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Over the last few days there has been an article making the rounds. Simon Orchard, a current international player with Australia aka the Kookaburra’s, recently penned an article titled, “It’s Time Umpires Learnt The Game“.

Up until now I haven’t really provided any comment or shared my thoughts on the article because I felt that there was no benefit to doing so. However, what has eventually pushed my buttons and got me to craft a response is the sentiment that has clearly been simmering below the surface for quite some time, and this article has allowed to it flourish.

What sentiment is that you might ask? The horrid sentiment that somehow umpires aren’t good enough and that they don’t know the game. Now before we dive into the merits of that, and we will do, I want to shed some light on the type of players that appear to be sharing this concern. Some of the top players, both locally, nationally, and around the world are supporting this argument. Unfortunately, it is the players who always have the most to say about decisions in the game, but yet have never umpired a game in their life. Not even a school game, never mind provincial or international game. I find it ironic that all the loud-mouths are sharing this, and I haven’t heard a single peep from the players that just get on it with regardless of their thoughts on how bad the decision was.

Let’s clear something up quickly:

JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE A GOOD PLAYER DOESN’T MEAN YOU KNOW THE RULES, OR HAVE ANY CLUE HOW TO UMPIRE.

I strongly suggest that some of the players sharing this article learn to control their tempers, keep their mouth shut and actually read a rule book. If the umpire is affecting your game that much, then I suggest you spend more time on the mental aspect of your game as that is clearly hindering your progress. 8/10 times that you think an umpire got the call wrong, I can almost guarantee you that it is correct and you just have a different angle, or don’t understand the interpretation of the rules.

Let’s dive into the merit of Simon’s article shall we?

First off, I ignored everything said before the first bullet point. It becomes difficult to find validity in an article, even from a current international, when the opening two hundred words are simply attacking umpires. “‘But without referees, we wouldn’t have ourselves a game’, I hear many say. What a cop out.” No Simon, that isn’t a cop out – that is the truth. “My weakness. My Achilles heel. My kryptonite. The only real variable that has consistently, and at times severely, distracted me from my hockey career.” Like I said previously, maybe it is time to focus on your own game and remove a variable that you can’t control and accept that? But I guess everyone is human, just like an umpire…

Now that we have dealt with his pathetic attempt at an opening, let’s dive into the points that he makes as they are actually half decent if you ignore the commentary below each point.

1) Lack of accountability

Ummmm….have you ever umpired at a tournament? You get a debriefing at the end of every game, and a group meeting at the end of every day discussing issues and performance as individuals and as a group. Those debriefings at the end of your game are harsh. Every Umpire’s Manager that I have had, some of them really good, long time friends, don’t hold back.

“You missed a stick shield in the 14th minute on the half way line. Go watch the video.”

“That penalty corner you gave should have been a stroke.”

“You missed something 50 metres off the ball.”

It is very difficult to appease an Umpire’s Manager, and if you have a bad game, you definitely suffer in terms of allocations for the next day and the rest of the tournament. I have never umpired on the international stage so I can’t comment on what the review process is there, but to get to the top of the game, you have to be seriously good. No, in fact you have to be impeccable, outstanding, remarkable, and more importantly, consistent.

However, I do feel there is room for improvement, especially in the Western Cape and the league structure at the moment. Don’t worry, Hockey Point is in the process of addressing this issue so that there is clear communication and feedback, but my expectation is that 99% of feedback will be unjustified complaints, and zero positive feedback.

2) Poor communication skills

I am not even going to address this from an umpire’s perspective, because I find this point laughable. I have met very few umpires who aren’t approachable, who won’t explain things, or who won’t have a little bit of banter on the field. Even listening to the international games where the umpires have microphones so you can hear everything, you will hear them engage with the players. The problem is that players almost never engage with umpires in the correct manner or at an appropriate time. As soon as the ball is live, the chance for engagement or discussion about a decision is gone. Learn to accept decisions as they are, and if you aren’t happy, use your review in the 23’s.

If a player shouts at me or disrespects me I automatically don’t give them the time of day. However, umpires will always give you the a chance and that right until you lose it. Oh, there is also the other factor that technically only the captain can speak to the umpire. I wonder why that rule came in…

Mr Orchard, I suggest you perhaps change your tone and approach to the umpire and perhaps you will get a better response?

3) Remove the emotion and lose the ego

“I always believe high-level players make the best umpires.”

I can’t debate this point because so few top players umpire. Seriously, it is embarrassing how few top players give back to the game and umpire. Across the Western Cape, I can’t name one player that plays in the top league that is involved in umpiring in anyway. ANY. SINGLE. WAY.

“They referee with a chip on their shoulder and almost go looking for retribution, any chance to stamp their authority on a troublesome player. A big no no if you wish to maintain the status quo with both teams.” <- that sentence describes the job of an umpire. Without someone taking control, that “troublesome player” can ruin an entire game, and keeping the status quo across both teams and implementing the rules is our JOB.

Summary

Overall, I think Simon needs to reread this article, but replace every mention of an umpire or “referee” (by the way, the fact that you use that word shows that you don’t even understand what to call use and what the difference between a referee and an umpire is) and apply it to himself. How convenient that someone actually rewrote it for him then. “Dear Simon, Love An Official.

  1. Be accountable for your actions when you abuse an umpire
  2. Learn to communicate with an umpire in a respectable manner and at an appropriate time
  3. Remove the ego and understand that you aren’t above umpires. The game needs both players and umpires to go ahead.
  4. Unfortunately, one of the players that I looked up to just went down considerably in my opinion.