As this is a year of saying yes and trying new things I have today embarked upon something well and truly outside my comfort zone.
I am a keen hockey player and I absolutely love it! I always loved it at school and played for the school team, and then once I went to sixth form and uni, I massively chickened out when it came to trying out. When I was younger, and still now to some degree, I tended to talk myself out of things if I didn’t know anyone else who was doing it or I wasn’t sure where to go. I have no idea why, because playing hockey at uni would have been fantastic.
But when I returned home in 2011, I found my lady balls (and a friend who wanted to go too) and signed up for Newmarket Hockey Club and I have never looked back. So 5 years and 1 very ruined ankle later, here I am, still going strong (ish- not the ankle). I am communications officer for the club as well and being involved has helped me grow in confidence both in the sport and with friendships at the club. Being such an active member has also shown me the desperate need for umpires- because without umpires there would be no matches.
Now, I have umpired a grand total of one game in my lifetime. It was a summer league game, so nothing serious, but my god was I terrible. I think I blew the whistle twice for footwork and didn’t have the confidence to call for anything else. So OF COURSE the next natural step would be to make a go of this…hopefully you can sense the sarcasm here.
I hated every second of that experience so god knows what came over me to sign up but I did. And today I went on the course. I am by no means qualified yet, that still calls for an assessed match- all very serious stuff. However I now have a much more thorough understanding of the game which is what I was hoping for in the main.
So at 7am on a Sunday I snoozed my alarm for another 40 minutes (of course) and then got up, dressed in about 6 layers and made a flask of soup, ready to face the elements and hockey sticks. I arrived to find loads of my hockey buds so this relaxed me immediately as not only was I definitely in the right place, but at least I had people to chat to and sit with. Phew! 18 year old me would have been very relieved.
We walked into the clubhouse (where there was free tea and biscuits!) and we were equipped with our very own green, yellow and red cards, rule book and a whistle. Not going to lie, I am more excited about having my own whistle than anything else.
The course was led by a member of England Hockey who has umpired everywhere, lost a finger to the sport and travelled the world, so a pretty impressive tutor. He went through various scenarios, when to get the cards out and how to blow the whistle and play advantage (I realise if you don’t know the sport this won’t mean much). After this it was time to go out on pitch. All you really need to know that it was cold, but it was a lot of walking through where to stand, what signals to give etc etc.
Second time out on pitch though there were a load of players who had come to help and we had a good old fashioned game of hockey- except they were clearly first team players and I feared for my teeth. But other than that, great fun. Some of my course mates had the chance to practice a bit of umpiring but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for everyone to have a go, so incredibly dauntingly, my first proper go at this will be during an actual real life league game. Eek! If it goes well, perhaps I’ll keep you posted.
I must say though I was pleasantly surprised by today. Although I am trembling in my hockey boots at the thought of actually calling the shots in a game, I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun to learn about something which I love but from a whole new perspective. Just shows how much good can come from just saying yes 🙂
Any umpires out there, feel free to comment with any top tips!