Why We Umpire: The Hearts Behind The Yellow Shirts

Article and photos by Field Hockey Canada Staff
Originally posted here

As interest and participation numbers in field hockey grow, more playing and development opportunities are being introduced to players across the country. While playing elite hockey is a goal for many, umpiring is another avenue that is sometimes left untouched. Though it may appear daunting to some, the role has changed not only the lives of those who umpire, but also the pace and shape of the sport itself.

Field hockey in her veins, umpiring as Sacré’s domain

Lelia Sacré was only three weeks old in a photograph where she is pictured being held in the background of an international field hockey match — one her dad was playing in. Born into a hockey family, it’s not a cliché to say that the sport was in her blood from birth: Sacre’s mother played at San Diego State before coaching while her father starred on both the Canadian junior and senior national teams. While the urge to quit came up on several occasions, it was through her parents’ encouragement that she stayed. Eventually, Sacre saw an improvement in her skills, enough to justify her place in the game.

During her adolescent years, Sacre played for a variety of clubs and provincial teams before representing Canada at the 2005 Junior World Cup. Around the same time, she started umpiring on the side for a bit of pocket money and didn’t think much of it until Alan Waterman and Madge Johnson approached her during a national championship.

“They both said, ‘Hey, have you thought about taking [umpiring] seriously?’ and I laughed nervously and said no,” Sacre described. “They told me it was there if I wanted it because they saw something [in me].”

Like many players, Sacre had the persistent goal of making the national team — which she achieved — but it wasn’t until university when she realized her body wasn’t going to be able to hold it. Her dream of playing internationally was over, but the desire to represent Canada was still there.

“That’s when I started to take everything more seriously,” she said. “I got appointed to the junior touring squad in 2012 and…that really exposed me to different colleagues and different styles of hockey. That’s when I knew it was my new pathway.”

Passion for sports turns into global hockey family for Robertson

Megan Robertson was similarly influenced by her parents at a young age, particularly by her mother who has been involved in nearly every aspect of the sport as a player, coach, official and administrator. It was her who first encouraged Robertson to become a certified umpire. Since then, Robertson has gone on to officiate at several international tournaments, namely the last two Pan American Games in 2015 and 2019, and the 2018 Hockey Series Open.

“Each tournament is an important opportunity to represent yourself and your country,” Robertson said. “Being in downtown Toronto [during the 2015 Pan Am Games] was fantastic. I’ve had the good fortune to umpire at the University of Toronto venue a number of times…and it was a privilege to have a ‘home’ Games and share the experience with my parents, my hockey community, and so many Canadians.”

She recalls Lima 2019 as an important competition for her after facing several setbacks that made her question her future, including a knee injury and major illness. Having overcome that turbulent time, Robertson shows a deep appreciation for her experiences around the world and the hockey family she’s grown along the way.

“I have been so fortunate to experience the different cultures of hockey,” she said. “The excitement of little girls in Argentina screaming for Aymar, the emotion of the Korean women winning the Asian Games in Incheon and securing their trip to the Olympics, and the dedication of athletes, parents, and volunteers shoveling the snow from Hawkings Field in Calgary so that we could start our games. All of us are part of the hockey family.”

Umpiring field evolving; more dynamism and athleticism brought to pitch

Umpiring has changed tremendously over the last decade with technology playing a new role in determining correct calls and leaving little room for errors. Athletes are noticeably faster and more dynamic — forcing umpires to approach the game differently in terms of positioning and anticipation.

Sacre recalls experiencing her first video referral at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and describes it as a ‘terrifying’ moment, attributed to her hopes of getting the call right.

“It’s a whirlwind of emotions,” Sacre said. “[Umpires] are there to facilitate the game, not be the showcase. Sometimes umpires forget that they’re there to bring the best out of players, and spectators forget that we’re all human and we make mistakes too. We’re all doing our best because we enjoy it.”

Sacre and Robertson both agree that video reviews and radios have made the game better in many ways. “We want to make the correct decisions for players and for the game and it shows how we can work as a team of officials to get things right,” added Robertson.

Umpires without a doubt play a highly important role in hockey, and with each passing opportunity, the goal is to hone in on existing skills and build upon others. With the pandemic keeping everybody off the field temporarily, there comes many chances for those wanting to pursue an officiating pathway through online methods.

An alternative to playing, umpiring serves as a rewarding way to stay within the sport as games become more competitive and passionate from start to finish.

“We really want to give back and have young umpires coming through saying, ‘This is the pathway and it will be challenging, but it is so worth it’,” Sacre explained. “You appreciate every opportunity that you get that much more because you know how much you’ve had to work for.”

As for advice for up-and-coming umpires and officials, Robertson wants to push individuals to dream big, yet remain truthful in the process.

“Always be yourself. Hockey is an amazing part of life. Finding how it fits with the different goals that you have and how it can push you to be your best will be different for everyone. Listen, learn, and try to help others be their best too.”

Ultimately, by doing what they do, the goal is to inspire more people to pick up the whistle and put on a headset. Behind every yellow shirt on the pitch is the heart and soul of somebody who genuinely loves the sport, and an entire community that backs them.


 

Apply for the FHBC Foundation’s Coaching & Officiating bursaries!

Field Hockey BC is pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for the Coaching Professional Development Bursary and the Jenny John Officiating Professional Development Bursary. The application deadline for both of these bursaries is April 9, 2021, and the recipients will be announced by the end of April.

These bursaries are designed to contribute towards an individual’s professional development in the sport of Field Hockey and are tailored to a value added ‘give back’ to field hockey in British Columbia. They are open to all levels of coach and official, with officiating including both umpires and technical officials.

Each bursary will award up to a maximum of $750. However, if there are multiple candidates accepted, smaller amounts may be considered. Note that applicants must be a member in good standing with Field Hockey BC and an active official or coach within National, Provincial or Club base programming.

Go to fhbcfoundation.com for more information and to download the application forms.


 

Register for our Online Provincial Umpire Course

FHBC is offering an online Provincial Umpire Course through Zoom. This course is open to all Community and aspiring umpires. Please see below for full details:

Date: March 8th & 12th
Time: 6pm – 9pm
Location: Online (Zoom)
Instructor: Tyler Klenk
Cost: $60 for FHBC members and $85 for non-members

There will be two 3-hour Zoom sessions followed by an online exam. To register for this course, please click here. Visit the Umpire Education page on our website for more information.

Please contact Katie Jameson at sportdevelopment@fieldhockeybc.com for any questions related to Umpire Education opportunities.


 

Community Umpire Course curriculum update

Dear Field Hockey BC Members,

Please note that the Field Hockey Canada Officiating Committee will be conducting curriculum updates to the online Community Umpire Course beginning on February 20th, 2021.

The online course will be unavailable while these curriculum updates are being conducted. All umpire candidates currently in progress must complete their lesson and exam by Friday, February 19th, 2021.

The updated Community Umpire Course will be available again online beginning March 22nd, 2021. Please contact sportdevelopment@fieldhockeybc.com for questions.


 

PAHF Course: “The modern game & how officiating is impacted by the evolution of hockey”

Dear Field Hockey BC Members,

Field Hockey Canada has been working with PAFH to create training for Canadian officials.

This Tuesday, October 27 at 8pm EST, PAHF will host the first of hopefully many events. The course is “The Modern Game & how officiating is impacted by the evolution of hockey”. The course will be facilitated by Roger St Rose and Reyah Richardson, both from TTO.

Please access: https://panamhockey.wufoo.com/forms/special-workshop-canadian-officials/

If you have any questions, please contact officials@fieldhockey.ca.

David Auld hangs up whistle from Victoria field hockey

by Ali Baggott

VICTORIA – While 2020 marks an unprecedented year with seemingly little in the island hockey world to celebrate, there is one bright spot worth highlighting. Long-time hockey contributor and umpire David Auld has announced his retirement.

“It is my great honour to congratulate David on his retirement from umpiring,” said Denise McGeachy, past president of VILFHA (ladies league) and current president VIFHUA (umpire’s association). “His dedication to our game has few equals. David always brought a positive attitude to each game and treated all players respect. The umpiring community is richer for his contribution, as an umpire and mentor.

“Apart from the umpiring, David is one of the sweetest, kindest people I’ve ever known. David always had a smile on his face at the beginning – and more importantly, at the end of each game no matter how difficult or bad the weather. To me, this is his greatest legacy to our community – his positivity.”

Auld has been umpiring in Victoria since his arrival from Scotland in 1969 and was certified as high as a Canadian Regional level official. A familiar, smiling face on the field, David is well known for his time spent officiating at the high school, men’s league and, most notably, women’s league games. In 2008, David was named a VILFHA Honorary Member, awarded to only 19 individuals since 1958, for their dedication, service and commitment to building the ladies league.

It was only by chance that Auld happened upon the sport of field hockey, which came to be the good fortune for Field Hockey Victoria. While attending the Jordanhill College of Education, in Scotland, Auld intended to pursue the sport of rugby, while the Director of Education at the college had another suggestion.

“I was told, ‘Auld why don’t you try the sissy’s game’ – grass hockey, as it was called then, is what I picked up and I never looked back,” described Auld about how he fell in to the sport. “It was purely by accident. I just loved the game and I climbed the rank enough to play for a first division team at Jordanhill and eventually a West of Scotland team.”

In 1966, Auld relocated to Canada and Vancouver Island, accepting a two-year teaching contract in Shawnigan Lake at the Cliffside Preparatory School, while his wife, Edna, worked as a nurse in Duncan. There, Auld also played field hockey for two years with the men’s team at Shawnigan Lake School in a league that included the Tigers, UVic and an Oak Bay team.

“At the end of those games at Windsor Park there was always a game right after and people figured that since I was a PE teacher I would know all the rules and I should umpire,” said Auld about how the whistle was first placed in his hand. “I had no qualifications but I was given a whistle and just did it. Whenever the umpire certification process started I did that and I got as far as Regional.”

In the 1980’s, Auld was also on the block to contend for his Canadian rank but during his field rating got injured and was unable to complete the game only later to find out that his age would likely prevent him from being selected for any Canadian-level matches anyway.

“I just went for [the Canadian rating] to improve but I was 46 and they had just dropped the age limits,” added Auld, who then decided to just stick with his regional rating.

Auld did relocate to Victoria with his wife, Edna, in 1969 and was the head of PE at Glenlyon Norfolk School. Edna and David had three children – Fiona Auld, Ian Auld and Caty Petan. Both Fiona and Caty played field hockey at Oak Bay Secondary and competed and won, in different years, at the provincial championships.

Auld’s umpiring career included doing the local men’s and women’s leagues, the premier men, high school girls and B.C. provincial championships. Auld bowed out of men’s league about 15 years ago and spent his last five years of umpiring dedicated to the third division VILFHA women’s league, the players of which he credits as the best to umpire.

Auld credits island officials Chris Wilson, Denise McGeachy, Gillian Batey, Alison Sweeten, Steve Stern and Tyler Klenk for their wisdom, guidance and inspiration over the years. Legendary field hockey contributors Jenny John and Pat Hall were also highlighted as being instrumental in support and laying the foundation for his pathway as an umpire.

“I’ve always admired his love of the game and his love of learning to improve his umpiring,” highlighted Victoria-based Chris Wilson, a 15-year FIH International certified umpire. “I remember almost not a weekend would go by that he didn’t have an umpiring question for me.”

“We had some great conversation about umpiring, rules and style. Also, watching him and seeing him enjoying umpiring a game is always a highlight. He’s been a long-standing member of the Victoria hockey community and has dedicated decades to the betterment of our sport.”

Auld continued as a player with the Castaways men’s team, made up largely of retired rugby players, from 1972-75 and when the team folded he played a large part in forming the Oak Bay men’s team.

Players that were umpired by Auld would not be able to argue the fact that he carried his love of the game on to the pitch rain or shine. His calm demeanor, jolly laugh and fair approach to the sport was always appreciated, while his desire to always pursue growth in his ability was an inspiration to all who remain complacent.


Rapid rounds with David Auld:

Q: The hardest rule for you to implement in your time:

David: I’ve never really agreed or understood this one. If you raise the ball in field play it’s dangerous or you are subject to danger but with a shot of goal there’s no danger. Just because there’s a shot on goal there’s no danger? If someone flicks it or scoops it you see that coming but this rule is just so hard to understand.

Q: Most gratifying thing to call or moment on the field:

David: Feeling that I did a good job on the field as an umpire. Usually I have a good feel but the players congratulate you. I remember umpiring the twins, Clive and Giles Wheatley, in a first division game and their sister, Harriet, came up to me and said, “Mr. Auld that was the best game I have ever seen umpired.” And I never expected that and that was a long, long time ago and I was surprised and never forgot.

Q: The most memorable card you have ever given:

I have very few red cards in my career, never in the women’s league, only in the men’s league. I did give a player a red card for language, poor behaviour, bad sportsmanship and as he walked off the field he was still sort of threatening me but I never forgot it. I’ve also given a couple to a few visiting Vancouver team players who were on the Canadian national team and they were upset about the call and said, “why don’t you just give me a red card?” so I did.

Q: Most embarrassing moment:

David: Well one time at half time I went over to my bag and took off my gloves and had to blow my nose and then when we were ready to start the game my colleague started time. Play went on and I went to blow my whistle and realized I had forgot it on the other side of the field in my bag. I had to wave my hands in the air and make a ‘T’ and it was just a major brain lapse.

That wasn’t my most embarrassing moment, though. I can’t remember the two teams but I was doing the right thing and seeing the attack coming towards me. I curled in to the near post and this one lady was running at the ball and I could feel she was over-running the ball. I thought, ‘she is going to charge in to me’ and I prepared myself. She bowled me right over and ended up on top of me and I ended up with both hands on her chest. My partner, Alison Sweeten, will remember this story because I was so embarrassed.

Q: Some advice you have for the next generation of umpires:

David: Be prepared that you are going to make mistakes and you need to learn from them. Watch top class games with top class umpires.

Q: What would you say to umpires who are maybe just happy staying where they are in umpiring?

David: Field Hockey BC used to send out a questionnaire about your goals and your aims and ask you what you inspire to be as an umpire. And after I couldn’t get my Canadian rating I said that I just wanted to be the best Regional umpire that I could be.

Q: Outside of being on the field, what do you think umpiring has taught you?

David: It’s taught me to be as fair and impartial as I can be in a game and so to in life. Go through life fairly and impartially. It’s helped me with conflict management but over the last five years umpiring third division women that rarely was an issue. It’s taught me to be understanding, too.

Q: Looking back at the many weekends you spent at the field, what do you think you would have been doing if you weren’t umpiring?

David: Edna and I would have been going away on weekend trips and maybe some cycling trips. We used to cycle up island, to the gulf islands. We would have been doing more of that. Edna was always supportive of me umpiring. I used to play cricket and a game would be 6 hours and she would come watch with the kids even though she didn’t know the first thing about cricket.

Q: What was your greatest challenge umpiring?

David: My greatest challenge was when I was asked to do two Canada vs USA men’s games in Victoria in the 1980s. Canada and the USA were up at UVic on a two-week training camp so they had scrimmage games every other day and I was asked to umpire. I umpired with a USA national umpire and I warned him that I might be out of my depth but he came up to me afterwards and said, “I don’t know what you’re worried about, you’re doing fine.”

Q. Best advice given to you:

David: Jenny John once said at a clinic, “never assume that when you walk on the field that players are going to foul. You must always go on to the field and assume that they are going to play the game properly.” I thought that was really good advice and that was 25 or 30 years ago.

Q: Highlight tournaments, games or memories for you?

David: Of course the Canada vs USA games. Also, the Bridgman Cup is such a great tournament and I have been to a few of the B.C. High School championships and I’ve enjoyed that. I’ve also umpired in the Vancouver men’s league a few times.

FHBC Umpire Webinar – Success Through Failure

Field Hockey BC would like to invite all members to attend the Umpire Webinar ‘Success Through Failure’ on September 2, at 7 p.m, Vancouver. This webinar will be led by Lelia Sacré, FIH rated umpire, and will include the participation of the following international umpires:

Margaret Hunnaball – England
Former international umpire. Current FIH Pro League Umpire Manager and FIH Rules Committee member.

Sarah Wilson – Scotland
Has umpired over 100 international matches. Participated in numerous high level events including 2016 Olympic Games, 2018 Women’s World Cup and 2019 Pro League Final.

Lim Hong-Zen – Singapore
Has umpired over 100 international matches. Participated in numerous high level events including 2016 Olympic Games, 2018 Men’s World Cup and 2019 Pro League.

When: September 2, 2020, 7 p.m., Vancouver
Topic: Umpire Webinar – Success Through Failure
Please click the link below to join the webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84922534439?pwd=emxtazlEVjk4TUVUb1FBWkRsYk9Edz09
Passcode: 185081

Membership Registration for the 2020-21 Season is now open!

As field hockey starts its Responsible Return to Play in British Columbia, all members participating in LSO, PSO (FHBC), and NSO (FHC) programming must be a registered member in good standing. Click here to start your registration process.

IMPORTANT: For those who have not yet participated in organized field hockey activities during the current 2019-20 season and may now be looking to take advantage of opportunities to return to play during July and August 2020, you can now register as a member and your membership will be valid for July and August 2020, and through to the end of the 2020-21 season. If you paid membership fees in 2019-20 but did not play, and have not received a refund, please contact info@fieldhockeybc.com to request a carry forward into the 2020-21 season.

This carry forward COVID-19 initiative supported by both FHBC and FHC is designed to aid those participants that are new to field hockey or may now wish to re-register, having not participated in the current 2019-20 season prior to July 1, 2020. For those members who may have already requested and received an eligible COVID-19 refund, you will need to re-register prior to participation.

Community Umpire Course is currently free until August

FHBC has made the decision to remove the cost for the Community Umpire Course until August 31st, 2020. This is being offered to all members of the field hockey community within Canada.
Contact eventsandofficials@fieldhockeybc.com with your name, club, province and Field Hockey Membership Number, who will provide you with the instructions to access the course free of charge.
This will enable more umpires to complete the courses prior to getting back on the field and playing the game that we love.

IMPORTANT: COVID-19 Consideration and Planning (March 20, 2020)

You can access the PDF version of this document here.


As the Organized Sport Sector in BC responds to the rapidly changing situation with COVID-19, Field Hockey BC continues to monitor the potential impact to our team sport environment. Given the growing and unprecedented uncertainty surrounding this health pandemic, Field Hockey BC is directing all members and affiliated clubs and associations to suspend all sanctioned field hockey activities in the province until further notice.

This decision will be monitored daily and reviewed on a week to week basis by the Field Hockey BC Board of Directors, with the expectation that a next suspension update will be posted early in April. As new information is received from both Federal and Provincial Government agencies, Field Hockey BC will provide appropriate program and service updates that we hope over time will include a responsible and gradual return to play. Field Hockey BC cannot emphasize enough that the health and safety of all participants in the field hockey community in BC is of the utmost importance and is central to any decision-making process.

To ensure the health and safety of the players, coaches, officials, volunteers, and fans in BC, Field Hockey BC recommends that all affiliated Leagues, Clubs, and Associations communicate to their members that they will cease all sanctioned field hockey operations immediately and until further notice. Field Hockey BC sanctioned field hockey activities include, but are not limited to, all indoor and outdoor competitions, leagues, training, practices, matches, in-person coach and official education, and formalized club group activities. The intent of this suspension is to limit situations of physical contact.

Whilst the entire Field Hockey Community in BC continues to work hard on contingency planning for the possibility that restrictions may be lifted over time, please stay patient as we collectively consider ongoing environmental implications. Field Hockey BC’s operational continuity plan is for Society staff to work remotely and all staff are equipped to continue their daily functions. Electronic media will be utilized to maintain lines of communication, with community members able to connect via phone and/or email in the normal way.

Field Hockey BC thanks you for your patience as we do our part to support all of the unprecedented steps taking place to slow the spread of COVID-19. You can stay up-to-date on COVID-19 information by visiting the BC Government website and the Ministry of Health website. Our thoughts are with all of you and your families during this challenging time.

FHBC BOD, March 20, 2020