(Photo: © FIH)

The International Hockey Federation appointed 26 enthusiastic officials younger than 35 years of age to run the first Youth Olympic Games held in Singapore.

For the majority of the eight female and nine male umpires the Youth Olympic Games are the highlight of their career at this stage. This is a new situation for the two umpires’ managers as well. The more experienced Craig GRIBBLE from New Zealand is appointed as Boys’ umpires manager while the Youth Olympic Games are the first tournament for his colleague Minka WOOLLEY as Girls’ umpires manager. WOOLLEY was an international umpire herself but retired after the Beijing Olympics 2008. “We did a lot of preparation together”, the Australian said. Because the umpires are still very young, the umpires’ managers’ focus is a different one in comparison to other tournaments. The average age of the female umpires is 27.8 years. “It’s more general coaching here as positioning, signalling and the use of whistle. For some of them it was the first time they received coaching. With more experienced umpires you talk about people management, communication and body language than about the basics”, GRIBBLE explained.

Four of the participating umpires are already on the FIH promising list: David SWEETMAN from Scotland (representing Great Britain in Singapore) and local Hong Zhen LIM in the boys group, as well as Hannah SANDERS from England (representing Great Britain in Singapore) and Maritza PEREZ CASTRO from Uruguay in the girls group. The two umpires’ managers are very happy with their group and they like how they are interacting and networking as this fact is always an important one. “I think after the opening ceremony everybody realised how important this tournament is”, WOOLLEY said. All accreditation and security checks are unusual for the new young umpires as well, as this is a competition for boys and girls which does not happen apart from the Olympics.

Tournament director Christian DECKENBROCK has a young off-field team as well. “I like the fact that FIH appointed young people as these are the Youth Olympic Games. The age of our officials points out the Youth Olympic spirit”, he said. He also noted that many other Federations did not send young people to run the competition. For the German, these Youth Olympics are the most honourable TD appointment in his career thus far: “I really enjoy the tournament. Of course it is hard work but I’m glad to be here in Singapore. Being a part of these great games including 26 sports is an unforgettable experience.” An advantage of the Youth Olympic Games is that the FIH officials also get the chance to watch other sports.