Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Umpire, 14, on age gaps and the next gen of hockey officials

In 2020, we spoke to a then 11-year-old Tom Pilgrim, who was then widely thought to be the youngest ever in the country to become a Level 1 hockey umpire.

Over three years on, and the teenager has attained his Level 2 for outdoor and indoor as he continues his progression. This year he has umpired the Supra League and In2Hockey finals, a junior festival in France,  Talent Academy Cup Finals and a East Ladies Premier Division match to name but a few.

THP spoke to the 14-year-old to find out what lies next and the challenges umpires face.

Hi Tom, what has happened since we last spoke in April 2020?

My umpiring career has progressed rapidly since I was twelve, both with indoor and outdoor hockey. I have achieved my Level 2 for both outdoor and indoor this season, which I was really happy to get since I have put so much effort into it.

This season, I have umpired several East Ladies Premier games which provided a new challenge for me due to the high standard of the games.

What are the challenges you face and how do you handle them?

The challenges I face in my games vary, as some games provide more of a challenge for player management and others are difficult due to the standard of the game. I try and prepare with my colleague so we both know the methods we can use to control these situations.

 Have you faced criticism and are players receptive to your role as a young umpire?

I sometimes face criticism because of missed decisions, however, I try and suggest to people that all umpires are human and will not always be able to see everything. As a young umpire, I believe that players aren’t apprehensive because they like to see the newer generation of umpires being developed who understand the modern game.

Are you seeing a decline in umpiring and what can Areas or EH do about it? 

In my opinion, there has been a decline in new umpires which consequently causes a large age gap between generations of umpires. One thing I believe England Hockey could do is organise more umpire camps/courses to get young hockey players into umpiring as well.

What are your hopes and aspirations now?

I hope to advance further by umpiring Men’s hockey as most of my high level umpiring has been done on Women’s games. I am also hoping to be able to officiate more National Finals tournaments as I really enjoy meeting other umpires at these events.

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