Top umpire rates our talent
Story by: JONATHAN MCKEOWN - Nelson Mail - Photo by: Chris Symes
Prior to blowing the whistle at London 2012, New Zealand's top hockey umpire Kelly Hudson has stopped off in Nelson to check out some of the region's top talent and deliver certificates to the hard-working umpires of the region.
As part of her visit Hudson, who is based in Tauranga, will be grading the 12 high-level umpires who frequent the water turf in Stoke. After observing some of the umpires in action over the last couple of days, she said they show huge potential, while she also lauded the facility at Saxton Field.
"That amazing stadium and facility at Saxton is one of the best facilities in New Zealand. There were some games out there yesterday and there were really high levels of acceptance of the decisions from the players. Generally the decisionmaking was very good. There is room to improve, but that is one of the reasons I'm here."
Hudson is holding an umpires and players forum, as well as a community umpires course tomorrow. After the course, close to 25 umpires will receive accreditation, either a Junior Umpires Badge or a Community Umpires Certificate.
"It's recognition from Hockey New Zealand that there are a whole group of umpires out there that really deserve to be accredited. That's why I'm here, I guess, to reward Nelson Hockey for their promotion of umpires."
The 30-year-old international grade one umpire is one of 17 of the world's best selected to oversee a packed Olympic hockey schedule. There are 16 teams playing eight games a day. With two umpires a game, reserve umpire duties and the video umpire, Hudson will see a lot of action on the turf.
"As for which teams I will be umpiring, the only thing that is guaranteed is that I won't be umpiring New Zealand ... it's hard to wave the flag as a New Zealand umpire – you don't get to hear your national anthem and things like that, but that pride is fulfilled in other ways."
The rewards aren't monetary. Hockey umpires are not paid match fees, even at the Olympic level – the excitement of controlling elite athletes at the top tournaments keeps the thrill going. As does the extensive travel opportunities, Hudson's travel log reads like a Harlem Globetrotter's.
Mexico, the United States, Chile, Argentina, Holland, Japan China, Malaysia, Australia and India are just some of the countries Hudson has been to, all expenses paid. And the Olympics will round out the "big four" events adding to her experiences at the Commonwealth Games, the Hockey World Cup and the elite Champions Trophy.
"To be amongst the 17 umpires selected for the Olympics is awesome. When people mention the Olympics I still have to pinch myself."
While it may sound like a jet-setting lifestyle, Hudson, who works in a development and administration role for the Oceania Hockey Federation, said she had given long-term "sacrifice" and "commitment" to get where she is. "With hockey umpiring, it's such a progressive sport; the rules are constantly changing, so a big challenge is just to stay current.
"To be a good umpire you have to have a good sense of fairness. They need to present their decisions clearly and have a good empathy and understanding for what the players are trying to do.
"Also having a bit of thick skin comes in handy. Volunteering in this role can be very hard – often officials are the first to bear the brunt of frustration.
"A support network is huge, because there will be those times someone will lean over the fence and tell you you're useless and to put your glasses on and all that stuff. I get that still – it doesn't change, even when you are going to the Olympics."
Nelson's regional hockey development manager Craig Brett said there are a number of young hockey umpires in Nelson who could make it to the same level as Hudson.
He said Lani Jackman, Tom Laney and Jamie Machen were all gaining experience at national and regional tournaments.
"We have umpires with the potential and ability to follow in the path Kelly has set out.
"Don't get me wrong, to reach that level is a hard thing to do ... but, if they stick at it, they can achieve it."