Thursday, May 23, 2024

Players and umpires: Let’s approach post-Covid hockey by respecting all participants

Let’s set aside all the GMS-related issues and confusion caused by the new Area hockey structures and focus on the fact that we can once again play the sport we all love, writes DAVID ELLCOCK

I have a feeling that there might be a lot of pent-up energy released over the next few weekends as players, coaches and umpires get back to doing what we enjoy so much. This may bring problems, as things won’t always go as expected and people will look for the first person in the firing line for them to vent their frustration upon. 

For many umpires, this too often feels like them, as players and coaches mouth off at the slightest indiscretion.

So, here’s my plea. 

As we re-start playing, let’s all take a moment to reflect on the fact that none of us could do what we love, without everyone else involved in the game. Yes, that missed foot might be frustrating, but is it anywhere near as frustrating as yet another Zoom quiz with Aunty Mary, or another slice of that ‘delicious’ banana bread that your partner has made every single week for the last 18 months? 

Remember that the umpires will be as out of practice as the players. We’ll all need a couple of weeks to shake off those months of cobwebs.

But, this is not just a plea to players. It’s also a plea to umpires. Too often we hear the snide comment that ‘we’ know the rules, but the players don’t. That we are somehow the guardians of all that is good about the game.

Can we stop this, please? There are no more than a handful of players who don’t know the rules of hockey at all, and very many who know them inside out and back to front. 

OK, so those of us in the know watched on in amazement as the Dutch failed to bring on their sub goalie in the opening game of the Euros when Paco Vasquez showed Pirmin Blaak a green card at a PC, but be honest: how many of us had to reach for the rule book just to double check that we were right? 

(To confirm, Rule 2.3.a says, “substitution is permitted at any time except within the period from the award of a penalty corner until after it has been completed; during this period substitution is only permitted for injury to or suspension of the defending goalkeeper”, so the Dutch could have brought on a sub.) 

Would we have got that right in real time? Under all that pressure?

Let’s approach the start of post-Covid hockey with a determination to respect all participants in the game, whatever happens on the pitch. Let’s recognise that we all bring different things to the game, and that none of us could be out there on the pitch without everyone else’s participation.

A pipe dream? Maybe, but Covid has caused us to reassess many aspects of our lives, so why not this? 

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