Every international tournament is an opportunity for umpires to gain experience on the world stage and just as players eagerly await selections to earn caps, so do officials. The Gryphon Hockey World League Round 2 women’s event in West Vancouver has offered seven PAHF umpires an opportunity to officiate throughout the nine-day competition.
The umpiring team operates similarly to the actual teams in competition. The Umpires Manager works closely with her group of umpires, much like a coach does with his or her players. They appoint the umpires to games, debrief umpires each game and discuss goals and focuses for the tournament and umpiring careers.
Umpire Manager Susan Gomes, from Trinidad and Tobago, is in charge of the nine umpires at this tourmament. Suzi Sutton (USA) and Veronica Villafane (ARG) are the two neutral officials. Sutton is one the most experienced at the tournament, with over 100 internationals, and in her seven years of international umpiring has logged two Pan American Games (2011 and 2015).
“People don’t always realize that the umpires come from all different countries and form a team that speak different languages and have different cultures for both life and sport,” describes Sutton. “(Umpires) have to quickly learn how to make the same judgements on the field (as players do), but we also have to learn how to support everyone’s off field experiences to endure the length of the tournament as a team of officials.”
For Villafane, her goals are simple – to enjoy every match and to increase her experience.
“I just want to overcome myself in the face of adversity,” said Villafane about her greatest challenge as an umpire.
Life with the umpiring team appears to very closely parallel the life of an athlete on their team. The moments they enjoy, the moments that challenge them, the moments where they fail or the moments where they rise to the occasion are all part of the journey for umpires who are moving up the international ladder.
“It’s so hard being an umpire because you worry about getting everything correct,” said Kecia Hosein, of Trinidad and Tobago. “Every decision you make affects the teams positively or negatively so the challenge is getting it correct and accepting that there are times where you didn’t get it right and you have to learn from it.”
Hosein had the duties of umpiring Belarus vs India in the Pool A match up that went 1-0 in favour of India. Hosein joined Canadian up-and-coming umpire Lelia Sacre for that match.
“Meeting new people only a few days before the start of the tournament and then expecting to be a cohesive team,” responded Sacre about one of her greatest challenges as an umpire. The HWL tournament in West Vancouver is the first home tournament for Sacre.
“My goals are to just keep up the work I’ve been doing lately and keep learning ways to control the game and keep it interesting and exciting,” said Chilean umpire Catalina Montesino Wenzel about coming to West Vancouver. Montesino Wenzel has banked several internationals already including the most recent 2016 women’s Junior World Cup in Chile, as well as the South American Championships in 2013 and South American Odesur Games in 2014.
Mexican umpire Diana Fuentes Castelo has only been officiating the past few years, but is focused on her goals for the tournament which are around improving game management and keeping up with the flow of the game.
And while it is so easy to judge the officiating at a hockey match, it only takes a few seconds to understand what umpires have given up to strive to be their best both on and off the pitch.
“Balancing the sacrifices you make in your life beyond the hockey pitch with the rewards of being a part of the international umpiring team,” adds Sutton about her biggest challenge as an umpire. “The sacrifices we make to facilitate the game include leaving family, missing important life events, leaving or changing our jobs to be able to accept appointments, training, and the list continues. There is simply an amazing reward to umpiring/facilitating hockey with a newly formed family that creates a unique balance to all the sacrifice and training.”
For Sutton (USA), Villafane (ARG), Fuentes Castelo (MEX), Hosein (TTO), Montesino Wenzel (CHI), Sacre (CAN) and Natalia Lodeiro (URU) this tournament presents nothing but opportunity and that clearly does not come without sacrifice and its challenges.
Just as players prepare for major tournaments, this group of PAHF umpires have been eagerly preparing and focusing for their performances in West Vancouver. The final classification games will be on 8 April, while the finals will be on 9 April. The stronger performances will likely get the higher-staked games, just as players vie for starting positions and more minutes played.
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