The appointments were handed out on Thursday afternoon so I knew early that I wasn’t on the first day of matches, just reserving the middle game of the three. For some umpires, this can be tough to deal with, especially after the Great Wait that we experience at these events. For me, I’ve learned to make the best of it and I just had recent experience where it worked out very well, so I felt good today watching the teams take the pitch for the first time.
It’s a tired cliché, “making a negative into a positive”, but that’s what you have to do with waiting for your first appointment to come around. In Berlin at the EuroHockey Club Championships, I didn’t umpire until the last game on the second day, and I found it really worked to my advantage. I had a chance to see many of the teams, including one that I was umpiring, and get a general feel for the level of play and the styles I would see. I watched all the games to note who the captains were and where they played on the pitch, and who the key players were – those who do all the distributing of the ball in attacking play, and who are the most dangerous individually. In doing this, I can visualize where I’ll need to look when I want to communication a message to the captain when something happens that I’m not happy with – practising that in your head can make it a lot easier to remember to get in touch with them and help you to find them in the chaos of the self-pass speed of the game. I also watched my colleauges, some of whom were brand new to me to get used to their styles and analyze how they dealt with situations to see what was successful and what may not have been.
So that was my mission today: get used to the stadium, the environment, see all the teams and my colleauges who were on the pitch. It was a longer day than usual as the opening ceremonies were scheduled after the second match with a very comfortable buffer of time between the matches, so we were all at the pitch from 12:00 until well after 8:00.
The biggest upset of the day was Russia’s nighttime win over Italy, and Wales almost accomplished the same in the first match by scoring the first goal and holding on to that lead at least until I went below to the locker rooms to get ready with my colleagues who were umpiring the second match. The level of play was closer than perhaps many people expected and I think there will be a lot of competitive matches that need steady hands throughout the week.
Now to bed, before continuing the Great Wait in the morning. The matches start later today, and Jean and I are on at 2:30 for Japan and Belarus. Wish me luck!