By the time it comes to February 2022, Laurine Delforge hopes she will have enjoyed a historic six months of hockey involvement.
In August, she umpired the women’s final at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and now she has her heart set on representing Belgium as an athlete at the FIH Hockey Indoor World Cup in the Belgium city of Liège. The 31-year-old, who has 34 indoor caps for Belgium, including the 2015 Indoor World Cup, reflected on the hockey adventures she is currently enjoying.
“Tokyo was fantastic and a different experience and, for me, it was a wonderful experience. I just hope the next few months continue in the same way.
“Indoor hockey is a sport that is growing in Belgium and we are all very excited that the World Cup will be on our doorstep, so we are very much looking forward to the event. On an individual perspective it has been challenging because I always want to be performing at my best, whether that is as an umpire or as a player.”
While Delforge is focused on her preparations as an athlete, her involvement in umpiring the indoor game has taken a back seat. But whether umpiring or playing, she explains that there are fundamental differences between the outdoor game and the indoor game. The two, she says, are almost different games.
“It is fast, really technical – which is an aspect I love about the game. And you cannot hide, there is no time to switch off, it is really exciting because you are always ‘on’. As an umpire as well, it gives you so much, largely because it is so technical and fast-paced.”
Delforge adds that decision-making, the use of skills in small spaces and the sense of team work are the three qualities that a good team will possess. She name-checked Germany’s Christopher Ruhr as an “impressive player, with great skills and strengths. She also praised 2018 bronze medallists Iran men for their team approach and creativity.
For those new to indoor hockey, Delforge says the main things to note about the indoor game is that the ball cannot be lifted, unless it is a shot at goal, so 3D skills are out. Also not acceptable is hitting the ball; it must be pushed.
Many of the qualities needed by indoor hockey players are also required of umpires. Decision-making, an ability to interpret the rules in a fast-paced and high octane situation, never losing concentration – these are things that the umpires working at the FIH Hockey Indoor World Cup will need to incorporate into their preparations for this showcase event.
For Delforge, the thrill of umpiring the Olympic final and the excitement of being part of a team at a World Cup are two totally different and incomparable experiences, and as she steps on the pitch in front of a packed stadium of Belgium supporters, Delforge will be in full athlete mode.