Tournaments are a mental grind. Sometimes I wonder if umpiring the games is actually the easiest part – after all, we all have a lot of practise and preparation in doing that – but everything else is more of a challenge.
Similar to the JWC in Boston last year, we were instructed to arrive a few days early for a “training camp”, which would involve some briefing meetings, fitness testing, team building and lots of general hanging out. So I spent Tuesday flying, having a 4-hour layover in Moscow’s Domodevo airport and arriving late that night.
We started the next morning at 9:30 with a very unsuccessful excursion to the supermarket in the mall attached to the hotel, which was closed until 10:00. Briefings started at 10, and when we broke for lunch at 12 we started a 2.5 hr. process of figuring out that our lunch wasn’t being supplied at the hotel but at an entertainment centre adjacent to the hockey stadium, a 20min. bus ride away. That really scuttled the program for the afternoon as we only managed to fit in another hour of meetings.
Big delays involving waiting around like that are pretty typical of international tournaments. Communication can be a real challenge when you’re in a country where most of the umpires don’t speak the language, and different cultures have different levels of commitment to promptness and organization. That’s just the way it is and there’s no sense in getting your shorts in a knot about it, so I learned a long time ago to just relax and go with the flow. I make sure I have my iPhone handy with ebooks loaded, an app to write with, headphones for music and lots of patience.
An interesting segment of the meetings that day was a session that Christiane led where she introduced us to the process of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). Carolina and I volunteered as guinea pigs, in turn presenting a situation we’d experienced on the pitch we wanted to somehow handle differently in the future. Mine was from Berlin last week, where I had a big decision to make right near the end of a tight and important game that obviously 50% of the people on the pitch were not happy about. I had a few players and a coach shouting at me and I felt that I reacted too aggressively and felt a lot of anger, and in the future I’d like to feel calmer while still being assertive and strong in dismissing the appeals. Christiane taught me to find a visual image of someone else doing just that in a similar situation and to pretty much photoshop myself into that positive event. (I used Christian Blasch from the Euro Championship a few years ago, so I had to adjust just slightly for height and body shape.) Then I was to rehearse that vision in my mind, using deep breathing, and then to practise with my teammates posing at confronting players. It felt really interesting, and I hope (in a way, but not in others!) to have an opportunity to test NLP in a real game.
Friday we spent the morning in briefings, had the extended trip back to the same place for lunch and then a fitness session at the gym in the afternoon once we’d digested our chicken shish-kebabs and salad. The evening ritual has developed where we meet for dinner at 7pm in the hotel, and then sit around drinking tea and coffee as some of us (present company particularly) sit with our laptops catching up on emails and making Skype calls home until bedtime. We’ve decided that we need some games to occupy more time so some of the girls are going off to find some playing cards so we can play poker with ruble coins, which seem to be worth about $.000001 each if my currency converted is correct.
So the big wait for the games to start is something that you just have to learn to get used to at this level. I joked with Yolande, our umpires’ manager, that it’s bizarre that the best preparation we can have for the start of a big tournament is to sit around and get bored out of our trees, but it’s really true. If we were to arrive the night before, we’d have no time to mentally calm ourselves and leave our home worlds behind so we can be fully immersed and focused on the task ahead. The grind continues….