Building on the library of virtual educational opportunities embraced by PAHF in the midst of the 2020 worldwide pandemic, the PAHF Umpiring Committee (PAHF UC) turned their focus to the need to expand and develop the next generation of potential Umpire Managers to support their Umpires when hockey’s continental events resume.
Late in 2019 before the world’s doors closed to international travel, five potential Umpire Managers – Audrey Gaynor (JAM), Donny Gobinsingh (TTO), Fernando Gomez (ARG), Daniel Lopez Ramos (URU), and Constantine Soteriades (USA) – were selected based on their successful careers as international Umpires and the basis of skills they already held showing their potential to transition their hockey careers successfully into the role of Umpire Manager. These five potential Umpire Managers were invited to meet in Miami for two days of learning from the experience of: Roger St. Rose (TTO), PAHF Umpiring Committee Chair and current International Elite Panel Umpire Manager; Soledad Iparraguirre (ARG), ProLeague Panel Umpire Manager; Laura Macchiotti, PAHF Events & Development Coordinator; and Irene Presenqui (ARG), Olympic Umpire and professional Sports Psychologist.
It is not necessarily a straightforward step to go from managing the world’s top athletes under the bright lights of the hockey pitch to a more behind-the-scenes role of managing and preparing the world’s top umpires to take the same stage. To help initiate these potential Umpire Managers to their new responsibilities the following topics were highlighted in Miami:
To build on their successful experience in Miami the five potential PAHF Umpire Managers were invited to extend their learning opportunities with the timely online second workshop that was held over 8 sessions during September and October 2020. A wide variety of topics was selected by the participants to complement and challenge their progress since their first face to face workshop in Miami in December 2019. Susie Gomes (TTO), International Umpire Manager joined the team and provided support to the group during the online program, by sharing her experiences and wisdom.
As the concept of running a complete workshop fully online was still new to the PAHF UC, the planning process for the second workshop began in April 2020. For the second workshop, four additional experienced PAHF hockey members were selected to join Roger St. Rose as Facilitators: Edmundo Saladino (ARG), ProLeague Umpire Manager; Wendy Stewart (CAN), ProLeague Panel Umpire Manager and PAHF UC member; Steve Horgan (USA), ProLeague Umpire Manager and one of the four UMs selected for the Tokyo Olympics; and Lurah Hess (USA), ProLeague Panel Technical Official and PAHF UC member. Lurah, who brought a Technical Official’s perspective to the workshop, was the lead coordinator. Lurah explained, “The PAHF Umpiring Committee recognized a shortage of Umpire Managers in the PAHF region and the need to educate and develop those that are responsible for coaching and supporting Umpires to achieve their best potential. There was a lot of time involved, with the virtual workshop requiring over a dozen planning meetings to prepare a great product for the participants, but ultimately we wanted to ensure the potential Umpire Managers were able to find value from the time they were investing in the sessions.”
Roger St Rose acknowledged “We wanted to continue supporting the potential UM’s by creating a balance of delivering the prerequisite needs of umpire managing and having their input to the specific subjects they wanted. This was essential and it worked out extremely well.”
It came as no surprise that although each online session was allocated two hours, such was the interest and passion shown by the participants – and the presenters – every session ran over time. Questions were answered and lots of interesting discussions ensued. Everyone had the chance to share their experiences, and importantly be able to take time to reflect on the weekly content. Audrey Gaynor (JAM), who is heavily involved in Jamaica hockey and a current PAHF UC member expressed “The overall workshops certainly made an impact. I think both were necessary and the progression from the first one in Miami to the online one was evident. It was beyond my expectation. The topics were very relevant and were well presented. I learnt a lot and enjoyed all the sessions. I commend the conceptualizers as well as the presenters who were excellent. I actually looked forward to the session days and the ease of the interactions was special”.
The facilitators had regular online planning meetings. Wendy Stewart highlighted “In face to face workshops you have the ability to have break-out group intervals, which we know is important in terms of healthy exchanges, getting to the nitty gritty of ideas, the why, who, how, etc. As facilitators we knew we had to be creative in planning our presentations to keep within the possible time restrictions we faced. We also wanted to aim for similar, if not better, interactions in our group work. Some of the topics included ‘homework’ which allowed them time to discuss and prepare their specific presentations. Though this was extra work for them, it did give them time to be confidently prepared. The participants went above and beyond and we were extremely pleased with what they achieved and shared with us.”
One of the hot topics included in the workshop was Understanding Diversity (very current in our everyday world). This was presented by Roger. PAHF alone has 26 different national associations as members and diversity in PAHF, like other hockey federations, goes far beyond the economical challenges, umpiring, technical, overall membership and language barriers that our hockey family experiences. As potential umpire managers, they will be connecting with many other umpires and officials around the world, so the need to embrace and be sensitive as to how diversity in our hockey world impresses on us and others is extremely important. To be tuned into and understand cultural, financial, gender, ethnic, sexual, etc. biases is key when working at a tournament. For example: what we say, or don’t say, how we say something, or how we act can make or break a situation.
A full list of the topics covered during the second workshop, include:
Of course, the main learning opportunity that awaits all the potential umpire mangers is ultimately gaining the practical experience in the international arena. The postponement of the various PAHF and domestic NA tournaments has certainly hindered, but they have not been put off, quite the opposite they are realistic and eager to start on their UM journey.
Fernando Gomez (ARG) officially retired from umpiring in January 2018. To date, he has been fortunate to experience his role as an assistant umpire manager at PAHF tournaments. He enthusiastically voiced “The workshops have enhanced my learning, specifically, I feel that I have acquired what is referred to as soft skills, and I still feel that I must continue training on this subject. I consider it very necessary and important to always develop my function as UM. I have asked myself several questions, such as - What kind of UM do I want to be? Which is my goal as UM? Do I have enough tools to help others?
Donny Gobinsingh (TTO) has been an indoor and outdoor FIH international umpire for over 18 years and looks forward to moving into umpire managing and the leadership role. He conveyed “If I compare my understanding of what I thought UM’s did before I attended the workshops …, my understanding has expanded and I acknowledge the vast responsibilities that come with being in the role. Transitioning into the UM role from an umpire will be difficult but my desire to be a UM has definitely increased throughout these workshops. It has given me lots of information and knowledge. From my own personal experiences, I feel quite competent to face what ever opportunity that may come my way.
The PAHF Umpiring Committee wants to sincerely thank all the participants and facilitators for their commitment to the workshops, especially giving up their time, providing the necessary support, valuable feedback and an avenue to explore new learning opportunities. And a final word of thanks to the PAHF Board of Directors for supporting the overall vision to expand educational opportunities through the use of virtual meeting platforms while the world waits until it is safe to come together again on the hockey pitch.