St Neots helping to boost the number of hockey umpires across the country

Helen Sargeant of St Neots Hockey Club

Helen Sargeant of St Neots Hockey Club is helping to run a national umpiring course. - Credit: ST NEOTS HC

St Neots Hockey Club has teamed up with England Hockey to run national online umpiring courses during lockdown.

Chairwoman of the Longsands Road club, Helen Sargeant, is also a National Hockey League umpire and one of the course tutors.

Ladies second team captain Paula Bingham with umpires before a game at St Neots Hockey Club

Ladies second team captain Paula Bingham with umpires before a game at St Neots Hockey Club. - Credit: ST NEOTS HC

She said: “England Hockey is crying out for more umpires, and now lockdown has actually helped us out as players are desperate to do anything hockey related.”

The course covers everything from how to run a game safely and successfully to introducing the principles of umpiring to small groups of participants, both players and non-players alike.

“It’s not a boring lecture,” said Kate Clarke, the ladies first-team defender who was one of the first to enrol, while Saints' stalwart Iain Moore added: "If nothing else it’s certainly helped my hockey brain in this weird off-season. It’s amazing how much umpires actually do.”

Umpires Jonathan Percival and Helen Sargeant manage a penalty flick.

Umpires Jonathan Percival and Helen Sargeant manage a penalty flick. - Credit: TIM BETTSWORTH

The tutors also use digital charts to explain field positioning and ways of keeping the game flowing.

There is an online test, which isn’t a pass or fail barrier but instead a teaching aid to help trainee umpires fully understand the game and their part in it.

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Once players are allowed back onto the pitch, the trainees will be assessed.

The course is open to all, from seasoned veterans to those who have never picked up a hockey stick in their life. Once passed, new umpires are introduced to the game gradually in the low divisions and are mentored throughout.

St Neots Hockey Club players and umpires Fiona Humphrey and Phil Gentiles

St Neots Hockey Club players and umpires Fiona Humphrey and Phil Gentiles. - Credit: ST NEOTS HC

There are all sorts of reasons for becoming an umpire, from wishing to give back to sport or to keep fit, or simply to try something new.

Alec Pybus, an experienced Saints umpire and player, is in no doubt of the benefits. Having spent several seasons freezing while watching his children play, he decided he might as well watch and stay warm.

“Now I have the best seat in the house,” he jokes.

St Neots covers the costs for its members and so far 15 from the club, with ages varying from 14 to early 60s, have taken the course.

There will be more dates through spring and summer and for more information, go to https://hockeyhub.englandhockey.co.uk/umpiring_info or contact St Neots via their Facebook page. 

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