Club Umpiring - The Cancer of grass roots hockey

20 Nov 2011 - 09:54 UTC.

It's a sad day when you come away from a hockey pitch thinking it's a waste of time playing, and that you'd be better off dedicating time to umpiring to ensure others get a fair game. When you spend most weekends of a season thinking this, it highlights that there is either a problem with how you play, or with the umpiring. However when I say "come away from a hockey pitch" I'm talking about games I've also spectated, and I'm not just talking about the umpiring of other clubs.

Umpiring is hard and to get the best out of it, you need a certain mindset and confidence. I'm one of the few players who actually enjoys umpiring. I also at the end of a game I've played will thank an umpire for their time, afterall it's voluntary at the grass roots level.

But, there is a serious problem in grass roots hockey in the South-East where umpires are having a detrimental affect on the game through either:



[*]Lack of knowledge of the rules[/*]

[*]Lack of confidence[/*]

[*]Lack of caring[/*]


The first issue of biased umpiring should have no place in the game. Kent Hockey Association and England Hockey itself as the national governing body need to eradicate it. A lot can be achieved through something very simple that has been in place for quite some time in the North West Hockey League, umpire ratings on match cards. After each game, both captains rate both umpires, and if you give a rating that is low suggesting unsatisfactory umpiring, you give a brief report of why. It works in the North West and during my seasons up there I very rarely came across an umpire where I thought that action needed to be taken. In the South East this is completely different, there are certain clubs where you know the umpires are going to help their team as and when they can. Two seasons ago I raised at committee level that we needed to raise this problem at county level, we didn't and we now see a problem that's getting worse.

The second issue and third issues of lack of knowledge of the rules, and a lack of confidence are things where everyone has to take a share of the blame.


[*]Umpires have a duty to keep up to date with the rules[/*]

[*]Clubs have a duty to help their umpires stay up to date and to help their umpires develop[/*]

[*]England Hockey needs to offer more to umpires that just the Level 1 course[/*]


When I say England Hockey and clubs need to do more to help their umpires, currently in the South East you're given the Level 1 assessment and then nothing more. The way that course is carried out and the advice given even on simple things like positioning is different from what some umpires had when they took the course. Two seasons ago my club ran a Q&A session with umpires and players, we've done nothing since. Clubs could have more "experienced" umpires shadowing those who want the help. It's also something England Hockey could look at in terms of road shows working alongside clubs, where umpires are watched during small games (or junior hockey on a Sunday). Help umpires to understand the small adjustments they could do to improve how they control the game, and thus help their confidence.

Confidence is an issue where umpires know the decision they want to make but are too scared to make it because of not wanting to hear about disagreements on it either on the pitch or at the bar afterwards. If umpires have the confidence to make their decisions, even if they make a mistake, as everyone does, they wouldn't have games that spiral out of control. If it's abuse on the pitch, umpires have cards and should use them. If it's a fear of abuse off the pitch, then clubs have duty to stamp on it and protect all umpires - not just their own!

With the mention of cards though, the manditory 16 day for red cards needs to go, there needs to be a proper appeals system, as I've seen people receive reds that didn't even warrant a yellow! In the days of modern technology these processes can take place in a very short time.

Lack of caring is typically where someone has been roped into umpiring and doesn't want to do it. Stood there arms crossed and blowing the whistle only if they feel they really need to. I'd term this a club discipline issue because it ruins the game for others.

End of the day I'm an average player that plays hockey for some simple reasons:


[*]To represent my club[/*]

[*]To help our youngsters progress through the club[/*]

[*]For enjoyment[/*]


But I also have the basic rule that I need to be able to make work on a Monday morning, some of the dangers being caused by umpires not having proper and correct control on a game has crossed a line which is the same reason many people like me stopped playing grass roots football over the last 10 years. Hockey could be in danger of following if it doesn't take action to try and avoid this.

So much can be sorted with simple changes, it would be a shame to see a sport that has adapted so well over time, fail to see something imposed nationally that is already working well in other parts of the country



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