BLOG: What it's like to umpire a major international tournament

Rachel Williams IWC 2018
In February, England had a strong representation in the Officials team at the Indoor World Cup in Berlin, with the following individuals representing England:

David Collier – Technical Delegate
Jo Pennycook – Technical Official
Louise Knipe – Umpire Manager
Lee Barron – Umpire
Rachel Williams – Umpire

Furthermore Lee and Jo took charge of the men’s final, while Rachel umpired the women’s semi-final and we caught up with her during the tournament.

What does it mean to you to umpire at the IWC?
Being the only indoor FIH event, it is a phenomenal achievement for me to be asked to umpire at the IWC. Whilst my focus isn’t solely indoor hockey, to be appointed to such a prestigious event so early in my international career is an absolute honour and really gave me a focus on something to work towards. With the event being hosted by Germany, the home if indoor hockey, I knew the event was going to be something special – and it sure delivered!

What has your preparation entailed for the event?
My appointment came through in September 2017 so I had five months of preparation time. I was lucky enough to be appointed to the indoor PanAM qualifiers at the end of October, where I took charge of the final. Having that event as preparation was incredibly useful groundwork in what to expect at events like these. I also umpired the Premier division of the domestic competition this season and was lucky enough to umpire at the Super 6’s finals at the Copper Box (including the final). Having this experience of umpiring in great venues, with fantastic atmospheres created by the fans really set me up for the Indoor World Cup.

How did you get involved in umpiring in the first place?
I began to umpire following a knee injury when I was 17, as this kept me involved in the sport. I was lucky enough to umpire at my club and got spotted as someone with potential, so went to my regional Hockey Umpiring Association (HUA) where the Young Umpires Action Group worked with me and soon enough, I was on the National Young Umpire Promising List – it was all a bit quick really! Being able to get the support of the coaches at all of the stages was a real benefit with me and indoor umpiring has also helped me with my outdoor game, speeding up my decision making and whistle speed skills. 

What is the best thing about umpiring at the international tournaments?
There’s a different feel from national finals – they are with players that I may have umpired during the season and it’s very much a “hockey family” we have that makes the tournaments so enjoyable. When you go overseas, you get to meet a different “hockey family”, with just as passionate supporters. Whilst umpiring at Wembley, Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre or the Copper Box brings a great atmosphere, when you have 8,000 fans all wanting a home win in an international tournament – this is just a different, but still as exciting atmosphere than at home.