved athletes and clubs from across the country to the 2012 NCC.
As per usual, we did conduct a survey and received many responses. Overall, we had positive comments, but did experience a glitch or two, and we heard about them. The heat, which was in excess of three digits throughout the term of the tournament, except the last day (only in the 90s), caused most of the issues. We did cover the medical elements of the event well with top-shelf trainers and well experienced ambulance crews. Nonetheless, the heat created significant challenges for athletes, through to coaches, and spectators including many moms and dads. Everyone was taken care of as schedules were rearranged and games shortened with water breaks enforced midway through each half.
But, then there were the umpires. The umpires had the toughest go of all. Each umpire typically worked four games per day. I am told that stereotypically umpires will run between 3-4 miles per game. That added up to 12-16 miles per day in oven-like conditions. The 38 umpires at the NCC were rock stars. And, the NCC really brought to light the fundamental needs for the sport that umpires bring. And, in several areas it demonstrated that we failed to properly serve the needs of umpires. Here’s a sampling:
1. We allowed to slip through the cracks the proper feeding and watering of umpires within the umpire tent whilst the event was going on. It is necessary to continually feed and rehydrate umpires especially in difficult weather conditions. We quickly remedied that by dispatching staff to a local store to supply the tent each day of the tournament.
2. We seem to be inconsistent with what we provide to umpires from event to event. We have now created a protocol for all events so umpires will know ahead of time as to what they are entitled for their umpiring services for an event owned by USA Field Hockey. That is only fair. No one likes surprises.
3. We seem to continually experience issues regarding the proper “uniform” shirt to issue to umpires. Over time, we have issued cotton shirts, collared shirts, non-collared shirts, weird colored shirts, traditional colored shirts, sweat wicking shirts, and on and on. There has been no consistency in what we issue. We have not really concerned ourselves with the ‘branding’ of umpires and providing shirts that are confortable and good looking. Umpires are professionals and deserve to look and feel professional through what they wear. We are working on that and will soon present to umpires a palette of choices with both women’s and men’s cuts, a variety of colors, and types of materials to choose from. We are seeking one look that is crisp and presents umpires in the best light. Looking good and looking professional is a big step toward enhanced performance, and our umpires will have significant input on their uniforms going forward.
4. Speaking of “enhanced performance” imagine yourself as an umpire operating in all sorts of weather conditions, officiating a fast moving game, trying to enforce a myriad of rules, and making split-second decisions. While all that is going on, spectators, moms and dads, are second guessing on the sidelines and making their perspectives widely known. That is what sport is all about to an extent, but there must be some understanding of the stress umpires are taking on to officiate a game. While it is probably a lot to ask of many observers of the game, umpires deserve respect even when you do not agree with judgments they make along the way.
Our umpire cadre within USA Field Hockey consist of around 661 umpire members. They are passionate members who continually give back to the sport. They feel the sport has given much to them through either their playing days or through other avenues the sport has provided. I am grateful for their contributions, but truth be told…we need more umpires. Our umpires generally…and, gently, are getting along in experience (i.e. years), and often they suggest that they would enjoy mentoring others. We do need you to consider giving back to the sport in this hugely important role. If you would like to learn more, please contact either Laura Darling, USA Field Hockey’s Managing Director of Olympic Development (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Steve Horgan, USA Field Hockey’s Commissioner of Umpires (email@example.com) for much more information. They would love hearing from you.
Don’t Forget About Tomorrow You and everyone from the entire field hockey community, including umpires, coaches, players and spectators, are invited to listen in to the 2011 National Rules Briefing scheduled for Wednesday, August 10th at 7:00 PM EDT. You can login directly to the web stream from http://usafieldhockey.com/nrb2011. The briefing is 1 hour followed by a Q & A period. Steve Horgan, USA Field Hockey Commissioner of Officials is presenting the briefing.
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: “A man from the Netherlands plans to take a picture of all 194 world capitals over the next five years. Then when that’s over, his friends will tell him about Google Earth.”
Have a great week!