Umpiring can be a damn lonely vocation.
Let’s face it. No one is cheering for you at the end of the game. There aren’t many of you around, so your training is done in isolation. You watch game video late into the night when the lights are off. You pull out the rule book on your iPhone when you’re waiting at the bus stop, pretending that someone’s texted you. (Ok, that one’s probably just me.)
I’ve learned that officials tend to be awfully shy. Our spotlight, when we are trapped in it, is usually unkind. On the other hand, when we’ve done our job well no one remembers that we were there. So in our off-sport life we keep it quiet. It’s rare to find a blog, a twitter account, a book. After all, there are no sponsorships to chase, no government grants to assist, no autograph seekers at the grocery store – we’re on our own.
I’d been home from my most recent 2-month foray out in the wide world of field hockey for several weeks and I was going a bit stir crazy. Making it worse is that the Olympics were and are growing closer and after having it squarely sighted in my dreamscope for the last 4 years, I didn’t get appointed. It’s kind of a bummer.
Serendipitously, I scored a random lucky invite to the Endzone Experience fundraising dinner component of the Henry Burris All-Star Weekend about a month ago. I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely giddy with excitement at seeing all these Canadian athletes walking around. I was lost in swimming legend and Olympic Chef de Mission Mark Tewksbury’s keynote speech on the importance of mentoring. And I nervously stumbled over my words in a chat with Kaillie Humphries, who kindly shared her thoughts on fighting through adversity and failure with me.
I was positively vibrating with excitement at the end of the night. I couldn’t wait to get to training the next day, I wanted to email every young umpire I knew and listen to their stories and lend some support, and I even wanted to review Rule 13 again on my iPhone (it’s got more sub-clauses than a mall at Christmas time).
I realized at that moment I needed to keep reaching out and find more little connections just like that. Find ways in which I could relate, even in the tiniest shred, to others who were chasing their dreams and on their journeys in sport – even if they were in the role of competitor, rather than a facilitor like me.
I started following more and more Canadian athletes on Twitter, which eventually led me to SportCafé. What a treasure trove of incredible people sharing their thoughts on training, competition, academics, onesies, feminism, being stupid and a cinnamon bun recipe I will never have the carb allowance in my meal plan to eat.
With this post, I walk into the café. As an international field hockey umpire in the top 30 of our sport I train hard, eat with alarming specificity, bore my friends to tears with my daily routine, injure myself doing innocuous things, fail on a regular basis and every so often, bask in the glow of a job well done.
A different voice in this hip joint, for sure, but every café needs an outsider like me to round out the crowd, doesn’t it?