Umpires turn to technology in order to stay at the top of their game

March 23, 2020

As much of the world goes into lockdown as governments and communities try to contain the spread of Covid-19, athletes have been posting videos and images of the ways they are staying fit and healthy, both physically and mentally, ready to get straight back to top level action when the world emerges from the other side of the virus.

Also looking to stay on top of their game are the umpires. Just as teams will be looking for a quick return to action, so too the umpires will need to be at their physical and mental peaks. We spoke to New Zealand’s Kelly Hudson to find out how she is coping with the challenges posed by living in lockdown.

How is the virus impacting your physical training as a high level umpire?
Until now my training has been unhindered, we have not yet started our hockey season in New Zealand, and I have been able to access my trainer, gym facility and physio with ease, but as I write this, the New Zealand government has implemented strict protocols, closing all non-essential businesses and asking people to stay at home, in self-isolation. These new government-implemented Covid-19 restrictions bring us here in NZ into alignment with what many of my colleagues have already been experiencing overseas. 

The changes for me will be to essentially maintain communication with my coach in an online forum; we will re-create my sessions so I can continue my progression in a home gym set-up; nothing fancy, a bench, a couple of kettle bells/free weights, resistance bands, wind-trainer road bike, adjustable high bar. I am fortunate to have space around where I live and can access hills, and areas to run easily and stay in isolation, but also remain safe - this is not easy for everyone. I can also move some of these sessions to a park or the beach (provided I am alone) which will be amazing to still get out into the beautiful outdoors.

My physiotherapist will also be via online and while there won't be hands on, my treatment is a lot around strengthening other muscles and progressing exercises relating to identified weaknesses to improve stability, power, change of direction, so that is able to transition to an online chat fairly easily.

So while my training and wellness sessions will be different I'm pleased to be able to still have my support team connected in some way - this is hugely important as we are already operating in a fairly isolated capacity anyway.

What are you doing and what can others do to stay fit and focused
I see there is a guy in France who ran a marathon on his 7m balcony. That is motivation too, though not really for me, thanks. What it does prove though, is that anything is possible with a little imagination, you make a plan and stick to it. 

There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, but one thing that has been a core value of mine throughout the latter stages of my umpiring career is that I can only control what I can control. I don't know if the Olympics will be postponed, what will happen with ProLeague matches, or even if our local hockey season will ever get to start this year, but what I do know is I can plan for the dates that I have right now, continue to strive to achieve my own fitness levels, maintain connections with my colleagues locally and around the world, and we can get through this together. 

Small term pain like restricting movement and not being able to travel are necessary for longer term gain and hopefully containing this virus and saving people from pain and suffering.

Do you stay in contact with umpiring colleagues via social media?
Yes we have groups for Pro League as well as for Tokyo Olympics, and everyone has close mates within the officiating community across the world. It’s been amazing to have such close connections with people who are experiencing things in a totally different way to you, and yet we are all connected in this. The team of officials is incredibly unique in that it is truly international; so we all know people - our friends - in the areas that are worst affected. It’s very sobering when there is a real human connection.

What can you and your fellow umpires do to stay up with the speed of the game?
We are very fortunate at international level that we have access to CoachLogic, which has most international matches, certainly all the FIH Hockey Pro League games, that we are able to log onto, or create our own copy to then tag and review. We also have access to Umpire Managers who we can discuss things with. There have also been some excellent sharing of clips by people in our groups that we are able to view and comment on. Sometimes this happens in smaller informal WhatsApp groups. It is awesome to be able to stay current and strive to be consistent in our interpretations. It is an area that keeps growing as we become more familiar and comfortable with the technology.

Not everyone needs a flash forum or online portal to watch hockey though, is a great place to start and there are other hockey matches available online. You can watch the game and nit-pick the decision-making, or watch from a broader game-sense perspective and see what you might have done differently if you had have been umpiring that match. You can add a few tricks to your tool kit and get them ready to try out when the season is allowed to start. Also get in touch with a senior umpire, or someone you think would be a good mentor; likewise reach out to younger or new umpires and be that person for them. There are lots of things we can talk about without having to be at a hockey field, we need to stay connected.

Do you have a message for umpires around the world right now?
Keep in touch with your hockey mates – I have just tonight been chatting with a couple of friends about what the situation is for them at the moment in terms of restriction of movement, and when schools are closing and so forth. It will be challenging working from home, training in isolation, everything moving online in terms of communication – but we can have fun with that too – I feel there will be an emergence of creativity over the next few weeks! 

"He waka eke noa" (We are all in this together.)



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