Umpire of the Week

CHA has launched a Featured Umpire of the Week article to celebrate our umpiring community. A different umpire will be interviewed each week about their involvement in umpiring, both within Canterbury and beyond. We value all of our umpires, experienced or new to the game; without them, we would not be able to play hockey. They keep our sport safe, fair and under control. The aim of this article is to explore the reasons why people go into umpiring, the experiences they’ve had and the advice they would offer new umpires.

Our latest Umpire of the Week is James Mountstevens.

James is one of the rising stars of the Canterbury Umpiring world and has progressed very quickly from junior games to Men's Division 2. Here he talks about how he got there and the kind of umpire he tries to be.

What started your involvement with hockey?

I came to New Zealand from the UK and I trialled for a Harewood Primary team – my older sister was good at hockey and I wanted to give it a go too. I didn’t do well in the trials as I wasn’t a very good player, but I was told that I might be useful in goal as I was tall. I’ve played in goal for Harewood since then.


What was it that made you start umpiring?

I was a very bossy child!! When I started playing in goal a Harewood coach approached me, as they had noticed that I was very loud and confident to communicate with my team. The coach knew that CHA were looking for some new junior umpires, so they suggested that I might want to give it a go.


How long have you been umpiring for?

I’ve been umpiring for 3 years, I started in the junior summer super 6 tournament. I was about 12 and had a mentor, Levi, who supported me through into the start of the next season. I gave the junior 6-a-side games a go on Saturday mornings and within 3 weeks I was doing 11-a-side! Arthur Whitehead often watched me umpire and he kept pushing me up, so by my second season umpiring I was doing the youth grade, which is now Platinum. By the end of my second season I was umpiring Division 3 men’s games and I had been to two tournaments – the Audrey Timlin Secondary Schools tournament in Dunedin and Mcgrath in Roturua. At the start of this season I started umpiring Division 2 Men’s games, and that’s where I’m at currently.


What are your current hockey commitments outside of umpiring?

I’m the goalkeeper for Harewood Red Division 3 Men’s Gold, and I also come down to Nunweek Park as a junior venue supervisor when the usual supervisors are away. I’m pretty much at Nunweek Park every Saturday, either helping Harewood with their mentoring or helping Lyndsey with supervising.


What is it that you enjoy about umpiring?

I have always been one for rules – I believe that everything has its place, and everything should be in its place! As an umpire I get the chance to enforce that, but also to make the game run smoothly, to keep it fair and to keep it safe. I’m always keen to improve as an umpire and I take pleasure from knowing that I’m constantly challenging myself to do better.


Have you found it challenging to umpire players who are older than you?

Yes I have, and at first I also found it difficult not to use my age as an excuse when I made mistakes. Initially when I made a wrong call and someone challenged me for it, I found it hard not to say “stop shouting at me, I’m 15!” I spoke to my mentor and he advised me to remember that when you are on the pitch you are the umpire, and you don’t need to justify your mistakes or earn your place on the pitch just because of your age. It doesn’t matter what age the players are, if I as a 15-year-old boy do my job properly I get respect from them, and in turn I treat them with respect and together we make the game the best that it can be.


Were there challenges that came from progressing so quickly through the levels?

The main thing I struggled with was feeling as though the players didn’t think I should be moving up so quickly. I had confidence in myself because I’d been told by mentors who I respect that I would be fine in those grades, but sometimes I worried if players who’d seen me recently in the junior grades would question my capability to suddenly be in Division 3. I overcame the problem by treating everyone the same, regardless of their age or experience, and setting the tone of each game right from the start. I make it clear that I can’t be pushed around, although I am approachable, and players tend to get the message fairly quickly.


What do you think are the strengths of your umpiring?

I have been told by Lyndsey that I’m a very vocal umpire; if the players feel something isn’t right they can talk to me as long as they do it respectfully. I’m happy to explain my decisions as long as it doesn’t slow down the game. I communicate when I’m playing an advantage rather than just using hand signals and I’m comfortable using my voice to let everyone know what’s going on. I don’t feel that I’ve done my job if players leave the field feeling confused, because it’s up to me to make it clear to them what’s happening and why it’s happening. I make my expectations clear right from the beginning of the game.


What advice would you give to new umpires?

Take as much advice as you can after the game, but ignore any feedback that’s shouted during the game! I put my metaphorical ear plugs in during the game, but as soon as I come off the turf I want to take as many comments as I can. You need to be able to take feedback, as long as it’s constructively presented, no matter who it comes from. Everyone has an opinion and not everyone’s will be right, but even by saying something that challenges your viewpoint, they are helping you improve. Next time you’re in that situation you will have given it more thought, and will have more confidence about what you should do. I don’t think it matters whether someone is an international umpire or the same level as you, if they take the time to give you advice you should take it, and use it however you can.


Who has inspired and helped you to develop as an umpire?

Nigel Iggo has helped me so much this season. He has been mentoring me and I’ve gone home after games and watched clips of him umpiring in the Olympics. He comes to watch me about every second week, in different kinds of games where possible. The fact that someone of that status within the hockey world thinks that I’m good enough to work with is a huge boost for me. All of the umpires I have worked with have helped me at some point by talking to me before and after the games. They all inspire me because they enjoy their umpiring and they want to help other umpires improve. It’s amazing when an umpire who has watched the game comes to speak to me in the dugout after the game – sometimes it’s CPL umpires, or others in Division 2, and I’m always grateful that people take the time to do that.


What kind of umpire do you think the players would say that you are?

I hope they would say that I’m fair, and approachable. I’m not a ‘nice’ umpire exactly but I’m sympathetic when things don’t go their way. I’m not too harsh – I understand that often players are reacting out of anger and regret something they’ve said or done straight away. There’s a real difference between understanding the rules and understanding the situation – I hope players would say that I can interpret the situation in front of me rather than sticking rigidly to the rulebook. If we played exactly by the rulebook we wouldn’t have a game – it would be awful if we blew the whistle for every single foot or stick tackle. I like to reward skillful play and let the game run as much as I can – I hope players notice that.


What do you do to ensure you continue to develop as an umpire?

I’ve got a rulebook which I keep in my bag, but if any questions come up during a game I will text my mentor Nigel afterwards, and he usually responds with a helpful paragraph explaining his thoughts on the situation. When something happens in the game and I’m uncertain of the action to take I carry on as normal and make a confident decision, but straight away after the game I write down what happened and take it to discuss with someone like Nigel, Lyndsey or Liz and see what they say. I find it beneficial to get lots of people’s opinions – that’s why I enjoy the umpire forums, because even though an international umpire is leading, he lets everyone have their say and you hear the issue from every side.  I also get my mum to video games I have umpired and I then watch them back and consider what I could have done differently in particular situations. Improvement doesn’t really happen by itself, you have to put the effort in to make it happen.


What are your aspirations for your umpiring?

I’d love to keep on going as far as I can with it. I love umpiring and I love being in a position where I can have a really positive impact on a game. I want to be one of those umpires people don’t really notice – not because I’m not ‘in the picture’, but because I haven’t affected the outcome of the game. It’s a great feeling when players shake your hand at the end of the game and say thank you, it’s a rewarding feeling that I don’t get from anything else.

 Thanks very much James for your time! If James' experiences have inspired you to find out more about umpiring, contact to discover the opportunities that are open to you.

Our previous Umpire of the Week was Jim Currie.

Please could you explain what your involvement is with umpiring at the moment?

I umpire for CHA, usually in Division 2 at the weekend. Recently I’ve had the opportunity to push myself further and have umpired some Division 1 games, both men’s and women’s. I also coordinate the club supply for University of Canterbury Hockey Club, which means that I sort out umpires for games where we have been asked to provide someone, making sure I’m careful to allocate people to a game that is an appropriate grade for them.

How long have you been umpiring for?

My first game was about 7 years ago, when my kids first took up hockey. They were playing out at Kaiapoi and I got thrown in the deep end when I was asked to coach the team even though I had no hockey background whatsoever! I’d never even played at that point. I grew up playing football, so I used the tactics from that – I didn’t even know how to hold a stick myself! We turned up for a game and there was no umpire so I was pressured into doing it, and then I had to really start learning the rules. The kids didn’t really know the rules either, so we learnt together and I enjoyed explaining things to them as I learnt them myself.

After that I began playing, and when I saw the umpires I thought that was something I could do too. I am a police officer, so I’ve got a thick skin and know how to deal with criticism. I had a heart attack three years ago and after that I began umpiring seriously, as a way to get myself fit again and remain involved in the sport I enjoy.

So what’s your involvement with hockey outside of umpiring?

I had never played hockey until I was 50, when some friends persuaded me to play in the Summer Masters competition. For the last two years I have played for and managed the UCHC Div 3 Apache team. It’s a diverse group made up of people from lots of different backgrounds – Indian, Malaysian, Kiwi, Scottish. It’s like a league of nations, but everyone gets on very well! I’m also on the committee for UCHC and I try to get down to Nunweek Park on Friday nights when work allows to watch the Friday night school league. My daughter umpires those games and invariably there will be a school supply that doesn’t show up, so I usually end up filling in!

How did you progress from the junior games to the grades that you’re umpiring now?

I got myself on some community umpire courses with CHA, the first one was run by Lyndsey Jones which was very entertaining as well as informative. I’ve been to a few since then, hosted by Gareth Greenfield, and every time I go I learn something new. I thoroughly recommend going to those forums if you get the chance. The content is tailored to include every umpire, no matter the level they are at.

 When I started umpiring, CHA didn’t have an umpire mentoring programme, so it’s great to see that this is something they’re getting started now. For me it was a matter of reading the rulebook and trying to find someone who had enough experience to give me advice. I was lucky when I started out that Arthur Whitehead was here to give me advice and answer my questions about particular calls I had made. Over this last year I have been mentored by Max Beech, who is helping me so much with my positioning and reading of the game, as well as teaching me how to control the game without going to cards. With their help, I had enough confidence to progress through the youth grades and into Division 2.


What advice would you give to people who are starting umpiring now?

Don’t be afraid, give it a go! Enjoy your umpiring - you have to take some complaints from players sometimes but be confident and blow your whistle loudly. Players are less likely to get grumpy if they think you know what you’re doing. Don’t be worried about asking umpires you know for advice and help, and get involved with mentoring – ask CHA if they can match you up with someone. I’m always happy to help anyone I can, although I can only get them so far, but there are plenty of other people around who are happy to give advice. You have to believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself, can you achieve anything.

Have you had any games that were particularly memorable?

There are a couple that stand out in my mind. Just a couple of weeks ago I was thrown in the deep end –I turned up to watch a Div 1 game and ended up umpiring because one of the umpires didn’t show up. It went really well – I had a few niggles because players saw something that myself and the other umpire didn’t see. A few players got a bit mouthy so I just explained to them that I was filling in and don’t usually umpire that grade. The players apologized, which surprised me, and after that I hardly got any trouble at all. At the end of the game the other umpire reassured me that I’d done well, as well as some of the players in the game who also umpire, and that gave me a boost.

There was also a game during last year’s season where I was deliberately asked to umpire because I’m a police officer, and one of the teams had been involved in a brawl in the previous week’s game. I was basically there to keep the peace as well as to umpire! The game started well but quickly got fiery, and I had to control the situation quickly by issuing a green card early on. Once the teams realized that I wasn’t going to put up with it, they settled down quickly.

What do you get out of umpiring?

Fitness and a sore body most of the time! Seriously though, I enjoy giving back to a sport that has helped me; after my heart attack, hockey helped me to get back to health. I believe that you have to give back to the community – that’s why I’m a police officer, to give back to the community and make them feel safe. I enjoy umpiring because I think that no matter what grade or skill level you play at, you deserve an umpire who is going to keep the game fair. I want the players to walk off the pitch having enjoyed playing and looking forward to coming back next week.

What kind of umpire do you think they players would say you are?

That would depend on who you ask, and how soon after their game! I hope they would think I’m fair and honest, and that I don’t take sides. I try to bring integrity and respect to the game, and stay completely impartial. Once I’ve got the yellow shirt on it doesn’t matter if you’re my best mate off the field, you’re not going to get any advantages. I stand up for my calls and admit when I’ve made a mistake. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you’ve made a mistake, the players will respect you more for that than for sticking with a call that you’ve realized was wrong. You need to listen to what the players are saying, although that doesn’t mean you have to change your call just because of what they say. I would advise players that if you want to question the umpire about a call, ask them politely. If you are abusive towards them, they will not listen to what you’re saying.

Were there particular people who have supported you in your development as an umpire?

I’ve been lucky to get to know so many people through my umpiring. When I first started Arthur Whitehead was always available to give me advice, and he still does this if I have questions. He is so up to date with all the technical knowledge. I’ve also got Max Beech helping me now, he often comes down and mentors me in a very positive manner which is great. Both Max and Arthur have been very good at guiding me towards being able to reflect on my own game, rather than telling me what I’m doing well or need to improve on – that’s what proper mentoring is about. I’ve also been fortunate enough to get feedback from Gareth Greenfield, and have recently had the privilege of umpiring with Lyndsey Jones in women’s Mid-week Open, which was fantastic for my development.

What are your aspirations for your umpiring?

I would like to progress to be a confident Division 1 umpire. I’ve done a lot of Division 2 games this season and have started to get comfortable, which means it’s time to try to move on! You have to push yourself if you want to keep improving. Now that CHA are getting their mentoring programme underway, that’s something I would really like to be involved with next year too.

 Thanks very much Jim for your time! If Jim’s experiences have inspired you to find out more about umpiring, contact to discover the opportunities that are open to you.


Our previous Umpire of the Week was Angela Reimer.

Please could you explain your current involvement in umpiring?

At the moment I’m mainly umpiring Division 2 and Mid-week Open women. I’m hoping to move up to Division 1, so I’m umpiring there now and again and working on getting better. I’ve been umpiring seriously for 3 years and Division 1 is as far as I’ll go, I don't think I'll be a CPL umpire.


What about in the wider hockey community?

I play in goal for Southern United in Mid-week Open – one year I was in goal for three teams but this year I’m just doing one, thank goodness! I also play on the field on a Saturday afternoon on grass. I actually came back into hockey 10 years ago after a 25 year break. My son started playing hockey, so I took him along to his training and the coach suggested that I came to play. I thought I might as well give it a go as it would be good for me. I used to play school hockey and was a fairly average player – it was always on grass and we usually had to chase the sheep off the field so that we could play! I was always more into music than sports at school and have to give something up, so hockey fell by the wayside and I never thought I would end up playing again. I came into Canterbury hockey having played all of my hockey out in Darfield, so I was completely new to the hockey community here and didn’t know anyone.


Why did you start umpiring?

My son Billy actually got me into umpiring. He used to umpire Division 1 and CPL – I remember standing on the sidelines for his first CPL game, I was so proud! I was inspired by him really. I used to watch him and praise him because he was so young – 15 or 16 – and dealing with much older players. For example, I played in the Masters women’s tournament and he came and umpired my grade one year. I asked him how he handled the stroppy 55-year-old women and he told me that he just pretended it was me telling him off and he zoned out until they had finished! I recognized that when I was playing I hated games when we didn’t have good umpires, so I thought that instead of moaning to CHA that there weren’t enough good umpires, I would moan but also become an umpire myself!


What steps did you take from there to begin umpiring?

I started my umpiring in Masters. We needed a club supply umpire and nobody would do it. I thought “I could do it!” I didn’t know the specifics of the rules but I knew how hockey was supposed to be played, where people were supposed to be, what was right and what was wrong. After a game Billy had umpired at Masters there was a game that needed another umpire, so he suggested I should do it and he would watch. I remember it clearly – it was on Nunweek 3 and I had just finished playing in goal so had a goalie top on as my umpiring top! That was probably 4 years ago.


What was your pathway from there to where you are now?

I found I was quite good at umpiring and really enjoyed it. I umpired every week after that and by the end of that first Masters season I decided that if I was going to commit to umpiring, I was going to do it right. I sat down and read rulebooks, I got to know Lyndsey Jones and Mandy Watts a lot better and asked them lots of questions, I went and watched CPL games to see how it all worked. I knew CHA were short of umpires and I felt that I had the time to commit, so I picked up a regular school game on a Wednesday afternoon. I got a feel for umpiring some younger games as well as the Masters umpiring I had been doing. There were some incredible players in the Masters grade and such an in depth knowledge of the game, so it was interesting to umpire the other extreme – young players who were fast and had quick skills but lacked the understanding of the game. I found myself talking them through a lot of the rules at first, which I really enjoyed and it was great for my own understanding of the rules. I then picked up some club games on Sunday mornings and worked from there. I got more and more confident as I received positive feedback from coaches. I really, really enjoy umpiring. The first season I was so nervous as I was so worried about getting it right, but I’ve since learnt that you don’t need to get everything right all the time, you just need to be fair and safe and support the game.



What advice would you give to people who are just starting umpiring?

Try to reflect on each game. Think about what you did well, but also consider what you could do to make it better. Every person on that pitch is giving up their time and their energy as well as their money to be there, and they deserve good umpiring. Think about what you could do to make the game better for them, because if you make it better for them you are going to make it better for you. It could be simple things like clarifying a rule for yourself or considering your positioning when the ball is in different areas of the pitch. Self reflection is the best way to make sure you keep improving, but don’t forget to give yourself that praise too as you are doing a difficult job out there.

In what ways do you think your umpiring has improved since you started?

I’ve gain confidence – I’m confident in other areas of life but I wasn’t in umpiring, so that has come a long way. I’ve developed my positioning and understanding of the rules, as well as learning to recognise and reward good play. Things like learning what playing a good advantage is can’t be taught, you have to learn and feel them for yourself. I have learnt not to pull everything up but to try to let the game flow.


What have been the challenges of developing as an umpire?

There are a lot of ‘on-field umpires’ out there. Some do have valid comments but you can’t let that affect you during the game. That’s been hard. Being passionate about something makes people very focused and determined, which can turn them into a bit of an unpleasant person on the field. I had to learn to recognize that the players are not picking on me and it isn’t personal, they’re just sending it out to the universe that they are annoyed with something that just happened. You mustn’t let it have any impact on how you respond to that player for the rest of the game. A great piece of advice I had from a younger umpire was that it’s ok if the players are angry, as long as they’re not angry at you. I want all the players to be happy and enjoy the game so I don’t like it if they get angry and upset, but I’ve finally learnt that if that happens it’s not about me.


Have you had any games which were particularly memorable?

The one I was proudest of was at the Masters tournament last year. I umpired the over-50 Women’s Silver/Bronze match. I knew one of the teams was coming out with a medal so that was the most pressured umpiring I’ve done. All games are memorable for different reasons though. Usually I’m able to have a laugh during the game. I forget the bad ones because they’ve gone!


What kind of umpire do you think players would say you are?

I hope they would say that I’m confident, consistent and fair. I like to think that they are pleased to see my name next to their game because they know they will get fair umpiring, often with a dose of laughter, either when I do something stupid or they do something stupid!


What do you get out of umpiring?

I get to spend time with some really cool people. I know at least one person in every team I umpire, so it’s always nice to say hello to familiar faces. I also get to watch some amazing games of hockey. The hard thing can be remembering that I’m umpiring rather than spectating! I always enjoy the fresh air and the exercise too – so it’s the people and it’s the sport that I enjoy.


What are your aspirations with your umpiring?

I would like to be a regular, confident Division 1 umpire. As it’s an area I’ve got some strengths in, I would also like to do some more mentoring of younger umpires coming up into Division 3, because that’s actually a very difficult grade to umpire. We need to support our umpires coming up, so I would love a role where I could lead by example and pass on the sage bits of advice that I was given when I started out.


Is there anyone in particular who supported you along the way with your umpiring?

Billy was pretty amazing but then again, he’s my son so he has to be!! He was completely honest with me and was a new enough umpire that he was passing on fresh new information that he had just received. Other than that it’s not fair to name names really as all the umpires I’ve worked with have been so supportive and have always answered all of my questions. Think of all the good umpires out there, male and female – I would have picked up something from them all.

 Thanks very much Angela for your time! If Angela’s experiences have inspired you to find out more about umpiring, contact to discover the opportunities that are open to you.


Our lastest Umpire of the Week is Max Beech.

Please could you explain what your current involvement with umpiring is?

Within Canterbury Hockey I umpire in the Premier Men’s grade on a Saturday. I also umpire school games on Fridays, some Division 1 games on Sundays and some Mid Week Open games when the time allows. I also mentor some Division 1 umpires on a Sunday.

What about in the wider hockey community?

I play Mid Week Open for Marist, I coach the Hornby Division 1 women’s team I and am the assistant coach of the Hornby women’s CPL team, so Hockey is 5 days a week for me at the moment!

Have you always been involved in hockey?

Yes – I played one year of football when I was 5 but had a miserable time, so I took up hockey at 6 or 7 and have been involved ever since. I chose hockey because one of my mum’s friends suggested it, but hockey had never been a part of my family until my brother and I played. My parents had no idea of hockey whatsoever until we began to go away to representative tournaments – now they love the sport and have become hockey people, not that they would ever play!

How about umpiring, when did you start that?

That would have been when I was around 11 or 12. As a player I was (and unfortunately still am) quite a hothead on the field, especially about things that went wrong and decisions that had been made. It all came to a head when someone within my club told me I was going to be umpiring after I’d played one day, to give me an idea of what it’s like. I think the idea was that I would struggle and it would make me less critical of umpires, but in fact I absolutely loved it, took to it like a duck to water and from there I was umpiring every week after I played.

What was your pathway from those first few experiences up to where you are now?

Within Counties Manukau where I began umpiring we had our Division 1 grade which was within Counties, then we had 4 Premier teams who would play within the Waikato intercity competition, so they play against teams from Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua and Ngatea. I was umpiring in the Division 1 grade, then when I was 16 I did my first intercity men’s game. I remember it very clearly - it was raining, cold and I was terrified of what would happen! I got through it though and umpired Premier hockey from the age of 16 until I left Auckland at 18. When I moved to Christchurch in 2014 I started off in CPL – the first game was Selwyn v Avon and Hayden Shaw the Black Sticks player was playing. I still remember that game very clearly too! It will be 5 years this year that I’ve been umpiring CPL in Christchurch.

Have you umpired at many tournaments?

In 2007 I went to Hatch Cup to play, and the week prior I went to the Northern Region U13 B tournament to umpire. That was my first tournament experience, then following that I umpired at Hatch Cup two years in a row, in Wellington and then Invercargill. As an Auckland boy, it was certainly a new experience going all the way down to Invercargill in the winter to umpire! Since I came to Christchurch I’ve only done one, U18 regionals in Napier in 2014. I haven’t been since then due to injuries and other commitments, although I would like to get back into it. I did plenty of tournaments when I was still in the Midlands, however it’s eased off since I came to Christchurch. Coaching has filled the gap the tournament umpiring left.

Do you find it hard to balance playing, umpiring and coaching commitments?

Not really, I usually manage to umpire at the same ground the teams I coach are playing at, before or preferably after their games. Then when I play on Monday I usually umpire a game before I play too. I’m very lucky that I’ve got a supportive partner at home who doesn’t mind me being gone for hours each weekend for hockey! The hardest thing is to fit all the hockey around my life outside of hockey, but when you enjoy something as much as I enjoy hockey, you want to be there as much as you can. I think I’ve got a good balance at the moment.

What do you get out of umpiring?

I loved playing Premier hockey but it wasn’t something was going to be available to me long term. Being an avid sports fan I want to be involved as much as I can, so I thought about how else I could be involved in the game and umpiring was that. I get the best seat in the house, I get to be part of all the highs and the lows that the players feel. If there’s a fantastic last minute goal I get to feel the elation that moment brings, but I also feel the pain that the team who have conceded the goal feels – I get to be part of the whole picture. I get to live the game without being one of the players. I had a game the other week where this was emphasized because my fellow umpire Duncan Coates and I actually played a part in three goals that were scored right at the end of a game – he and I both played advantages instead of blowing for penalty corners and the teams both scored, then I let a quick free hit carry on and again they scored with seconds left on the clock. There’s so much riding on those moments and I thrive on the pressure of being the umpire who makes those calls.

What kind of umpire do you think players would say you are?

It depends who you ask!! There have been players I’ve had run-ins with and others who have been good friends ever since I moved here. It was difficult moving to town at the age I was without knowing any of the players, and in Midlands players saw different umpires all the time whereas in Christchurch players are used to having the same umpires. I would like to think that I’m approachable and I’m becoming very willing to admit that I’m wrong when I am wrong. I hope players know that my decision will always be fair whichever way it goes. From a player’s perspective that’s the most important thing.

What advice would you give to younger umpires, or those just getting started?

Be conscious and smart enough to take all the advice you’re given and apply it to your game as you see fit. The advice that works for someone in CPL might not make sense for someone in Division 2, the context has to be taken into account. You’ll always get differing advice, so be open to all of it and never disregard someone who is giving you advice. As you develop as an umpire you’ll understand more about the kind of umpire you want to be, so you can be more selective about the advice you take.  

What is it you enjoy about mentoring?

I had a huge amount of mentoring available to me in the midlands, there were always people watching my game and wanting to help me, whether it was a rainy Sunday night or the best game on a Saturday. That really did help me, especially during those younger years when I was stepping up into difficult grades. I owe both Dean Curley and Dave Potter a lot for the time they spent with me back in Counties. I look at all those great Division 1 umpires that we’ve got coming through in Canterbury and the fantastic potential that’s there, and I see an opportunity to give back to the game and help these umpires develop, the same way I was helped not so long ago.

Do you have aspirations with your umpiring that you haven’t fulfilled yet?

I think most umpires who have had a taste of national tournament hockey have aspirations to get there again. When I was younger, like most umpires I was working with, I wanted to be an international umpire and we all wanted to go to the Olympics or a World Cup. I would like to go further, I don’t want the U18 Regionals to be the furthest I got, but I need to stop and reassess my options and whether I would be able to break back into it as I’ve been away for a few years. If I don’t end up going any further I can still be involved in other ways – helping younger umpires prepare for tournaments and seeing the enjoyment they get from that means just as much to me.

 Thanks very much Max for your time! If Max’s experiences have inspired you to find out more about umpiring, contact to discover the opportunities that are open to you.

Our second Umpire of the Week is Lyndsey Jones, a key member of the Canterbury Hockey community.


Could you explain about the recent Hockey New Zealand award you were given, and what it was for?

It was a Bronze Service Medal, which is for 10+ years of service to the hockey community. It’s nice to get recognition for something I love doing.


So what kind of involvement do you have in the hockey community?

Within Canterbury I act as the venue supervisor for Nunweek Park during the Friday night youth hockey and junior hockey on Saturday morning. I also often umpire a women’s CPL game on a Saturday and fill in for the odd Mid-week Open game on Tuesdays. Basically I’m happy to jump in and help out wherever CHA need an umpire! I’m involved with the CHA competitions committee, I act as a liaison between the committee and the umpires committee which I’m also on. I’m also involved with New Zealand Hockey, so for example I’m going to the U18 tournaments in July – I’m a Technical Officer, so often involved in tournaments. The Technical Officer makes sure games are run according to the rules, as well as getting the statistics and information online to let the hockey community know what’s going on. I’m also going to the Hatch Cup in October. So I’m involved on a local and a national level.


How long have you been involved with hockey for?

I come from a family that is hugely involved in hockey. My auntie, Audrey Timlin, has a cup named after her! I’ve been involved in hockey since I was about 5 and used to watch my family play on grass – most Saturdays were spent down at Hospital Corner with my mother, who played for Canterbury, and my sisters who played for Carlton.


Why did you start umpiring?

When I was about 18 I used to do a lot of club supply umpiring, and I had good family friends and family members who were heavily involved in the umpiring community. After that I was teaching down in South Otago when my auntie Audrey told me that there was a tournament down there and I would be umpiring! It was part of the family expectation. After that I moved to Blenheim and helped out with a lot of junior umpiring. When I came back to Christchurch my children were involved in hockey, so I often would jump the fence and umpire their games because there weren’t enough umpires.

Do you still play?

I have stopped playing, I used to play Masters for Avon but stopped 3 or 4 years ago.


What is your most memorable umpiring experience?

Apart from umpiring my very first U18 final which was just magical, the most memorable moment was going to Malaysia as part of the technical team for FIH for the U21s, it was a pre-tournament for their World Cup. It was very exciting going to Malaysia and being New Zealand’s delegate as a Technical Officer was an honour. It was a great time.


Have you travelled quite a bit because of your umpiring?

I have within New Zealand, Malaysia was my only trip outside of New Zealand. I’ve been to countless tournaments now, either as an umpire, a technical official or sometimes both! For example, at the World Masters Games last year I was the assistant Technical Director and umpiring during the same tournament. Last year was a very busy year for me. I went to the Under-21 tournaments where I was a Technical Officer, then I did U18s in Whangarei, then straight to Hatch Cup, and then we had the Masters in Auckland along with the World League final, at which I was a volunteer in North Harbour. It was a big season last year, very exciting!


What advice would you give people who are starting to umpire now?

I would encourage them to seek advice and watch other umpires as much as they possibly can. I think most of my learning happened on the sideline watching how the CPL umpires were managing games. I used to take my son, who started umpiring from Year 9, and we would watch the CPL Men’s games and talk about what was going on.

Has the role of the umpire changed since you started umpiring?

It has in terms of how the game has evolved, umpires have had to adapt. It was a lot slower when I first started umpiring! I like it that the game is quicker because you have to think more quickly, it’s good for the decision-making skills.


What kind of umpire do you think you are?

Players seem to like me because I keep the game going as much as possible, and I give them clear indications about what decisions are for. Players don’t like it if they can’t discuss things with the umpire. Often they say thanks to me after the game and that they understand why decisions were given. You’re a lot better off if you can communicate clearly with the players.


Which skills do you think you’ve developed through your umpiring?

I think it’s mainly decision-making, the ability to read the situation very quickly and work out the best course of action. Also communication and interaction, both with players and with other people in the hockey community.


Do you have aspirations for your umpiring that you haven’t fulfilled yet?

I’d love to go and represent FIH as an official for another tournament overseas. I’ve got my Level 3 Technical award in New Zealand and it would be fantastic go to another International tournament rather than just national.

Thanks very much Lyndsey for your time! If Lyndsey’s experiences have inspired you to find out more about umpiring, contact to discover the opportunities that are open to you.

Our first Umpire of the Week is Rachel Murphy, one of CHA’s Women’s CPL umpires.


We heard that you recently won an award for your umpiring – congratulations! Could you explain what it was for?

It was Hockey New Zealand’s Most Promising Umpire Award, so it’s directed at someone who is not quite at that top level yet but is building up to that. I was really excited to be awarded it as it’s quite an honour, it’s nice to feel as though you’re getting towards where you want to be and people have faith in you.


What was the awards ceremony like?

It was held in Auckland at a huge hotel, so we were flown up there and put up for the night by Hockey New Zealand. We had a nice dinner with great food and there was a Commonwealth Games celebration, so there were several big names in New Zealand hockey, both past and present. It was cool to be in amongst them all. It was a really formal occasion, everyone was dressed very smartly.


Have you won awards for your umpiring before?

This was my first time winning a national award but I’ve won a couple in Canterbury when I was coming through the grades. I also won a Most Improved Senior Umpire 2 seasons ago, and Best U18 Umpire I’ve won too.


When did you start umpiring?

I was 11 when I started, so this is my 14th season!


What was it that made you start umpiring?

I had played for 2 or 3 seasons and my sister had started playing too. My dad would umpire her games and my mum was coaching, and and one day I asked to help umpire. For the first game my dad ran behind me for the first half and left me on my own for the second half. I still remember it – I was on Nunweek 1, right up the far end!


 So how did you progress from there all the way up to CPL?

I umpired my sister’s team that season in what would now be Mini Sticks, then after that I started umpiring Kiwi Sticks, which was then Super 8s. We got lots of feedback for those games, which helped me progress a lot. The season after that I started umpiring 11 a side at Porritt Park, which was my first time umpiring full sized games with full rules. I umpired there for 4 seasons and after the 2nd I was sent away to the U13 B tournament that my sister was playing in for Canterbury. We went to Rotorua for that, it was my first tournament experience and I still remember it pretty well. For the two years after that I went to Collier, which was my first big national tournament, and then I progressed up the grades a few years later. I spent a while doing some Youth grades, Div 3 and Div 2, and then I was umpiring just Div 1 for quite a while. My first Premier League game was in 2012 and there was a black sticks player playing! I remember that I was really nervous but it went ok.


What do you think are the challenges involved with stepping up through the grades?

Being young, the players are all older than you which is quite intimidating! I was scared that the players would know more than I did and I wouldn’t be able to back myself, but that didn’t happen in reality. Once you get into it it’s actually fine, especially if you’ve got a supportive umpire on the other side of the field.


What’s been the most memorable game that you’ve umpired?

The only test match I’ve ever done was very memorable, it was in October last year, Australia v Papua New Guinea in Sydney. It was intense standing there whilst they were singing the national anthems! The score was 22-0 so it was a crazy game and very hard to umpire as it was one of the best teams in the world against a team that would probably be in Div 2 in Canterbury. It was a fantastic experience and I’ll never forget my first test match.


Have you umpired any other international tournament or games?

I umpired at the Oceania Cup, which was 11-a-side and three teams competed in it: Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Alongside that tournament was the Oceania Hockey 5s, which was Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. They played 5 a side, which is a different beast entirely! The island nations had hardly played at all – some of them had never seen a turf before and had hockey sticks they’d carved out of trees! They had equipment donated to them by the clubs and associations but in the first game nobody knew the rules and we more or less had to coach them. You can score from anywhere and the ball doesn’t go out of play, even over the baseline. It was really cool to be a part of it because it was so different to any hockey experience I’d had before. That was part of the trip to Sydney – apart from that I haven’t done any other internationals yet. I was the reserve for NZ v USA in the first test matches out at Rangiora last year.


How do you find balancing your umpiring and playing commitments?

As I play CPL it is hard, as I’m running from one turf to the other on Saturdays and have to be organized to make sure I’ve got everything I need with me. I make it work though – I like to be busy! For at least 4 seasons now I’ve played and umpired on the same day, so you get used to it.


What advice would you give to umpires who are just starting to get into the game?

Stick with it and don’t let people on the sidelines put you off umpiring! Everyone has had those games where you wonder why you do it – perhaps you’ve been criticized or made some mistakes. You can’t let those experiences stop you because it actually gets easier as you go up the grades. It’s so rewarding once you get to the top; if you can get through the couple of years where you’re learning you can start going to tournaments which are amazing, and you make friends all over the country. There’s a real ‘hockey family’ at the top level which consists of all the umpires and technical officials, so it’s great when you go to tournaments and all get to see each other. Don’t let people early on stop you from having that experience. As you learn to understand hockey you learn that they are just frustrated and hardly ever mean what they say.


Were there people you looked up to when you were climbing up the levels?

Karen Bennett always pulled me up through those levels. I remember before I went to Collier the second time, she said to me “you’re going to go, and you’re going to nail it!” So I went and ended up getting to umpire the final and everything went really well – I went back to her and said “I nailed it!” She’s always been there right from the primary grades, she was there for my first U18s tournament as the Umpires’ Manager and she always gives lots of feedback to help me develop even now. She’s the main one but there are others too, lots of different people mentored me as I was coming through the grades – Mandy Watts and Lyndsey Jones helped me a lot in those early days.


What are your aspirations with your umpiring?

I really want to make it to the NHL panel, that’s probably the next big step. I have to wait for there to be space there! I’d love to get my international badge and do a few more international appointments too.


Thanks very much Rachel for your time! If Rachel’s experiences have inspired you to find out more about umpiring, contact to discover the opportunities that are open to you.