BLOG: The impact of Club Umpire Developers

Janet Belk - Club Umpire Developer
With over 170 clubs now having a dedicated team of Club Umpire Developers, we caught up with Janet Belk from Didsbury Northern to see what positive impact the Club Umpire Developers are having on both the umpires and players at DNHC.

What have you done in the past season or two to support umpiring within the club?
At the start of each season I run a survey to see who would like to join the umpiring team within the club. Over the past couple of seasons we’ve grown our numbers, bringing 20+ new umpires into the club and they are being used at appropriate levels in the first case, ranging from adult hockey to our U12s. Usually, we only had three or four people take up umpiring a season.

We also have a Facebook group where we have weekly discussions over the correct decision of a scenario that happened over the weekend – we get comments from both umpires and players as this increases the understanding of the rules for everyone involved. Add into this the regular debates in the bar on a Saturday after matches, this means that umpiring is top of people’s thoughts.

Our six Umpire Developers make themselves available to watch a game every fortnight and they work with all of the umpires, advising and guiding our umpires on simple umpiring aspects of umpiring, such as positioning or player management, to make their experience more enjoyable and make umpiring easier for them.

Do new umpires have to start umpiring league matches straight away?
No, we use junior and adult training sessions for new umpires to come along and pick up a whistle for 10-15 minutes. Our coaches are great at making training sessions mainly gameplay scenarios, so it’s easy for our newbies to have a go in a safe environment, with umpire developers there to support them.

We also use our Ladies 7s training sessions on a Monday night as a weekly “starter” session for individuals who have either taken a course but not confident enough to do a game, or for individuals who haven’t done a course but are interested in learning. Our Ladies 7s are very sociable and full of new players to the club (and the sport) so this is a great learning environment for everyone.

Has this bought any additional benefits to members within the club?
Yes, but these are all based around the playing experience for our players, as well as the levels of knowledge of the game within the club. We’ve had a lot of people visit the HockeyHub to do the online rules test who don’t even umpire, so they know why umpires keep penalising them for things within matches.

This work has also led to better relationships between players and umpires within the club, with more people looking to support the umpires on match days and less arguing over silly little mistakes!

Other clubs who share our home pitches have also joined in with the Facebook discussions and we now have a small umpiring community, with us all helping each other out for umpires if availability on a given day is poor.

What support have you received for this programme?
The North West Hockey Umpiring Association, especially Tony and Chris, have been great in supporting our “friendly” summer league, advising and coaching both our umpires and umpire developers to help upskill them ahead of the season. With help from England Hockey, the NWHUA have run a couple of Club Umpire Developer sessions in the area for us to refer people to and EH have also been supplying scenarios for our Facebook group, or videos for our umpiring “get togethers” to debate decisions and get clarity on some of the more technical rules of the game. We also access the HockeyHub regularly for the “You’re the Umpire” feature, as this normally sparks a debate internally!

Finally, what is the goal for you as a club with developing their own umpires?
We want to ensure people enjoy umpiring and inspire others to umpire and improve the game for everyone involved. There’s also a lot of talk about umpires getting “abuse” from players, which is something I believe can be avoided by umpires having the correct training, tools and being confident at the level they are umpiring; this is something that we are trying to support as much as possible for everyone at the club.

Learn more about the Club Umpire Developer and other resources available for upskilling your umpires within your club by accessing the HockeyHub here or by e-mailing umpiring@englandhockey.co.uk.