We can all agree, I think, that we need more umpires – at all levels through the game. We, as an Area, are short of umpires willing to take neutral appointments and clubs are short of umpires to cover their home matches and also matches, often on Sundays, for junior, mixed and masters teams.
Who is responsible for encouraging more people to take up umpiring? The answer, of course, is all of us; England Hockey, Areas and Clubs. But the most important of these is the hockey clubs throughout our Area. Without a number of new umpires into the officiating system (be that for clubs or Area) the overall number of umpires and match officials will dwindle away and the shortage will just get worse and worse.
All clubs, no matter how small or how large, should have an umpire development scheme running throughout the season, and also the off season when, for example, summer league hockey can allow new talent to get some practice in away from the stresses of league hockey in the normal season.
Each club should have, at least one, Club Umpire Developer, who can assist with umpire development – but the club should also have a process to encourage people to pick up the whistle, and a means of training and supporting those umpires so that they do not get quickly discouraged. Clubs should also ensure that umpire abuse is stamped out – as this is one of the main reasons why aspiring umpires often turn their back on umpiring. Remember, no umpire – no game.
If your club needs help setting up some kind of umpire development scheme then please get in touch. We can help with what such a scheme should look like, how it might operate, but the successful operation of such a club umpire development scheme is down to the club, to make it work. To start, how many of your club’s members have taken the England Hockey on-line rules test? Do they all have access to the necessary kit for umpiring (shirts of an appropriate fit and colour, whistles, cards, radios and so on). Do you know what the umpire pathway is? How much promotion is there within your club to encourage more people to take up umpiring?
This is something which needs involvement from the very top management of a club – because without umpires it won’t matter how many great players you develop, if there aren’t enough games because there aren’t enough umpires then our sport will eventually wither and die.
Some clubs, in our Area and beyond, have very successful and thriving umpire development schemes – but we need all clubs to be involved in developing umpires. It should be as fundamental a part of running a club as player training and coaching.
We, as an Are Officiating Committee, are here to help, to provide guidance and support – but without the involvement of clubs in developing umpires we simply cannot create umpires out of nothing.
Please get in touch if your club needs help – and try to encourage the successful operation of a club umpire development scheme in your club.