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Whistle in Hand: What Does it Take to Excel As An Umpire

By Maggie Giddens, USA Field Hockey Umpire | Feb. 08, 2021, 11:15 a.m. (ET)

To perform at the highest level, or any level for that matter, an umpire needs to possess skills that are not taught in a classroom or found in a manual. They have to stay humble and open minded, learn from their mistakes and seek out opportunities for growth in every umpiring encounter.
Umpiring, much like life, is an ongoing challenge and even more so at the top level. In my career, I have identified the following five qualities to be pillars of success from local, national and international competition.

Adaptability
Changing times zones, enduring long flights or delays, different foods and overcoming language barriers are examples of ever-changing conditions. Embracing the adventure and frequently modified circumstances are critical to succeeding at the highest level. Being able to focus on what you can control is how you endure these types of challenges. Having support from family, friends and mentors along with a flexible career, assist you to stay focused and able to adapt while away from familiar conditions.

Mental Toughness
Being an umpire is hard. It requires mental toughness and the ability to analyze situations objectively. Learning to process events without taking things personally or getting emotional will not only improve your skills as an umpire but also help you learn from the challenges you face. Meditation is an invaluable tool that has helped me control my own emotions, so when stakes are high, I am able to manage situations as a professional.

Preparedness

Field hockey has evolved over the years and with the self-start the game is faster than ever, putting more emphasis on umpires to be fit. Physical training is crucial, but controllable part of an elite umpire's preparation. Mimicking movements of the game like change of speed and direction as well as including strength training will build confidence that carries over to the pitch. Just as important as physical training is the need to incorporate mental training. Studying the game, watching video and analyzing different calls will improve your skills as an umpire. Meanwhile, apps are available to work on reaction time and problem-solving skills to keep your mind sharp while off the field.

Self-Care

Self-care applies not just to when you are at a tournament, but to your pre- and post-tournament routine as well. When at a tournament it’s necessary to be able to recognize when you need some time to yourself to refresh and mentally prepare to perform. When you return, getting back to your regular routine of healthy habits will help you recover faster so you can start training for the next tournament sooner. Since making it to the top level, working on my recovery between tournaments has been key to my ability to stay healthy, fit and focused. Proper nutrition, quality sleep and regular meditation are the main components of my self-care routine.

Love of the Game
Love of the game is why I am an umpire. The journey of developing umpiring skills is an enjoyable challenge but the passion of the sport is what always brings me back after a tough game. Being part of a team has always been important to me and I am proud to be a part of the third team. I am thankful for the colleagues who have become friends and who make my job fun, despite its difficulties.

Competing as a top level umpire never gets easier. However, if you decide to see mistakes as learning opportunities and continually challenge yourself to grow and adapt (physically, mentally and emotionally), you can develop the strength and resiliency necessary to succeed.

This article was featured in the Spring 2020 issue of FHLife Magazine