Scotland's Sarah Wilson is one incredibly busy person. As a Physical Education teacher, she spends all day, every day encouraging her pupils to not just play sport to the best of their ability, but to value the role of the official too.
Wilson – who was a top junior player herself until a back injury halted her playing career – practises what she preaches by performing her role as one of the world’s leading umpires. Her efforts were rewarded earlier this month as she picked up the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Hockey Stars Awards Female Umpire of the Year.
She says there are some definite similarities between the day job and her umpiring role: “When you are teaching or umpiring you are always trying to set boundaries – you allow the players, or the students, certain leeway, but your role is to make sure they can perform to their best within the parameters of the sport. And there always has to be a bit of humour involved.”
Wilson, who umpired at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and took charge in the final of the 2017 Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Final in Auckland, New Zealand, said: “I feel very humbled to have received this award. I think it is so special that umpires are recognised at this level and I feel so honoured to be accepting this.
“As non professionals, we all work tirelessly to ensure that we are physically and mentally fit enough to officiate the game in a way that allows the players to create a spectacle and showcase our sport.”
One of the Scottish umpire’s stand out moments in 2017 was the final of the Rabobank EuroHockey Championships in the Wagner Stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands. She said: “The home crowd created an electric atmosphere, which was so special to be a part of. Umpiring in the Netherlands is always full of excitement!”
The year ahead is another busy one for Wilson. She has already umpired at the Indoor Hockey World Cup in Berlin, Germany then she jets off to Australia for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. London then beckons in July and August as she is one of the umpires chosen to officiate at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup between 21 July and 5 August.
As Wilson contemplates these challenges, her genuine love of the game shines through: “I hope to umpire to the best of my ability in all of these tournaments and allow for exciting and enthralling matches. I look forward to working with all the amazing women in the FIH umpiring teams and no doubt will enjoy the challenge that the games bring.”