Nicole Dawson (BAR) and Kim Scott (JPOL TD)

In order to promote the mission of providing an elite event as well as developing technical officials and umpires, Junior Premier Hockey invites officials throughout the Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF) to join Junior Premier Outdoor League (JPOL). The 2018 season of JPOL hosted six officials from beyond the USA borders.

JPOL Region 4 welcomed Canadian umpires Courtney Watson and Vanessa Williamson.  This was Courtney’s first season with JPOL.  She is a regional umpire from Calgary who is mentored by JPH Director of Umpiring, Wendy Stewart. Vanessa is an FIH Indoor rated umpire and has traveled to umpire Junior Premier Indoor League (JPIL) and JPOL for many years.  This year Vanessa’s experience was put to work in the Umpire Manager leadership role.

JPOL Region 4 also welcomed three technical officials:  Laurie Hogan (CAN), who is listed on the FIH Advancement Panel, returned for a second season of JPOL – this time as Technical Delegate; Thiago De Mattos of Brazil is listed on the FIH Pro League Panel and was an official in the 2016 Olympics; Thiago paired with PAHF Continental Trainee, Justin Taitt of Barbados as the Technical Officers at the Region 4 site in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Additionally, PAHF Continental Trainee, Nicole Dawson of Barbados travelled to Regions 5 and 8 in Thorndale, Pennsylvania and Stafford, Virginia to join JPOL as Technical Officer.

The four technical officials Laurie Hogan, Nicole Dawson, Thiago De Mattos, and Justin Taitt were asked about the technical officiating paths that led them from all corners of Pan America to the hockey pitches of the USA. 

Their stories follow….

ow did you get started as a technical official?

“Field hockey was such a big part of my life for so long that I actually felt a real sense of loss when I stopped playing competitively,” says Laurie Hogan. “I tried umpiring, but I was put into a recreational league game in my community without any training or support so it did not go well and I had a really hard time,” she admits. “I found technical officiating to be a good alternative. It’s a way for me to continue being part of the game and a part of the team and, at the same time, give back to a sport that brought me so much.”

Like Laurie, Justin Taitt was looking for a way to contribute to hockey off the field. He started officiating during his club's invitational tournament in 2013 and from there moved on to the domestic league and tournaments like the Barbados Hockey Festival. Justin was mentored by Gina Belle, another official from Barbados.

Thiago De Mattos started playing hockey at 14. “Naturally, I got more involved as I got older. I started officiating in 2008 in Brazil. My international debut was in 2011 at the Pan Am Challenge,” he says. “I tried coaching and umpiring too, but I found my place at the tech table.”

Nicole Dawson says that she got her start when a retiring official from Barbados, Ms. Monica Cumberbatch, encouraged her to expand her hockey horizons because being a technical official would give her a greater appreciation of the game.  Nicole goes on to say that after being a player she thought the people at the table looked bored, but by working with her mentor Mrs. Harrietta Clarke, and asking questions and closely observing the game she realized technical officiating would be another avenue for her to pursue in her hockey career.

What have we learned from working with officials from other countries?

Laurie says “When I started doing this at home it was really to stay involved and continue the sport as there weren’t many others doing this role, I always said I do it for “The Love of the Game”.  Now that I’ve gotten more experience and started doing international events, my love of the game is just getting bigger.  I love the challenge of a new event, meeting new people at events and learning new tips and tricks every time I go somewhere new.”

Thiago agreed saying “Basically everything I know I got from my technical official friends from around the world.  Sharing experiences is one of the best ways to learn how to deal with challenging experiences.”

To date, what has been the biggest challenge for you? The most rewarding?

Nicole says that her biggest challenge has been controlling her emotions as she is a very emotional and expressive person.  She went on to say “my experience working with JPOL has helped me learn better techniques to manage time and desk duties, and the importance of managing your desk - respect is not given if we are not equipped to deal with the toasty parents and coaches whose tempers and nervousness flare with game expectations.”

Laurie agreed with Nicole adding that “the game gets emotional and sometimes controlling coaches can get complicated, especially when hockey in my home province of Ontario is so small and I’ve become friends with most of the coaches.”

Thiago shares “My biggest challenge was my first Technical Officer appointment in Russia in 2013. It was a different environment, there were language barriers with the locals and as it was my first appointment in this role I had a lot to learn with a group of people that I didn’t know before the appointment.  But as with every challenge, I learned a lot from the experience,” Thiago adds. “The most rewarding was definitely the Olympic final in my home town (Rio, 2016).”

As Nicole is just starting her career as a technical official, her experience with JPOL has been her most rewarding opportunity so far, “For me, the most rewarding experience so far has been the invitation from Lurah Hess to be a Technical Officer with JPOL in 2018” says Nicole, she went on to explain “I jumped for joy as I was long awaiting an opportunity to go further in hockey, and here it was.”

Laurie and Justin provide similar answers when asked about the most rewarding part of technical officiating:

“At the end of the game when coaches, managers or umpires comment on how I helped them,” Laurie says. “I want to make it a good experience for everyone so it’s nice when that actually happens.”

“At the end of a match when umpires, players or team officials say they had no issues and were able to concentrate on playing or umpiring and enjoy the match. That means a lot,” answers Justin. Don’t forget to thank your technical officials!

What we learned from our JPOL experience:

Nicole was very enthusiastic about her experience saying “JPOL 2018 has indeed fostered my hockey knowledge and expanded my experience and confidence. This tournament was so well organized that competency was able to be maintained throughout the days of play. Efficiency and coherence with running clocks and rules was highly important and this has developed my transparency in local games where time is not a major issue. I have learned so much from this tournament that imprints on my values and love for hockey to be better in my region.”

Laurie went on to say that she agrees, JPOL events are so well organized and planned that she uses that when planning events in Ontario.  Laurie went on to say “the use of parents as Judges really helps keep the parents involved and let’s them see a new side of the game.  I enjoy working with them and learning about their child’s hockey journey.” 

Justin continued to say “I picked up game management tips from Thiago and Laurie and I really enjoyed meeting new hockey people and building new friendships. I look forward to seeing them at future tournaments.”

Turning the question around, we asked each what JPOL can learn from them.

Thiago hopes he was able to share some of his previous experience with the umpires and officials as well as the parents who came to judge.

Justin provides a more specific recommendation: If clubs nominated their Judge(s) early so that they can receive training/training material before the match - especially since the fixture does not give much time between matches.

Nicole hopes that JPOL can continue the integration of cultures as it was so well done, “I got to mix n mingle with umpires and technical officials.  My commitment and drive to be a better hockey official and player will indeed encourage others to be better in whatever they do.”

Laurie explains her philosophy of having fun and getting things done not being mutually exclusive. “When I do this job I try to show people that. I also find that having fun when working with coaches and managers helps build productive relationships. I hope I was able to show that it’s possible to get things done while still motivating people and having fun.”

If you would like to learn more about technical officiating opportunities within Junior Premier Hockey, contact JPH Technical Director, 
Lurah Hess.