In two weeks time Laurine Delforge and Javed Shaikh will be making their debut appearances on the biggest stage in hockey as they prepare to take charge at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup. Both umpires have umpired on the international stage for a number of years, but this is something else.
"I expect the atmosphere to be incredible," says Laurine, who was a player in Belgium before she took up umpiring. "I feel not only excited, but also nervous, because a big event goes hand in hand with a lot of pressure. But having to perform under pressure makes things even more exciting, doesn't it?"
"Just hearing the words 'World Cup' is making me nervous," adds Javed, "But I am going to take it as just one more international hockey tournament."
The umpire from India began his international umpiring career with an Invitational Under 21 Seven Nations Tournament in Poland in 2003. He decided to make the move into umpiring at the age of 26 when he realised that, although he was a good player, he would never make the national team. "Umpiring my first game was a tough experience as I was not used to hearing players shout or challenging my decisions. But I remember the amount of support I got from my colleague and senior officials and that made me feel a lot better."
Laurine's entry into the world of umpiring was through a slightly different route. As a player she was prone to questioning decisions so her father, himself an umpire, challenged her to have a go to figure out how difficult it is. "And I actually liked it…" She became an international umpire in 2009.
Javed and Laurine have now joined the upper echelons of the umpiring world, but that doesn't mean that it is all plain sailing. Javed says he still gets challenged on decisions and Laurine recalls one match with a shudder: "It was the last eight minutes of England v Germany during the European Championship in Boom. It was my first game of the tournament. After a good 62 minutes, I got a lot of video referrals in a very short amount of time, with most of them being upheld. I had never been put under so much pressure. But I am happy to have gone through this, because it is from such difficult situations that you learn the most!"
The two umpires both clearly love the buzz and excitement of the game and Javed adds: "It keeps me connected to hockey and it allows me to see different people, places and cultures. I also love the feeling that we get from these tournaments that we are all part of one big family. And importantly, I get monetary benefit from umpiring which helps me support my family in a small way – they sacrificed a lot so I could get this far in umpiring."
For people who have ambitions to follow in Laurine and Javed's footsteps, Javed has this advice: "To be an effective hockey umpire, an individual needs to be very focused in this job and should not get distracted. It is hard work but for me, I want to always do my best and improve my knowledge, skill and experience through working with others."
Laurine adds: "Empathy with the players and confidence are two key factors. For me, knowing the FIH has trust and confidence in my abilities is both gratifying and gives me confidence. I now hope to come up to standard."
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