1. Positioning and Mobility - by Don Prior
2. Profile of a Good Umpire - by Dennis Meredith
3. Control and Coorperation - by Peter Von Reth
4. The Psychology of Umpiring - by Bob Davidzon
POSITIONING : THE IMPLICATIONS OF NO-OFFSIDE
Umpires have usually adopted the norms; where to stand in the midfield (the big J
curve), where to stand at penalty corners etc. The game is evolving and so must the
Players are no longer playing traditional hockey! But we are still umpiring the same way!
Being in the best position gives the best picture of what has happened. This gives the
umpire the confidence necessary to make the big decisions and aids composure!
Players have confidence in you if they can see you are in excellent position to make
Chasing the play and being out of position is a sign of poor umpiring! This can happen
easily to an umpire who is not in tune with the game! Especially with no off-side!
All Umpires must:
Be able to see the ball clearly at all times.
Be composed and convincing when making decisions! You must be close at times,
especially close to major decisions in the circle.
Be close enough to midfield to see clearly what happens, but not too close to limit your
vision. If you are too close advantages and off ball incidents will be missed!
Position themselves so they can make accurate decisions in the circle.
Position is individual. Everyone is different. Your height and speed may allow you to
modify where you stand! Most of all, your ability to read the game will enable you to get
in the best position!
NO OFFSIDE IMPLICATIONS:
"Stretching the midfield"
Players are positioning themselves deeper or leading deeper much earlier.
Umpires can not just stay deep when strikers position themselves deep into attack (in
your 25); you still need to make accurate decisions in the midfield and assist your
college at the other end! Continue to monitor players positioned high and cover them
when necessary i.e. when there is a possibility a pass will go to them.
This means Pro-action not Reaction
When a turnover occurs at the other end move defensively 10 to 15 metres toward your
goal. Cover the best possible pass for the team attacking your end (as a left defender
When following the ball out of your end do not get too close so you can not cover a
turnover, which could result in another quick attack. Also do not close your vision!
Scanning "off ball" - Reading the play! So you can cover the play early, it's critical.
When can you scan and momentarily take your focus off the ball?
when player has ball in control in the open.
when the ball is passed over long distance.
when the ball is in other corner of pitch.
COVERING THE MIDFIELD WITHOUT "SACRIFICING" THE CIRCLE!
When the ball is moving out of your end :
Down the left - Follow play out 10 to 15 metres behind. Cover the line! Assist with circle
blind spot at the other end (not too close to play so you can not recover back to your
circle when there is an early turnover!).
Down the right – stay infield more, move slower out of defence to get better angle of
play on other side of pitch.
Through the middle - stay infield slightly and move slowly out of defence. Again this
gives a good angle to view the play - try to read the play! If the pass could go wide and
left, then you need to cover the line quickly!
When the ball is at the other end:
Quick reactions to turnovers at the other end of the pitch are critical!
As soon as a turnover occurs and the ball starts to come toward your end, you need to
scan off the ball and consider the options the team coming toward you has.
If a fast break is possible you must move more defensive early, and cover this
If no fast break is possible you can remain higher and assist at the other end staying
closer to the midfield.
NO OFFSIDE – CROWDED CIRCLES!
Teams tend to play "the line" more. This means more play under the umpire's nose!
Especially on the right (umpires side of the field). It is necessary to spend more time on
or behind the backline watching the play coming into the circle or while play is
proceeding in the circle!
Be prepared to move a metre behind the line so play is further from you this improves
Many fine adjustments to position are needed to dodge players who are close to you
blocking your vision.
When the play is on the other side of circle I prefer to get low, looking through the
THE MIDFIELD CO-OPERATION ZONE
Accepted convention, usually means the umpire that the attack is moving toward
controls the situation. This has made allowing advantage easier!
With no offside Cooperation needs to be slightly different!
The umpire at the attacking end may be forced deeper earlier, (if players lead to the
back line). The umpire at the other end needs to assist with the midfield, especially
when the ball is on that side of the field.
Still be very aware of advantage! More eye contact and signalling between umpires is
Similar to basketball! Rotating in and out of the circles. (The pressure zones)
One umpire following the midfield the others waiting at each end on opposite sides of
The umpires could be on different sides to the field from how we umpire now.
Two umpires would have the power to blow decisions in the circle; new conventions
would need to be established to determine which umpire has the major control in the
Umpiring on the other side of the field
Umpiring on the defensive right side of the field instead of the left as we do now!
Ball always on attackers flat stick when on the right.
Penalty corners are easier to umpire on this side, as the goalkeeper does not obstruct
Conventions and automatic movements are lost!
Closing the gap between umpires
Wiring umpires so they can communicate.
The reserve umpire having power to watch off ball and take an active part in the match.
Replays to assist with critical decisions
PROFILE OF A GOOD UMPIRE
F.I.H. Umpires' Manager and F.I.H. Umpire Assessor
The primary job of an umpire is to permit the game to flow within the rules with as little
interference as possible on the part of the umpire. The following practices are essential
if that is to be achieved.
The Potential of Presence
An umpire, who through the very influence of his presence, causes players to avoid
breaches of the rules has attained the perfect relationship to the game. His influence is
felt but he himself is barely noticed. Probably no single rule or set of characteristics can
be listed which an individual umpire must follow in order to approach this relationship;
but some pattern and some combination which may vary from game to game, must be
achieved to create the desired influence.
It is important to be assured that there is necessarily no set pattern; umpires are
individuals and many reach the same goal, but by different routes; just as no two games
or situations are alike.
Confidence, cooperation and respect must be established. The players must sense that
there is an umpire who is on the job, is in the right place at the right time, is fair, is
consistent, has understanding, and sense the significance of each and every situation.
A relationship which breeds trust and not antagonism is essential to successful game
Some umpires have attained it by extra-strict tactics at the early stages of a game;
some by a firm but courteous attitude; others by a pleasant, and helpful approach.
Some have used an authoritative approach; while others have been more humble, but
sincere. Some have put fear into the hearts of the players, but with it have won their
respect. The end justifies the means of attainment.
The right approaches must be used to fit the occasion. Also, each individual must follow
the tack which seems to fit best his own personality. No one method will fit all occasions
or all umpires. The art of being one’s self and being able to sense the correct approach
to each situation is the key to establishing the correct balance.
However, I would recommend that you relax when you umpire, enjoy the experience
and be willing to laugh at yourself. Too many umpires are uptight. That tension is
transmitted to the players, coaches, co-umpire and spectators. You will become more
effective if you can relax, which will allow you to more clearly think through situations
and to respond in more appropriate ways, and create a greater player/umpire rapport.
Good Public Relations
An umpire may earn the respect of the players and coaches, but be absolutely loathed
by the spectators. Perhaps his mannerisms arouse the antagonism of the public. If he
conveys an arrogant impression, is dramatic to the extent that he detracts from the
game itself, is overly officious; then he is likely to draw the condemnation of the
spectators. This creates undesirable crowd behaviour and thus reflects upon the game.
Likewise, the umpire who seems excitable or who reacts slowly or who seems
indecisive or who does not interpret his decisions or make them clear to all, will
experience difficulty in establishing a good public relations.
Qualities of an Umpire
The art of hockey umpiring is largely dependent upon human variables. It is good or bad
in accordance with the degree to which each individual has a favourable combination of
these variables together with an intelligent understanding of the application of the rules.
The more important qualities which most authorities agree are necessary in a good
• Reaction Time
• Intestinal Fortitude
• Knowledge of the Proper Application of the Rules
• Appearance and Fitness
These are the factors which will help provide the ‘the potential of presence’,
umpire/player rapport’ and ‘good public relations’ if developed and applied artfully.
At the outset, the young umpire should be advised that he be himself in all cases. He
may have an older and more experienced umpire as an example, but unless he has all
the characteristics of his model, he should not try to mimic him. Much can be learned by
watching the techniques of proven umpires, but they should be adopted only to the
extent that they fit one’s own personality.
The following qualities are listed in the order of their importance, and it is interesting to
note that they automatically fall in the reverse order of the control which the individual
has over each quality.
1. Reaction Time
One either has it or one does not. A little practice, and one reaches the maximum of
one’s potential in this all important quality. Additional practice does not seem to change
the results materially. A person who does not possess above average reaction time has
little chance of becoming a top-level umpire.
Split second decisions must be made. The tempo of games is such that unless the
umpire can react quickly enough to make a decision at the moment of its occurrence,
subsequent play will have confused the situation.
2. Intestinal Fortitude
No explanation is needed here: courage, guts, strength, character: call it by any name:
you either have it or you don’t, and if you don’t, then get out, for there is no place in
umpiring for you.
Factors which reflect the confidence of the umpire and which gain the confidence of the
players, coaches and spectators are many. Probably the most effective is his manner of
movement which denotes sureness, even to a degree of cockiness, when not carried to
the stage where it causes resentment, and gives this feeling of sureness and
confidence to others.
Decisive action, not hasty, but with no element of hesitation is highly desirable. Leave
no question of doubt, portray positiveness and certainty to win acceptance. Never be
apologetic or hesitant as an umpire.
The whistle can do much to give a feeling of certainty. This is the first line of
communication, and therefore must be firm enough to be heard by all 22 players on the
field - above the crowd noises if necessary. Use the whistle to ‘talk’ to the players. The
while tone should indicate the severity and importance of the breach you are penalising.
Develop your own style, but always do so within the framework of the accepted signals
Players and coaches are under considerable tension. Consequently, any actions which
will produce calmness and emotional control should be used. The better umpire will
inject sufficient pauses and quieting manoeuvres to create a steadying effect upon the
players. He will do this throughout the game. There are many situations that arise
during a game when the umpire’s quiet influence can be a saving grace. An umpire may
employ varied tactics to relieve the tension. They are actions which are seldom noticed
and yet are tremendously effective.
For example, the difference between the umpire who in effect says (figuratively
speaking) ‘Unfortunately, you’ve made a mistake that has placed your opponent at a
disadvantage and I have no alternative but to penalise you according to the rules’ as
compared to the umpire who, with a show of belligerence, says in effect, ‘There, I
caught you that time!’
It seems the best umpires are those who remain human and approachable. Usually,
they are accepted even when they are wrong. At least, everyone is more charitable
towards them when there is a disagreement. Often the presentation of an arrogant/rude
exterior is a cloak behind which to hide inferior ability. The oft-quoted expression ‘A soft
answer turneth away wrath’ is appropriate here.
The greatest virtue which an umpire can possess is consistency. He may have a
warped interpretation of a rule; he may practice techniques contrary to those to which a
team is accustomed; his judgment on some play situations may be in conflict with the
commonly accepted interpretation - but with it all, if the umpire’s practice and decisions
are exactly the same under the same or similar circumstances, players can readily
adjust their play to fit the umpire. They may be surprised and confused momentarily, but
when they discover that the umpire is unwavering in interpretations, they can reorganise
and continue with confidence.
Probably the greatest inconsistencies occur in the obstruction rule and the lofted ball.
An umpire should give these matters much thought and attention and learnt to blow
Some umpires may never be able to attain a high degree of consistency and they
should be eliminated, just as incapable players are gradually cut from the squad.
However, much can be done to point the way.
If basic principles are established which will be a guide for determining the legality of
play and the responsibility for acts committed, the foundation upon which to develop
judgment has been laid. The basic principles must be thoroughly understood, and then
sound judgment will be built up through experience in handling games. Practice will
clear the cobwebs in this all important phase of the art.
The ability to work as a team with your co-umpire is absolutely essential. Each must
have faith in the other; there must exist the greatest team-work. Each should welcome
the support of the other, with neither attempting to dominate the game.
Occasionally, personalities clash, temperaments, mannerisms, tactics seem to conflict
rather than to blend. When these difficulties become evident, and seem fundamentally
difficult to resolve, then these umpires should not be appointed to officiate in the same
game. Each may otherwise be an excellent umpire in his own right.
8. Knowledge of the Proper Application of the Rules
This topic is listed near the bottom because any individual of average intelligence can
learn the rules. The development of this quality should one of the prime functions of
A letter perfect knowledge of the rules is essential, but in itself does not guarantee good
umpiring. The umpire must know the relationship of one rule to another. Further, it is
important to have a background for the rules, to understand the reason why a rule was
inserted/amended, to know the history and evolution and development of the rule in
connection with the progress of the game.
Knowing the rules is an initial step toward becoming a capable umpire. The next step is
to understand the rules. I do not think rules knowledge per se is what we are looking for
as much as rules understanding, which follows rules knowledge. What we are looking
for is for umpires to apply the spirit and intent of the rules.
Although there are no set rules dealing with positioning, all experienced umpires agree
that this is one of the most important considerations in controlling the game.
The best position for an umpire is the spot where he feels at ease and feels sure that he
will always have a clear view of the game. The essential thing is that an umpire is in a
correct position to see all breach of the rules. An umpire should concentrate on having
the ball in sight for the entire duration of the game.
As stated, there are no hard and fast rules laid down, but certain principles have
evolved over the years, and are now accepted as giving maximum vision with mobility.
With the introduction of the ‘no off-side’ it has been necessary to make slight
modifications to some of those principles.
10. Appearance and Fitness
From arrival at the game to departure, look the part in dress, demeanour and
enthusiasm. As first impressions always have a marked impact, it is important that an
umpire makes a favourable impression right from the start. One should therefore look
the part as an umpire and dress appropriately.
Unless an umpire is in excellent physical condition, reaction time and the ability to
concentrate for the entire game on fair decisions will be less than satisfactory.
Physical appearance is another factor which can help or hinder the progress of an
umpire. An athletic, confident, well groomed appearance appears to strike a more
acceptable chord with the game participants than someone who is obviously
overweight, dishevelled and breeds uncertainty.
Look the part and give confidence to everyone else involved in the game.
I have attempted in this Paper to impress upon the individual that he be the strong,
silent umpire, that he dominate the play, but be noticed little. The sport was created for
the players and not for the umpire. The success of the umpire can be measured by the
degree to which he keeps the game going within the rules, interfering as little as
If players get on with the game as though no umpire were present, accept decisions
without question; if the umpire controls or wins the crowd to the extent that when the
whistle blows and a decision is made, or a breach occurs and the whistle is not blown,
but rather the advantage signal is given, that umpire can be assured that he has arrived.
He will be in constant demand and will find himself amply rewarded for his efforts.
Hockey umpiring is a most difficult job; it produces a dynamic challenge. For the
individual who has inherited the necessary attributes which go to make a high-class
umpire and who has developed these traits to the point where he has gained the
acclaim of players, coaches and spectators for his performance, there is tremendous
Having the basic skills is important. Equally critical is being teachable, understanding
and accepting that you do not know it all no matter how long you have been an umpire.
In other words, don’t trip on your ego.
In summary, good eyesight, a keen sense of fair play, a good physique, the courage of
your convictions, a sense of humour with a streak of diplomacy, are very essential
ingredients to the profile of a good umpire. As well, he must have the ethics of a
physician, the guts of a burglar and the physical attributes of a young athlete. He must
be an extrovert, slightly egotistical and, above all, be devoted to the religion of umpiring.
CONTROL AND COOPERATION :
INCLUDING THE EFFECT OF RECENT RULE CHANGES
PETER VON RETH
Almost every team sport has more than one official for a game and co-operation is
essential if the highest standards of arbitration are to be achieved.
There are the really fast games which demand two or more officials, all of whom have
whistles and the authority to stop play. Here co-operation has been developed to the
highest standards and each official is expected to give every assistance to his
colleagues, and receives full support in his turn. While there is only one referee with
advisers, all active decisions are in the hands of one person. But as soon as there are
two or more whistles consistency of application becomes an important aspect of
The meaning of the verb to co-operate is significant, to work together, to act in
conjunction with another person. To work together implies give and take a middle
course between the various options and opinions. Neither partner should dominate to
the exclusion of the other even if they differ widely in standing. Two main aspects have
to be considered before the game, how, as a team, they are to be consistent and how
are they going to give practical help to each other.
Consistency is a matter of adjusting the mental approach of both umpires to achieve a
uniform application of the rules and discipline. It is possible to anticipate the predictable
but this is the easy part, it is how the umpiring team handles the unforeseen. The factual
aspects of the pre- match chat are easily agreed, for example dress and who times
each half. It is the discussion about each individual member's attitude to the art of
umpiring that is important. One may be the big strong type whose principle is, if it
moves, blow it, and if it speaks, card it. The other may be a small and tolerant chap
whose attitude is, if it moves, wait and if it talks, ignore it. The essential point here is that
both are going to have to moderate their views if uniformity is to be achieved.
Discussion leads to both parties understanding the other's attitude to umpiring in
general and the forthcoming game in particular.
Nevertheless, whatever was agreed at the pre-match discussion, it is vital that flexibility
Games never turn out absolutely as predicted and modification of the agreed plan
usually proves necessary. These changes must be applied by both umpires if
consistency is to be sustained. For example, control or perhaps a change in the
condition of the pitch may demand a shortening of advantage timing. It is essential that
both umpires watch each other and observe changes in their treatment of the game.
Small signals can help for instance indicating a shortening of advantage. Consistency
demands that both umpires act the same and any opportunity or method of achieving
this, must be used to the full.
To achieve the best results, both umpires must co-operate by supporting each other to
the fullest possible extent. One of the first things to discuss before the game is what
response is expected if one is asked for help. What signal does the umpire give to
indicate that he was unsighted and what action does he expect his partner to take? The
response should be positive and inspire confidence, either a whistle if there has been
an offence, or a definite play-on signal if he has seen nothing.
The 'don't know' reply is no help and only just better than no response at all; the
enquirer has shown doubt and this is only increased by a weak echo. The whole system
relies on the supporting umpire keeping one eye on his partner and being in a position
where he can be 'found'.
One situation that is unfortunately all too common is where both umpires blow at the
same time, for the same offence, and point in opposite directions. The normal solution is
for the partner in whose half of the pitch the offence occurred to take precedence and
the other gives way.
When an umpire realises that both whistles have been blown simultaneously, a little
delay in signalling by the least confident can often avoid the problem by allowing him to
back-up his partner. A pause before the free hit is taken may be necessary, to allow any
players who were deceived by the original contradictory signals, to recover.
Also to consider is what action should the supporting umpire take when he sees an
offence in his partner's prime area of responsibility, leaving aside the circle for the
moment where the rules preclude any direct action. The first response by some
supporting umpires to this situation is to blow the whistle, but this is not preferable
unless a serious control problem is involved.
The initial reaction should be to look at the engaged colleague who may be showing an
advantage signal. Even if he is not signalling, consider that he may not have had time to
signal if he is under pressure and a reasonable impression of whether he saw it may be
gained from his general demeanour, has he got his whistle up, does he appear to be in
command and switched on? Having judged that he has not seen the offence, one must
now decide whether to act or not. You should have regard to your partner's credibility
here, there is nothing to gain by penalising a minor foot under his nose just to score a
point. It is far better to let the immaterial offence go. All this consideration will give the
engaged umpire time to react if the offence is significant before you decide to blow. The
last thing your colleague wants is an incorrectly awarded goal or penalty, both he and
the players will expect action from you in these circumstances.
When the ball is in the engaged umpire’s circle he has absolute responsibility. The
supporter can only offer advice if asked. Many umpires signal supposed offences in
their partner’s area unrequested, and without blowing. This is a bad habit often the
engaged umpire has seen an earlier offence which he blows, only to find his partner
pointing in the opposite direction. Inevitably the players notice and a control problem
could be generated. An umpire should never signal without blowing, unless asked for
his opinion by his partner.
The frustration felt by the supporter who has seen an offence, but is not consulted, must
be borne with resignation! However, where the supporting umpire is absolutely certain
that an incorrect penalty or goal has been awarded, he may attract attention from his
colleague to stop the game and put his view to him. Following such a discussion, it is
the engaged umpires judgement that is final and he may change his original decision if
he considers that fair on the evidence.
Stopping the game to consult one's colleague should be avoided if possible, the break
can lead to a loss of face on the umpire's part. Sometimes, however, when a lot of heat
is generated following a crucial decision, an apparent consultation with the partner can
satisfy the protesting team. You are not expecting any help, just giving the impression of
consultation!! However, care must be taken not to shift the blame for a poor decision
onto the shoulders of your partner.
We saw that it was wrong for the experienced umpire to dominate the pre-match
discussions, and it is equally wrong for him to dominate the umpiring. If this is allowed to
happen, the young umpire will never blow in his colleague's area, let alone his own.
Even the best umpires are unsighted sometimes and need assistance which they will
certainly not get if they have not encouraged the younger partner to take his share. This
aspect should be emphasised in the pre-match talk, and every incentive be given to the
junior umpire to take his full part in the umpiring team. All umpires, and particularly the
experienced should take every opportunity during the game to give reassurance and
support to their partners by both word and gesture.
Co-operation should be viewed in its widest context as regards umpiring, it ranges from
support and encouragement to active assistance and even take over in rare
circumstances. One should never belittle a partner, and where a player asks your view
of a partner's decision with which you are unable to agree, it may be wise not to have
'seen' the incident which was very distant anyway! There should be a private and full
debrief between the umpires after every game, from which both can learn. Co-operation
continues right up to the time that you leave the clubhouse to go home and both
umpires should support each other in post-match discussion with the players. Much can
be learnt from the 'senior-pro’s' after a game and the umpires should be prepared to
listen and admit their errors.
Most people would agree that control is the greatest problem for any umpire. One would
have expected that any arbiter, whose parentage is doubted by a player, to have a
common bond with all others in the same position and to react in a roughly similar way.
But this is certainly not the case and the reasons for the variations are worth studying.
The first consideration is the style and rules of each sport. In some there can be no half
measures because one cannot temporarily suspend or handicap him in some way. This
situation is the same in all individual sports, the suspension of a player ends the
contest. Interestingly, some sports have evolved a system of penalty points and games,
but this only works where the competitor is accumulating a score as opposed to winning
a contest like a race.
Next there are the disciplinary methods of each sport, some have a 'sin bin' and some a
reporting system. These codes may restrict the way an umpire can act in a given
situation and perhaps more importantly, they can also affect his mental attitude. For
instance, if he sends the player off, he may be automatically suspending him for a long
period without appeal and that is a grave responsibility. Some sports hold what might be
described as courts with the various judgements recorded in the newspapers. Then
there is tradition, i.e. what is considered acceptable by convention in the particular
sport. One sees dissent and hears bad language used commonly and wonders what
would happen if a strong umpire individually took steps to check such problems.
Finally there is money, either in the sense of sponsorship or the players may be
considered as being professional. Hockey, fortunately, is still an amateur sport and
higher standards of behaviour are expected, both physical and verbal, and our sponsors
support this stance.
The yellow card gives a most useful lesser penalty than permanent suspension with all
its subsequent problems. Umpires usually receive good backing from the administrators
and the players expect and accept strict treatment if they step over the line. It is
generally agreed that players 'armed’ with a stick cannot be allowed to run riot, where in
some sports the use of the boot to stamp and rake, and the fist to punch, seems often to
go unpunished even at the most senior levels.
It should be admitted by most hockey umpires that a very high percentage of the control
problems that they experience stem from their own errors. Perhaps they did not 'see'
the first offence and so failed to take action early enough. Most control difficulties can
be avoided by good application of the rules and early correction of bad behaviour.
Nearly all difficult decisions are grey for the umpire, but black or white for the players
depending on their team's point of view. This does not apply to decisions which are
absolute like feet. There may be some dispute about whether the ball was played with a
foot, but given that it was, both teams will accept that it was an offence. With the more
abstract rules like obstruction, the situation is quite different. The point here is that
which ever way the umpire decides, he must appear positively certain of his judgement
and rock solid in the application of it.
It is important for the players to "buy" the umpire's decision, and there are various
methods of making the sale more acceptable.
The nearer an umpire is to the incident, the more credible his ruling will be. Here by
bending the run towards the incident the players will infer that the umpire was nearer
than he actually was when the decision was made. The half-second of time between the
offence and the whistle when the player looks up, is worth 5 metres to the umpire at top
speed. There is no doubt that an umpire who appears to be tight on the spot will sell a
decision better than one some distance away.
Often one hears critics say that a certain umpire looks away when applying a decision,
but they should go much further than this. The umpire should always look the offender
right in the eye and if possible, stay with him until he looks away. This later may be
difficult if a quick free hit is likely but the umpire should always aim to ‘win’ the eye
encounter. This eyeball to eyeball contact shows the player that the umpire is confident
of his decision and has not ‘chickened out’. Looking at the offender also increases
player contact and a smile of sympathy is just as valuable as a glare of disapproval.
Important is the overall appearance, the commanding body attitude. A wooden but
correct signal, unaccompanied by eye and presence will not give a confident
impression. The mode and appearance of the application of the umpire’s decision is the
second rung on the ladder of control, the whistle itself being the first.
More direct problems of control can be divided into two main sections, player to player
which is normally physical and player to umpire, which is usually verbal. The player-
player aspect will be considered first. It was stated earlier that many, if not most, control
problems are generated by the failure of the umpire to comprehend the offence or to
take action early enough. There is also a saying that all yellow cards are the umpire’s
fault but there is more than a grain of truth in it, i.e. matters had been allowed to get out
of hand before the card became necessary.
The first problem that should be considered is 'seeing' the incident, which obviously
must be achieved before any action can be taken. Many difficulties here stem from the
fact that the umpire is looking at the wrong part of the picture, usually the ball.
A lot of inexperienced umpires are ball watchers but they should realise that the ball
itself cannot commit an offence, it is the players who offend. When a long pass is made,
say from the right half to the left wing, many umpires follow the ball with their eye right
across the field. If a late tackle on the passer is possible, the umpire may choose to stay
with him to watch for it. More usually the eye should move directly to the receiver before
the arrival of the ball, in order to spot possible problems between him and his marker.
This is an elementary example of not watching the ball in practice, the expert umpire will
check the proximity of the marker first. This practice of taking the broader view while the
ball is in passage, even over quite short distances, is normal drill. It is easily possible to
zoom out and in again in fractions of a second, particularly if a potential off-the-ball
offence has been predicted, and needs to be checked.
In order to pick up control situations, like many other offences, they should, and usually
can, be predicted. Opposing players in close proximity to one another, or a tackle being
made from the wrong angle are common examples. Priorities come high on the list of
factors governing positioning, and here again priority is vital. It is more important to spot
a control abuse than a foot, although with good allotment of time, both should be seen.
When two players meet and perhaps one is in possession, it is very important to watch
the sticks and the men as well as the ball. It is the missed, careless tackle that
originates the build up to many control problems. At still-ball situations the receivers
have a much higher priority than the striker, who apart from lifting the ball is unlikely to
offend. In all control situations, prevention is better than cure!
Also the role of the supporting umpire in 'seeing’ the offence must be considered.
Because of his distance from play, he will have a broader view anyway, but he too must
predict the problems to make sure that he is looking at the appropriate part of the
scene. While he will certainly maintain an overview of the close play, which is the
engaged umpire’s primary responsibility, his priority must be the areas likely to be
outside his partner's arc of view, e.g. off-the-ball incidents. These can be the most
serious offences of all as they may be deliberate. Often they build up from an accidental
collision or knock which one party considers was intentional or at least grossly careless.
It is essential that the supporting umpire keeps an eye on development at these
potentially explosive incidents. The engaged umpire depends on his partner to look for
and cope with these off-the-ball situations. Having seen the incident, we must now turn
to the action we take and the means at our disposal for its control.
MEANS FOR CONTROL
It was apparent that the quality of whistle itself was important, but even more so is the
skill in using it. All applications of the whistle must be audible to everybody but this is
not to say that full power should be used on every occasion. The players should be able
to distinguish from the power and quality of the sound, whether the umpire considers
the offence to be minor, important or grave, the latter two being control signals. The firm
blast combined with eye contact and perhaps a shake of the head, should get the
It is important that all the players can pick up the message from the tone of the whistle
that the umpire is unhappy with that sort of behaviour. It is worth repeating the point
made earlier, you should aim to speak to the players through the whistle. Both umpires
should be paying attention to their partner's whistle and picking up the warning signs. All
accept that a green card issued by a colleague applies equally, as if they had issued it
themselves. Similarly with the whistle, a strong blast from one partner to make a control
point, should register with the other.
For the sake of consistency, it is important that the same level of penalty be awarded for
identical offences at both ends of the pitch. This consistency is particularly essential for
the treatment of deliberate offences in the 25 yard area where penalty corners are
In all control situations, the whistle must be the first action, but where this is insufficient
in itself, one must consider other measures. A topic that few umpires have studied is
body language, and where one is trying to convey a caution without speech, good body
signals can help. Body language is a powerful tool for an official. It includes your
physical appearance, posture, gestures and facial expressions.
The official who exudes a professional demeanour and a healthy, physically capable
image, will project an image of control, credibility and authority.
An erect posture signifies confidence, openness and energy. In contrast a slumped
posture connotes feelings of inferiority and fatigue; even the way you walk will
communicate to others how you feel. One of the most important elements of body
language is the facial expression. The expression on a face sends a very direct
message. If you wish to caution a player, with or without speaking to him, one must look
him right in the eye or, if this is embarrassing just above, in the centre of his forehead.
Lowering the eyes, only as far as the mouth, reduces the impact and makes him feel
less reprimanded. In calling someone use the hand; one should try not to point at a
player using one finger as this can irritate him, encouraging an unwanted response.
Another means for control is the "long range verbal" warning and this is more public.
Not only are all the players aware that you have warned an individual, but also that it
applies to everybody. Umpires sometimes have a quiet word with a player when he next
comes near them following a control incident. This is usually not good enough as the
suffering player is unaware that the guilty party has been cautioned. The innocent man
is still boiling with rage, and as the umpire has apparently taken no action for his
protection, is determined on revenge at the next opportunity. However, a quiet word can
be effective provided all the players realise that the caution has been issued. It is
important that the umpire demonstrates to all parties that he is aware of the seriousness
of an offence and is dealing with it appropriately.
The green card has to be considered as a formal warning and the message that should
be conveyed by a green card is often misunderstood by both umpires and players. It is
a formal warning to the player concerned that if he commits another serious offence, he
is likely to be sent off and to all other members of his team that they may be in the same
predicament if they commit that particular foul. Members of the other team should also
appreciate that the umpire is not very happy and yellow cards may be the next step for
Currently green cards are in fashion and lectures are out. Umpires at almost all levels
should always use a card and almost never talk. However the formal verbal warning is
commonly used at lower levels, and even occasionally at senior games, so it must be
discussed here as an alternative to the green card. The first rule is that one does not
card and lecture at the same incident, either one or the other. Having called a player up
from forty metres and reproved him, there is nothing to be gained by finishing your
lecture with a card up his nose as well!
Even those umpires who agree to use the verbal warning should still use the card on
some occasions, particularly when a long range formal caution is appropriate. This is
usually for the obvious offence that everybody has seen, such as the ball being knocked
away following the award of a free hit. There is no point in stopping the game and
marching a player thirty metres to state the obvious. It is much neater to attract his
attention, walk him a couple of paces, and show the card. However, it is important that
the umpire makes certain that both his partner and the player concerned, together with
the benches and crowd, are absolutely aware who has been warned. A problem that
sometimes occurs is that the player does not 'accept' the card, he just smiles in disbelief
and turns away or perhaps waves a dismissive hand. It is essential that the umpire is
seen by the other players to be in control of the situation and there are ways that can
help in maintaining one's authority. Many umpires keep all three cards in one pocket
and take them out together. This method gives the umpire more time to decide which
one to use and has a calming effect on the players who know the colour may change if
they do not behave.
Next, the umpire can make a point of insisting that the player comes all the way to him
and then make him formally turn round to allow your colleague to see and record his
number, even though you are certain that the partner already has the information. One
can also extend the time taken to register the award by entering fuller details of the
incident in your notebook. This is a control situation and flow may have to be sacrificed
for umpire authority. Of course, the umpire awarding the card should always stop the
watches and give time for both umpires to record the number of the player carded.
Where there is an official's table, they also have to register the card. Not only should the
umpire check that the table are aware of its use, but the player concerned must be
rotated so they can see and record his number. It should also be noted that with a table,
the verbal warning is not recorded and therefore may not rank with a green card.
Turning now to the yellow and red cards which signal temporary and permanent
suspension. The umpire should never speak to the receiving player, so there is no need
for him to come to the umpire, but one must make quite certain that the correct player is
aware that it is he that is being dismissed. Indeed making him walk a long distance
towards the umpire, just to send him off, is both brutal and unnecessary. As soon as the
attention of the player is attracted, the card, yellow or red, should be shown immediately
without any other signal or comment. Being sent off is a severe penalty and there is no
need to emphasise the disgrace.
The ladder of control that has been reviewed, from whistle to red card, is graduated
rung by rung; every level has its value and should be used accordingly. These are the
tools, but great skill is needed to use them effectively and with style. It is easy to send a
player off; one only has to reach for the pocket and display a piece of plastic. To keep
him on the pitch is much more difficult.
Well adjudicated games rarely have control problems, so the most important skill is to
get the decisions right and where there is doubt, to act in a firm and sympathetic way.
The umpire who commands respect can control a game by whistle and eye alone, but
respect has to be earned. Arbiters in any sport who appear weak have no chance, the
players expect firm and fair decisions. Hockey umpires are no different, weakness is
unacceptable but so is bombast and an overbearing attitude. Umpires should remember
at all times that they are the servants of the game, not its masters.
Sympathy is the key word in the administration of the rules, and control situations, if
caught early, remain minor. It is extremely rare for one player to deliberately hit another
without provocation, real or imagined. It is the early symptoms of future trouble that
must register with the umpire and be controlled from the outset.
Right from the opening whistle, the umpire should be looking for minor, and probably
accidental, physical offences. He should appreciate that what is accidental on the part
of the offender, may not seem so to an opponent with a sore leg and the caution should
take both players feelings into consideration.
Umpires must be sensitive to a change of mood in the game. A slight souring of the
atmosphere, opponents not chatting to each other or failing to apologise for small
discourtesies, or an increase in tension are sure signs that the first control incident has
already occurred, and the umpires may have missed it. Failure to sense this change of
climate is the first step on a very slippery slope for the umpire. Deliberate observation of
the players' bonhomie and enjoyment, or the lack of them, is vital for the correct
appreciation of the level of control needed.
In a happy game, a one-liner joke may achieve all that is required, where in a tense
struggle the umpire may need all the presence and power at his command if he is to
keep the cards in his pocket. There is no doubt that when the first flare up occurs, the
umpire should be on the spot instantly calming the situation down. Earlier it was shown
that the nearer an umpire is to an offence the more likely the players are to accept his
decision. The same applies to control and the movement, while whistling and signalling,
should be bent towards the potential problem so the umpire appears on the spot to
prevent trouble before it starts.
Indeed, in this case where control is essential, umpires should not even pause for the
signal to be seen. Get in quickly as it is extremely difficult to control a fiery incident from
thirty metres away, but one should not approach too closely.
It is worth emphasising again that it is very rare for a major incident to occur out of the
blue, there is almost always a build up. There is a saying in rugby, if a player punches
an opponent, send off the man who has been hit, as he must have done something to
deserve the blow!!
Earlier it was pointed out that nearly all control problems stem from the umpire's own
failings and this particularly applies to verbal conflict. Most dissent can be avoided by
good umpiring technique. This is not to say that some notorious players will not question
every decision by their very nature, but most accept well judged and applied decisions,
appreciating the difficulties of umpiring. The methods of applying these decisions have
already been discussed, now we should consider the decisions themselves.
Firstly, there is no need for an umpire to take unnecessary risks. Where one is in doubt
about which direction a hit-in should be awarded, often the players will sort it out
amicably if left to themselves. If the umpire decides, without being certain, a direction
which both teams know to be incorrect, it can only lead to rude comments. Naturally, if
the players are in doubt as well, a positive direction must be given. Other risks can be
avoided by good co-operation.
When a player who may be quite near, but has his back to you and is facing your
partner, and you suspect a foot, it pays to ask rather than blow by guesswork. This
aspect should have been discussed before the game started. Where the umpire decides
not to penalise an inconsequential offence which may be apparent to the players, it is
often wise to call "play on", to reassure them that the offence has been noted. Finally,
one is reminded on the co-operation where it was emphasised that umpires should
never signal in their colleague’s area unasked, without blowing. Murphy’s law states that
players always notice disagreement between the umpires and are not slow to comment
on the quality of sight, or lack of it, in the officials! Having made every effort to avoid
giving excuse for verbal remarks, what action should be taken if, and when, they occur?
A problem is whether to take action at all or just ignore the chat. It is essential to
distinguish between frustration and dissent on the part of the players. A missed tackle is
most frustrating and the umpire has obviously missed an offence! Provided it is not over
done, remarks stemming from frustration may be ignored. It is the constant verbal
questioning of the umpire's decisions that is the problem and when to take action. An
early question must be answered, is it affecting your concentration? Are you thinking
about the dissent at times other than when it is actually occurring? If the reply is only
slightly in the affirmative, action must be taken immediately.
The other relevant issue may be, is it affecting one's credibility in general? Constant
sniping by individuals at the umpire who makes no response, can give the impression of
weakness to the other players and this must not be allowed to develop. A certain
amount of grumbling, facing away from the umpire, is usually permissible but there are
limits. However, a player who directly challenges a decision, actually confronting the
umpire, must be dealt with immediately, any delay here will certainly affect the standing
of the umpire.
Things should not be allowed to develop to the extent that the lower rungs of the control
ladder become inappropriate before action is taken. Many umpires are more severe with
verbal dissent, often caused by themselves, than the physical problems between the
players which are much more important. Often the palm down hand signal and perhaps
a long range verbal warning is enough but should these be ineffective, there is an extra
lung in this ladder. It is quite neat to call the captain of the offending player's team and
to put the responsibility on him. This method is very useful as the umpire has not
exhibited any cards but issued a public warning, almost their equivalent if this course is
chosen, the captain should be instructed to caution his players. Should any further
remarks be forthcoming, the umpire still has the flexibility to remind the captain of the
warning, and all three cards are still in his pocket. Verbal questioning of decisions is a
destructive problem which should be controlled by the players themselves and it is
entirely appropriate to remind the captain of his duty in this way.
It is extremely difficult to offer firm advice on how to deal with constant dissent
(questioning) as all players are different, as are all umpires. Some umpires have a gift
for amusing remarks and can defuse a situation with a joke or well-turned phrase.
However some players are equally endowed and it maybe risky for those umpires who
are less fluent to give them the opportunity to demonstrate their skill. It is only possible
in a book like this to put forward some ideas on control.
Doubtless we shall be still arguing about control as long as the game of hockey is
References: Tim Crafer, "Think umpiring";
Robert Weinberg, Peggy A. Richardson, "Psychology of Officiating"
K. Bell, "Championship thinking"
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF UMPIRING
By Bob Davidzon
Although the importance of mental skills is widely recognised, little is incorporated in
lectures and clinics, whereas subjects like positioning, signaling, rules, knowledge and
fitness are highlighted regularly. No doubt these are major ingredients to become a
good umpire. But to be amongst the best, qualities like confidence, judgement, rapport,
concentration and decisiveness are essential and have to be developed. However, the
basic PHYSICAL skills are essential as a foundation for enhancement of
The main mental qualities of a top umpire can be listed as follows:
The better umpires are able to develop these skills, the more chance they have to reach
their maximum potential as an umpire. This requires hard work and dedicated effort in
the areas of.
The message you want to communicate, should be confidence, control, calmness,
positive intensity and fairness. That is what the players want. Research has shown that
effective communication consists of more than 50% of body-language, closely followed
by the way things are said (paralanguage) and for less than 10% by what is said. The
major importance of body language is often neglected but aspects like physical
appearance, posture, touching behaviour, gestures, facial expression and spatial
relationship are essential to "send" the right message effectively.
Self-analysis (mirror, video, feedback) is a MUST to identify areas for improvement. The
same applies to paralanguage and to control the pitch of your voice (or whistle!) is a
major tool to be understood rightly.
Confidence is believing that you have the capacity (and have done everything) to
perform as an umpire as well as possible. Confidence will help you to improve your
ability in the following areas: concentration, control, goal setting and persistence.
Concentration and control to run the game properly, and goal setting and persistence to
become a better umpire in the medium and long run. Confidence however cannot
overcome incompetence, and both lack of confidence AND overconfidence affect
performance adversely. Self-confidence can be built up through thought (self talk)
action, imagery, recall of good past performances, physical conditioning and proper
Compared with the teams they "guide", umpires are very much on their own and need a
strong motivation to overcome the lack of praise and all the criticism they normally
receive. To maintain motivation, goal setting is essential. A clear decision on what you
like to achieve and by when, has proven to be very effective especially when that has
been put to paper. By setting goals, you have to decide first WHAT is important for you,
and by setting it yourself you will put in more effort to achieve it. Make your goals
challenging, realistic and positive. Write them down and identify ways and means to
achieve them. Look for inspiring examples around you, reward yourself when you have
done well and create a supportive network around you to help you.
Umpiring at top level exposes you to stress and emotions that can lead to anxiety. This
can be triggered by fear of failure, fear of inadequacy or perceived loss of control.
Anxiety has both physical (stiff muscles, narrowing view) and psychological (reduced
concentration, impaired decision making) effects, with a detrimental effect on
performance. Anxiety therefore has to be managed and controlled. On the physical side,
this can be done by breath control and muscle relaxation and on the mental side by self
talk, thought stopping, anticipation, preparation and enjoying the job of umpiring.
Relaxation in whatever form, is needed to avoid or suppress anxiety. Moreover,
controlled relaxation during a game is necessary to improve concentration when it is
Concentration is the ability to focus on the relevant issues of the game and to maintain
that focus during the entire match. Maintaining concentration is an attention problem.
The more important a match, the less motivation is needed to maintain your
concentration. Some of the pitfalls for concentration are thinking about past decisions,
thinking about consequences of decisions to be taken or thinking of too many things.
Concentration is heavily affected by anxiety because the width of observation becomes
narrower, the umpire tends to concentrate on him/herself instead of the game and this
limits the ability to change focus. Umpires should check their concentration skills, and
where appropriate, train themselves to learn to shift attention, to maintain focus, to look
for relevant cues or rehearsing game concentration.
Contrary to players, umpires do not have many possibilities to train like them, thus they
have to imagine situations and take mental decisions. These can be situations that have
taken place when umpiring, or seen from the stands or TV, or theoretical situations that
may occur in future and require a decision. Imagery contains visual, auditory and
physical elements and the better an umpire uses, imagery, the more realistic the
physical and mental reactions of the body and the mind are. Imagery helps an umpire to
learn to control emotional responses, to improve concentration, to build confidence and
thus improve the performance. There are two main types of imagery. The external
imagery of the umpire while he or she is performing (like seen from the stand) and
internal imagery, as where you are umpiring the match yourself and experience the
situations as the umpire in charge. A convenient tool to learn external imagery is a
videotape taken when you were umpiring. Once you have studied yourself, you will be
able to have a "look" at yourself in future situations as well.
For umpires who want to progress and to know more about the "magic" of psychological
aspects in umpiring, the reading of the book "Psychology of Officiating" by Weinberg
and Richardson (Leisurepress) is strongly recommended.
Womens Hockey Australia can be contacted at
P.O Box 527, Surry Hills NSW 2010 -
Ph (02) 9690 2099 or Fax (02) 9690 2088
or Email at email@example.com