USA Field Hockey NEWS Resilience - A Key t...

Resilience - A Key to Success

By Steve Horgan, USA Field Hockey's Director of Umpiring | Jan. 19, 2021, 4:02 p.m. (ET)

We all know there are many skills required for an umpire to be successful. Knowledge, fitness, personality, understanding, empathy and communication, just to name a few. But one skill that can make or break an umpire is his/her ability, or lack thereof, to recover quickly from challenges or difficulties during his/her career. Maya Angelou said, “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” Resilience is one the most important skills for an umpire to be successful.

Umpires never come to a match thinking, “I’m going to screw this one up today”. We certainly know umpires are human and mistakes, or perceived mistakes, will be made. Good umpires always look out for the best interest of the game even though they know they will never call a perfect game. Additionally, umpires have to work through many situations that may be difficult, especially when dealing with emotions from players, coaches, parents and spectators. There is always the expectation of outstanding performance and 100 percent correctness in the eyes of all involved. In reality that is not possible.

However, umpires can learn to be realistic and gain confidence in their officiating by not allowing any real or perceived mistake to “reduce” them to a state that will take the game or their career into a downward spiral. We all should learn from our mistakes. As umpires, when we realize that nothing can be done to change a mistake, we need to be able to keep the right frame of mind and allow the game to continue in control and with the trust of the participants.

Every umpire, at one time or another, has thought to themselves, “I think I got that one wrong”. But once they come to the realization that they have to be resilient and keep moving ahead allowing the game to take its natural course, the more successful they can be. When the umpire can continue in a way that keeps the focus on the players and not themselves, the mistake or perceived mistake is forgotten rather quickly. So, when mistakes happen to you, whether by your own doing or just a result of the circumstances, the best you can do is address it later after the game. For the rest of the game, you need to focus on the many more important decisions you will need to make.

At the moment when a possible umpiring mistake is made, everyone around is looking at the umpire. This is when it is important to remember that, “It’s not about the mistake you made, but how you react and recover after that mistake”. The sooner an umpire can get back into his/her “element” of confidence, control and presence, the sooner the mistake becomes a memory. The time for trying to correct or determine why the mistake was made is after the game whether it be in a post-game discussion or watching the video of the match. Mistakes that are allowed to remain in the mind of an umpire, will only “snowball” into bigger issues as the game continues.

Umpiring is a vocation that so many of us love. We all accept the fact that every call is a “game changing” decision. The average umpire has about a 90 to 95 percent correctness rate during a match. That is an “A” average by almost every grading system. However, it is that small 5 to 10 percent margin of error that when dwelled upon and can reduce an umpire’s capability to be at his/her best. Resilience is a skill that can only be developed by practice, experience and work. Learn as you go along in your career, try not to repeat mistakes. Be realistic when assessing your performance so that each time you take the field, you do so in a better frame of mind than before. Don’t allow anything that happens to you in field hockey reduce your ability or capability to be the best you can be!

This article was featured in the Summer 2020 issue of FHLife Magazine.