When the National Anthem rings through the sound system at a field hockey match, we remove our hats, rest our palm near our hearts or hold a teammate's hand while we soak in a moment that reminds us we are much bigger than just ourselves.
For umpire Paula Childs in this precise moment at the 2013 Futures Elite Championship when the speakers began to play the familiar patriotic melody something special happened. For the first time Childs, born in South Africa, was able to stand on the field as an official U.S. Citizen.
USA Field Hockey: What did this moment, listening to the national anthem on the pitch for the first time as a U.S. Citizen, signify to you?
PC: I was assigned the first game at the Futures Elite Championship and I walked onto the pitch in the same manner as I always have. However, as I stood there, I realized that this would be the very first time that I listened to the Star Spangled Banner as a citizen of this country! As I said this out loud to my partner and friend, she motioned for me to put my arm across my chest. I felt a tremendous sense of pride as I stood singing the words to the national anthem of the country that I now call my own.
USA Field Hockey: When did you get your dual citizenship and how long of a process was it?
PC: I became a United States Citizen on Friday, June 14 before heading to Virginia Beach. The entire citizenship process began last summer as I studied for the Citizenship test. I have been a permanent resident of this country for quite a number of years now, so I thought of the ceremony as merely a formal culmination to my citizenship process. What I did not consider was the incredible emotion that took over me as I sat in a federal court room with 45 other naturalized citizens listening to an inspirational judge explaining my rights and responsibilities as a United States Citizen.
USA Field Hockey: Who inspired you to pick up a field hockey stick?
PC: Having grown up in South Africa, hockey was a large part of my upbringing. I spent a lot of my childhood on the sidelines of a hockey pitch watching my mother play. She was my inspiration to play, coach and umpire.
USA Field Hockey: What are your aspirations as a USA Field Hockey umpire?
PC: In all my endeavors in life I always strive to learn from experiences, to absorb situations and be the best that I can be. Through umpiring, I am exposed to new experiences in every match. I take on challenges and I always look to seize every opportunity that comes my way. I have umpired university games as well as a variety of different tournaments throughout the country and I embrace them all.
USA Field Hockey: What is the most rewarding part of officiating and what is the most challenging?
PC: Umpiring is not only about blowing a whistle on the field. It encompasses many other facets like professionalism in my demeanor, respect to all and a genuine love of the game. I approach every game with those basic philosophies with the intent of having a positive impact on that game. However, having the ability to apply the rules of the game in an appropriate, fair and consistent manner can prove challenging at times while trying to be able to encourage the natural flow of the game.
USA Field Hockey: What words of encouragement do you have to offer to those aspiring to become an umpire?
PC: Your role is an important one, so be knowledgeable, fair, respectful and passionate.