Umpiring is a very important role in the game of hockey and those that take part know that the gig takes a lot of courage, focus, and resilience.
Players tend to get emotional, coaches shout out from the sidelines, and crowds roar at every whistle blown – but for Hockey ACT umpire, Kristy Robertson, these are all perks of the trade.
Getting into umpiring as a junior, Robertson has pushed quite far seizing opportunities to umpire at local competitions in the ACT and NSW, as well as in State and National Championships. Now her umpiring will encourage her to travel the world after she was accredited as an international umpire earlier this year, a big accomplishment for someone who started off so small.
“I was encouraged [to umpire] by my mother who was an umpire at the time. In 2006, I attended my first Hockey NSW field State Championship as an umpire, fulfilling the umpiring requirement for my brother’s team. For the next couple of years, I followed his representative team to carnivals as their umpire,” she said.
Having grown up in Goulburn, Robertson was fortunate enough to journey between states and divide her umpiring duties between NSW and the ACT. As she grew older and more experienced, she started umpiring regularly in the ACT and now the Capital League 1 Competition ‘forms the basis’ of her top-level umpiring throughout the outdoor winter season.
Having already accomplished so much at such a young age, Robertson admits that she had much doubt in the beginning.
“It took me a really long time to even recognise that there was a pathway for umpires. Obviously, I realized that someone had to officiate national and international competitions, but I never thought that that could be me, an umpire from Goulburn,” Robertson said.
“Luckily for me, there were people along my journey that did have this belief and continued to push me to become a better umpire. I don’t think it was until I umpired at the 2013 U18 National Championships that I acknowledged that if I worked hard, I could make something of myself as an umpire.”
Getting an international accreditation is a success well deserved for Robertson who now joins a small handful of ACT umpires who have done the same.
“It’s a pretty surreal feeling but something I am really proud of. Everyone, players, and umpires alike, work really hard to get to the top level, both nationally and internationally, and it’s an amazing feeling to be acknowledged as having the ability to umpire high-quality matches.”
However, Robertson is aware that achievements such as this one don’t just fall into one’s lap but are the work of mentors just as much as self-dedication, self-determination, and self-drive.
“I have been very fortunate to have had, and continue to have, some amazing mentors supporting me on my umpiring journey. Whilst their support and feedback has contributed significantly to the umpire that I am today, my greatest challenge has been my own self-belief.
“It has taken a long time, many difficult conversations and tears, and some critical self-reflection to realise that I am where I am because I deserve to be and that I should trust myself.”
It is this self-trust that is especially difficult for umpires to acquire, given the nature of their job. While umpires control the game of hockey, they are also faced with a lot of emotional confrontation from players and other officials.
Avoiding self-doubt and practicing resilience thus becomes a crucial aspect of umpire training.
Preparing for a match has, therefore, become a routine for Robertson, who works to remain as confident as possible and focus only on how she can better the game.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge your role as an umpire and the part that you can play in the quality of a match. I work towards improving something every game, whether this is to do with decision making, managing or positioning.
“I set personal goals for each match, these goals often being developed upon reflection or feedback from my previous game.”
Robertson also acknowledges that umpiring is a team effort, given that two umpires are assigned to a single game of hockey.
“We are lucky in the ACT in that we are often umpiring with the same umpire each weekend. However, it is still just as important to have a pre-match conversation to determine how we, as a team, are going to support a free-flowing game and the steps we are going to implement in response to various game situations.”
Wise words spoken from years of experience and Robertson isn’t stopping anytime soon. She is looking forward to continuing her umpiring duties in the 2018 Capital League 1 Season, as well as preparing for the new format of the Australian Hockey League and potentially grabbing the next international game that waltzes her way.
Proud of her success, Robertson encourages young umpires to do their best and work hard especially those that want to follow a path similar to her own.
“Work hard and strive to improve on something every game. Ask questions. Celebrate your successes and reflect on your disappointments. Remember, it’s ok to make mistakes, so long as you learn from them. Enjoy the game and have fun!”