International Women's Day gives the global hockey community the perfect opportunity to showcase and celebrate some of the great work being carried out by women across the world. Many of the women celebrated during our week-long recognition of achievements have become leaders within our sport and are the driving forces behind change, progress and development.
Whether it is having the vision to provide leadership experience opportunities through coaching hockey or whether it is developing the skills to lead a national team, these are all instances where the hockey community is demonstrating yet again, its huge and uncompromising approach to equality in all aspects of life.
New Zealand’s Sam Charlton was one of the Black Sticks women’s squad that played in the first top tier intentional match to be umpired by male and female umpires. It was a historic moment in the sport’s history but, says the Black Sticks striker, once the moment, involving South Africa’s Wanri Venter and Australia’s Steve Rogers, had been celebrated, it was business as usual on the pitch.
How did you feel knowing you were involved in a historic moment when the first mixed gender umpiring team officiated at an top-tier international match?
Samantha Charlton: “It’s really exciting and I think the FIH has done a really good job in ensuring that men’s and women’s hockey is on an equal playing field. It’s pretty cool to know our sport is pretty progressive in making sure that happens in all elements of the game.
Did you feel any differently about the umpiring team for this match? Did you behave any differently on the pitch in any interactions you had with the umpires?
Samantha Charlton: “No not at all. You barely notice. It may be an umpire that you’ve never had before and sometimes you learn umpire styles so you know what works with them and what doesn’t so you get to know that person in the first few minutes and learn what you can get away with and what you can’t. The interactions were all pretty similar, it was much of a muchness.”
Is this something you feel could work in all international matches? Can you explain your answer?
Samantha Charlton: “As more men umpire female games and more females umpire men’s games, it will start to become more normal. Obviously the men’s and women’s games are slightly different and maybe interpreted slightly differently across different games but as it becomes more normal it will become easier for male and female umpires to flow through all facets of those games.
Hockey is a sport that is pushing to be as equal as it can be in all aspects of the game. Why do you think it is proving so successful at this?
Samantha Charlton: “It has been happening for years. FIH has never promoted one gender over the other. Male and female hockey has been celebrated in a really big way which is super cool. I think a lot of other sports can take a lot from that and are trying to strive to achieve that as well. But we have been really lucky. Female hockey has been pushed just as hard as men’s hockey and those women’s finals are just as exciting as the men’s and that is a real special thing to be a part of that doesn’t happen across all sports.