In all the furore about promoting hockey to players of all ages and abilities, there is always the risk that one crucial element is neglected – namely ensuring the quantity and quality of umpires that are so necessary to ensure the matches run safely and smoothly.
Bulgaria is one nation that is paying heed to all elements of the game. To this end, the Bulgaria Hockey Federation has teamed up with the European Hockey Federation (EHF) to run a course entitled ‘Supporting National Growth, Umpiring, Bulgaria’.
The course, which was run by the EHF, was hosted for umpires from across Southeastern Europe at an indoor competition in SOK Kamchia-Varna, Bulgaria in March this year.
The timing was perfect as the aspiring umpires were able to take inspiration from the action on the pitch. It couldn’t get much better as the competition was the Bulgaria National Men's Indoor Hockey Championship Finals, so the best of the best from Bulgaria were showcasing the sport.
The course itself comprised a mixture of active and experienced umpires, as well as a healthy number of young people who were interested in finding out about umpiring. The course came on the back of an exciting Indoor Hockey season across Europe and many of those present on the course had a specific interest in learning more about umpiring the indoor game. In total, there were 10 active umpires and 14 young umpires, aged between 16-18.
There were four parts to the seminar: a theory-based session which looked at specific situations that can occur during competition and problem solving. As is often the case when there is a room full of umpires, this session developed into a lively debate between the course leader, Tomas Holek and the participants.
Holek, who is EHF Education Committee Member and Czech Republic Umpiring Lead, then introduced the course participants to video analysis of previous matches. This was hugely successful as it was able to relate theory to actual situations, which the participants could look at in close detail. This is a powerful tool to help umpires understand context and make the correct decisions. It also helps umpires understand what the video umpires are looking for in review situations.
The third part of the course involved a rules test, which was successfully completed, much to everyone's delight.
Finally, the umpires were split into groups and given tasks related to decision-making and clear feedback on situations that arise during a game.
As the course wound down, Tomas Holek said “I have a really good feeling about the progress of the attendee and hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.”
Umpire training is vital to the continued growth in the game, it aligns with the FIH 10-Year Strategy, the , particularly when it comes to increasing professionalism within the game.