Being an official in any sport at the international level is not an easy feat, let alone making it through 100 matches. On the final day of the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, umpire Gus Soteriades will become just the sixth American to reach the prestigious FIH Golden Whistle milestone for umpiring 100 senior international matches.
Soteriades is just the second male umpire from the USA behind Richard Kentwell who achieved the rank in 1993. On the women’s side, USA umpires Jun Kentwell (2004), Amy Hassick (2013), Suzi Sutton (2016) and Maggie Giddens (2018) have all earned their Golden Whistle.
What’s more untraditional about Soteriades than other hockey international umpires to reach this milestone is that the 47-year-old never played hockey.
“My mom was a high school coach and my three sisters were all involved with playing and went off to university because of the game,” said Soteriades, who hails from Columbus, Ohio. “If I wanted to be a part of the conversation at dinner, especially in the fall when seasons started, I had to learn the game. I was acting as a student trainer for my mom’s team at the time and my mom’s old coach told me to umpire since I do know the game and was around it all the time.”
Soteriades credits Catherine Brown, who suggested he start umpiring, Pat Hays, Barb Carriero and Roque Viegas for launching his career.
“I owe the greatest education of my life to this game and all of these people who have helped foster it and make me who I am,” adds Soteriades, who outside of umpiring works as a strategy and management consultant.
The journey for Soteriades started in 2000 at the America’s cup in Havana, Cuba. From there Soteriades has officiated at four Pan American Games, three Pan American Cups, 2005 Junior World Cup, 2006 and 2018 Asian Games and 2019 FIH Series Finals along with several other Olympic qualifiers, four nations and test series – all without ever having picked up a stick himself.
“Gus it seems never played and he came in to umpire which is very difficult for a hockey umpire,” explained umpire’s manager Roger St Rose, who has known Soteriades since the late 1990’s. “Having not played sometimes you don’t understand what the players are attempting to do or what’s going through their mind. He’s achieved that ability without playing the game and to reach this level doing that is not easy.”
“When I look at a panel of umpires you can look and say ‘that is Gus.’ He has his own unique style of communication on the pitch. He always brings a bit of light-heartedness even when the situation is extremely intense. He lightens or diffuses the issues with ease.”
In addition to his outdoor contributions, Soteriades has also umpired several international indoor matches highlighted by his appointment at the 2005 Pan American Indoor Cup and the 2007 Indoor World Cup.
Only 90 men and women have reached the Golden Whistle milestone that dates back to 1984 as the earliest it was awarded.
Soteriades is in Lima with South Africa’s Peter Wright who is the only other men’s umpire at the Pan American Games to reach the milestone. Wright hit 100 matches at the 2017 Pan American Games in Lancaster, Pa.
“We were roommates in the our first Junior World Cup together,” highlighted Wright about the Rotterdam tournament in 2005. “It’s funny how you strike up that friendship and we clicked from Day 1. In hockey you don’t have to see someone for five or 10 years but when you do you are on the same wave length.”
“He’s been a wonderful servant to Pan American hockey and also done a lot out of the Americas which has been great as well. To reach that 100 is just a very special mark for him.”
At the 2019 Pan American Games Soteriades will umpire his 100th match between Canada and Chile in the men’s semifinals on August 8.