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How Romsey Hockey Club Support Their Female Umpires

Pete Cooper is the Umpire Development lead at Romsey Hockey Club and has been developing an inclusive culture for their officials to share and learn together. The club is looking to create an environment that supports their officials with positive opportunities to feedback and discuss experiences in their recent matches. This fosters a community of peer support and learning and enables people to progress with officiating in the way that works best for them.  

When Pete took on the role of umpire development for Romsey Hockey Club, he set out two clear goals: 

  1. Build a community of umpires. 
  2. Develop consistency amongst those umpires. 

Pete believes achieving these goals were key to increasing the number of umpires at Romsey. Now, each week, at least half the matches have female umpires, who manage to fit their fixtures around the matches. 

Pete’s focus on building an inclusive community, high in psychological safety, and creating a team atmosphere provides a safe environment for umpires to learn and develop whilst feeling safe to ask questions.  

He said “Psychological safety describes the belief no one will be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. It is the bedrock of high performing teams with members feeling accepted, respected, and encouraged to take risks. As much as we would all love to be perfect umpires, we know we will make mistakes, so having a safe space to discuss these, and how to improve without fear of shame is crucial.” 

Pete's commitment to helping umpires has led the club to host pre-season briefings as an introduction to new umpires, and a refresher for existing umpires. The sessions covered topics such as positioning and signalling, communication and empathy, and any new rule changes. New umpires are partnered with a more senior umpire to help supply feedback, especially if the game has been challenging and offer opportunities to develop in a one-to-one environment. 

Challenges arise for umpires across the game, but female umpires seem to get hit harder than most. Some matches prove to be challenging from many perspectives, so Pete and Romsey Hockey Club have helped develop a culture where everyone feels included and willing to take part.  

“In terms of building an inclusive culture, it comes down to allyship which means showing up with empathy, seeking to understand different perspectives and is a key part of equality, diversity, and inclusion everywhere. This is relevant for every marginalised community in society and, specifically for male coaches of female umpires, this means listening, accepting, and valuing their experiences and seeing how you can support.” Said Pete 

Alice Collins started umpiring this season and reflected on her experience becoming a female umpire. “I wanted to get into umpiring initially because I was keen to find a way I could give back to my club, having played for them for three years. I love hockey and was eager to expand how I interacted with the game and gain a new skill. I knew umpiring would require me to be knowledgeable, confident, consistent, and fair, which are all useful transferable attributes I can use in other parts of my life. 

“I first tried my hand at umpiring in the friendly mixed summer league, a safe space to find out whether I liked it. Thankfully, I really enjoyed it, and I used that time to build a relationship with Pete, the umpire development officer, and the existing umpires. 

“My journey into umpiring has been very structured, completing the L1 course and attending Pete’s umpire briefings and pre-season session. I have always felt empowered to speak my mind and supported during tougher games. I umpire both men’s and women’s hockey and have always felt respected on and off the pitch.  

“Umpiring has allowed me to see hockey in a new light and has considerably improved my own game. It has allowed me to meet a fantastic and supportive group of people, meaning I am now part of two teams in the club.” 

 If you'd like to get involved with umpiring at Romsey Hockey Club, you can contact Pete at umpiringdevelopment@romseyhockey.org.uk