Along the journey for any one dedicated to sport, as an athlete, umpire or technical official, there are always milestone moments that deserve to be celebrated. These moment represent years of dedication, sacrifice and desires to constantly improve. This is an even more difficult feat in the sport of hockey, where over the years the speed has dramatically changed. The regulation and surfaces have transformed and officials need to undergo a process of constant learning and adaptation.
As an umpire, reaching 100 international matches is a milestone that implies years of hard work, sacrifice and making field hockey a priority. Umpires that reach this recognition have put family and work aside to be able to represent their country in some of the most important international tournaments in the world.
At the 2019 Pan American Games, for the first time in history, a Chilean umpire will reach the FIH Golden Whistle mark for 100 internationals. Catalina Montesino has focused on her career as an international umpire both technically, physically and emotionally without forgetting her roots. Her 100th match comes on August 9 in one of the most important Pan American match ups, Argentina vs. Canada in the final, for a spot to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Montesino started her career as an international umpire in 2010 at the South American Championship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Montesino was there representing Chile, under great guidance from Claudia Videla, who was also an international umpire and a great promoter of the umpiring in the country. Videla created an umpire development program where players of the major teams had to be an umpire for the local youth leagues, in a country where hockey was still growing and the need for trained umpires was also still in its infant stage. It was in those infant stages where Montesino found motivation.
Montesino first started umpiring when she asked her colleagues from the Manquehue Club to let her umpire the tournaments and at the age of 18 she umpired her first major game. Montesino had been a part of the Chilean Junior team as a goalkeeper, until 2005, when in the year of the Junior World Cup she left the program and decided to start focusing on her career as an umpire.
Taking courses was one of her first tasks but she always understood that spending time on the field reviewing the games was the best way to prepare. Teamwork, being able to handle situations under pressure, training and discipline were all going to be needed for her to succeed. After the retirement of umpire Cecilia Valenzuela in 2010, Chile gave Montesino the opportunity to start her career internationally. During that year she was able to attend the South American Games in Brazil and the Central American Games in Puerto Rico.
In 2010, Montesino had her first crossing of the Atlantic, and was appointed to Champions Challenge II, in Vienna, where she was able to draw on the experience of Jean Duncan of Scotland. Duncan was later Montesino’s umpire manager in the Hockey Series Finals in Valencia in 2019. Duncan always conveyed the importance of mental preparation, concentration and game management to Montesino and she has taken that with her since 2010.
In 2011, Montesino was appointed to a 4 Nations series in Argentina and got the opportunity to work with and learn from FIH umpire greats Amy Baxter and Irene Presenqui, who she always used as a reference for how to prepare for her matches.
The Pan American Games in Santiago in 2014, the Junior World Cup in Santiago 2016, the Asian Cup in Japan in 2017 and World League Round 2 in West Vancouver were some of the many tournaments where Monetsino had the honour of being appointed and each of those experiences add to her umpiring career learning and her hockey family and friendships made.
To be able to reach this milestone, Montesino took the year of 2015 off to better focus and prepare physically to be ready for the highest level.
“Hockey changed,” stated Montesino. “The speed, the intensity of the matches and the anxieties of the teams motivated me to take myself seriously and responsibly. I had a strong personal motivation to go with the umpiring as far as I could, and since then, that preparation is part of me up every day.”
The Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla 2018, a series of test matches with Chile, USA and Ireland, the Hockey Series Final in Valencia were among Montesino’s most recent tournaments. Today in the Pan American Games in Lima for the final of Argentina vs Canada Montesino will receive the prestigious FIH Golden Whilstle for 100 international matches as international umpire.
It’s not just about Montesino, though.
“I want the umpiring in Chile to grow both in number and in quality and in all ages,” adds the 34-year-old. “That is why I feel a great responsibility for what I try to demonstrate in each match that umpiring is an activity that can also be enjoyed as much as playing.”
Montesino is the first Chilean, male or female, to ever reach the Golden Whistle milestone.