USA Field Hockey NEWS The Game from a New ...

The Game from a New Perspective

By Maddie Frank, USA Field Hockey Contributing Writer, Academy of Notre Dame & Horizon Field Hockey Club Athlete | Dec. 07, 2020, 3:40 p.m. (ET)

With eleven years of field hockey, seven of them playing club, I have spent a lot of time on the field. I have never grown tired of the sport, as you can learn new skills and grow as a player each time you pick up your stick. I once thought the only way to improve my game was by practicing and playing. Wanting to surround myself with as much field hockey as possible, I became an official for a fall field hockey league and a coach for the U-14 indoor teams at my club. My time as an umpire and coach helped to improve my play in a way my time on the field never could.

Since I had likely committed every foul I would need to call at some point in my time playing, I attended an umpire training with the assumption that I possessed a decent understanding of the game. Upon finishing my training, and officiating my first two games for a local recreational league, it became apparent that I was not as aware of the rules as I had believed. I quickly realized that while I was familiar with the hand signals for a foot, penalty corner or goal, I was unsure of the signals for fouls like a dangerous stick or ball. By my sixth match, I became confident in my ability to call fouls, but even after two fall seasons as an umpire, knowing when to hold a call for advantage is still difficult.

Now, having worked two seasons, my perspective as an umpire has improved my play on the field. By gaining more knowledge on the criteria of specific fouls and the hand signals for each, I am better able to react quickly on the ball with a self-start or repositioning to play defense. My experience with holding a call for advantage has reinforced the idea of playing to the whistle which allows me to capitalize on an opponent more effectively than setting up a free hit. Being an umpire gave me a new perspective and lens to view the game and has deepened my knowledge and awareness when playing.

During the 2019-20 indoor season, I had another chance to learn more about field hockey from a new angle. For my club team, Horizon Field Hockey Club, I helped coach our four U-14 teams twice a week at practices and in one tournament. Coaching was such a unique experience in itself as it sometimes felt more rewarding than playing, but it also reminded me how much I love the game. Since I was only a few years older than the girls I coached, it was easy to build a connection with them and be devoted to helping them improve. The players took corrections with such a positive attitude and were constantly asking questions to learn more. Their eagerness to grow reminded me of my own interest in the game and helped me carry over their energy into my own play. However, the most amazing experience I gained as a coach was watching the improvement of our athletes from September through March. Seeing the team perfectly execute a penalty corner or make a great defensive play was the most rewarding feeling. Coaching has renewed my excitement to learn new skills and has given me a new viewpoint on player development.

There is so much in field hockey that can be learned outside of playing. Opening myself up to new perspectives has helped me elevate my game, awareness and attitude. Being a coach or umpire at any level is an informative and hands on experience that can help any field hockey player grow and appreciate all aspects of the game, just like it did for me.