Every hockey fan knows the importance of an umpire for the smooth running of a tournament; most fans also appreciate the need for technical directors and judges. But how many people stop and consider the role of the umpire manager?
Hockey players arriving at The Hague do so following months of training and preparation. Throughout their time as an elite player they will be looked after and supported by a host of personnel – physical trainers and psychologists, athlete welfare officers and of course their coaches and managers.
So it is only right that the men and women whose job it is to control the matches should also be subject to some pretty intensive preparations, with a support network behind them. When the team of umpires turn up at The Hague to take on the responsibility of controlling the action, they will be as prepared for the task as it is possible to be and they will have the support and guidance of the umpire managers every step of the way.
Henrik Ehlers is one of the umpire managers that will be in The Hague. He says: "The role of the umpire manager is all about creating a dynamic environment around the umpiring group that enables them to provide outstanding performances on the field. That means supporting the umpires' preparations leading up to a tournament, to understand that different umpires need different leadership approaches, to provide coaching and feedback and to challenge their comfort zones."
Javed Shaikh, a first-time World Cup umpire from India spoke of the support he has received as he has moved up the ranks of umpires to elite international status. "It has been one of the best things, you just feel part of the umpiring family, there is always support from others who are more experienced," he said.
The main tasks of the umpire managers around an event as prestigious as the World Cup is to liaise with the umpires prior to the start of the tournament to make sure they are physically and mentally prepared for the challenge ahead. This includes fitness, match practice and updates on any rule interpretations.
Throughout the tournament, the umpire managers will provide feedback on performance and liaise with the technical director to produce a performance report at the end of the tournament. The umpire managers also arrange the day-to-day practical issues such as transport to the venue, umpire kit, accommodation. In short, everything the umpires need to do their job.
In preparation for this role, FIH is running a three-day Umpire Managers Seminar at The Hague starting the day before the World Cup begins. Clive McMurray, FIH World Panel Umpire Manager and Rogier Hoorn, a sports psychologist, will be leading the event, which includes looking at the role of the umpire manager; developing relationships with the umpires and other officials; how to feedback effectively, and how to deal with cultural differences.
The delegates will also spend a day watching hockey matches before reconvening to review the action and discuss the new umpire manager marking system.
Speaking before the event Clive McMurray summed up the role of the umpire manager: "Their primary role and goal is to create a safe working environment for umpires and to give them the direction, confidence and courage to go onto the field to serve the teams/players in a manner that exceeds their expectations."
The FIH Umpire Manager seminar begins on 29 May and runs until 1 June and will feature nominated Umpire Managers who will learn the ins and outs of this important group of officials.
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