We are currently accepting applications for the Umpiring Pathway and the U4E programme. What is the Pathway? Started last year, it links our Umpire Development Programme (UDP) with our Umpires 4 Europe (U4E) initiative, therefore creating a streamlined path for umpires to follow in their Education. Selection for UDP is done in what is traditionally U4E’s big weekend event of the year, the Breda Push Trophy, this year taking place on 25th-27th August. Applications for the pathway are due April 28th!

To give you a bit more insight into the Pathway and how it can work, we asked Hristiyan Vasilev (BUL) a U4E veteran who is now a member of UDP Group 11 to tell us more about how the programme worked for him and how it can help other umpires be the best they can be!

Hristiyan Vasilev

When did you first enter the U4E programme?

I joined the Umpires 4 Europe in its second year in 2014. The first year of U4E was a success, and I applied for it since it was a huge chance to further develop my skills as an umpire.

The U4E  programme works by pairing umpires with a specific mentor, who follows their progress and coaches them throughout the Breda weekend and all the webinars. Who was your mentor and how did this work for you? 

My mentor in the U4E programme was JF Stappaerts from Belgium. I would like to thank him for the support during my 3 years in the Umpires 4 Europe. It was a great pleasure to learn from someone as experienced, passionate and dedicated to hockey as he is. It was exciting to be part of his group and I am grateful for all the great advice, coaching and help that he offered  me and everyone in my U4E group. In addition to that, I would like to thank (other mentors) Tamas Hermann, John Heron, Tom Goode,Belen Gonzales, Pierre-Philippe van Besien and Mirjam Wessel, who all took time out of their busy schedule to help us all grow together.

Furthermore, all of this would not even be possible without Paul Box-Grainger, whose efforts in making this program a reality, has created many excellent umpires all over Europe.

The most important part of the U4E programme is the Breda weekend, a full weekend of umpiring. You attended the Breda weekend several times, how would you describe it? Is the atmosphere conducive to learning?

The atmosphere is amazing. During the practical weekend each of us had the opportunity to umpire the best young players from The Netherlands and Belgium. I learnt a great deal there every year, and each of us left the weekend with the confidence, that he/she is indeed a better umpire. Also, it was a pleasure to make so many friends for life from all over Europe.

How does interaction with all the other umpires in Breda add to the experience? 

It is great to learn from so many people at the same time. It was amazing to see that each umpire had something unique,which made them excellent. Also, working together with some many people, helps you learn a great deal, as everyone has a different approach and you can learn lessons from one another.

How did the U4E programme as a whole help you grow and improve as an umpire?

I had so much more opportunities to learn and improve. U4E is not only the weekend in Breda, but it’s the support that was present during the whole year, in the form of webinars, exchange weekends and discussions on our Facebook group.

Speaking of webinars, tell us more about this aspect of  the programme. Did you find them a useful tool? Was there any particular webinar that had you’d like to highlight?

It is a great idea! On the webinars we had the chance to share knowledge with one of the best umpires and umpire managers in Europe. It was very helpful, to hear how they started their careers and how they managed to get to Olympic level. The webinar that had a real strong effect on me was with Laurine Delforge. It was, inspiring to see someone as young as she is, being so excellent.

EHF Education has several initiatives to help umpires (and officials) get the support and guidance that may not always be available in their home countries. Tell us about your experience with any other EHF educational events or programmes you have taken part in and what that was like for you.

My experience with the EHF Education programmes has helped me a great deal in my umpiring career. I learned so much not only from the U4E programme, but from thelocal seminars organized by the Supporing National Growth (SNG) tier. In addition to that, I  had the chance to share all of the things I learned from the EHF programmes in my home country, with the local umpires there.

After all your hard work, there’s more to come! You are now in UDP Group 11, what does this mean for you and what does the future hold? 

First of all, I am very happy to be part of UDP group 11. I can imagine how hard the selection process was for that, since all the umpires in Breda were very good.

In addition to that, I  take it as a huge opportunity to continue learning and continue growing. It will be a great pleasure to learn from Jean Duncan and Marc Knulle, who are the mentors of group 11.

Would you recommend the U4E programme to other umpires? What would you say to them?

Definitely. Whether you are from a big hockey nation or a small one, we all learn from one another and the U4E gives us this opportunity. If you enjoy and are passionate about umpiring, then this programme is the perfect fit for you. I would recommend for everyone to apply, since this might be the beginning  of an amazing journey.