Ivona Makar was part of the second group of the Umpires Development Programme (UDP). This program targets talented young umpires to guide, support and encourage their progress through their umpiring careers. Ivona was one of the umpires at the Second Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, decidedly one of the most important appointments of her career so far. Here she has sent us a report on her experience, her thoughts on Hockey5s, and hockey in China.

Second Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China – an Umpire’s view

It has been more than a week since I have returned back home from the Youth Olympic Games held in Nanjing, China during August and the enthusiasm from this remarkable event is still in ‘the air’.

The day when I  received the appointment for this great and unique event was also  the starting point of long and thorough preparation period. The most important factor in this tournament was the completely new format (Hockey5s) taking center stage at such a high profile event for the first time. There were many questions surrounding this decision and what to expect, as most of the officials, umpires and players had not truly encountered this format before.

To me, Hockey5s is a very fast, exciting and high-entertaining game of hockey in which every minute of a game is very important because there is always a high possibility for a turnover. This game format brings out the very best skills of each player and in my opinion the players have more opportunities to show off their skills than in a ‘regular’ game of hockey. Also, Hockey5s is a great development tool, as it encourages the young players to work on both their defensive and their attack skills on a very high level; as the separation between defense and offence is not as distinct as when playing 11-a-side hockey. One area for improvement, in spite of all the great facets of Hockey5s, is the timing. Currently there are 3 periods, where two halves would be more suitable to the flow of the game.

From an umpire’s perspective the most important thing at the beginning was to remember that a goal may be scored from anywhere within the pitch and that the ball rarely goes out of bounds. This means that there are hardly any breaks in the game, and this means being alert and expecting the unexpected at every turn. This mean it became very important to adjust my game and management plan to this format and maintain authority even though it was our first time with this format. We owe our successful performance to some great pre-tournament preparation, and the fact that the whole umpiring team included 9 female umpires, 10 male umpires, two UMs, a TD and the officials all worked very closely prior to the first whistle. This preparation was crucial to the entire team working efficiently and succesfully during the tournament.

Nanjing Officials team

The confirmation of a successful and interesting tournament is always the number of people watching the game and there was no lack of supporters in Nanjing. The stands at the second pitch were often too small and the atmosphere was always amazing. The final day and especially the Final women’s game of the tournament between China and The Netherlands saw a full stadium with local crowds and Dutch supporter cheering loudly for their teams. Here, we saw the very best of Hockey5s which kept everyone all at the edge of our seats until the final whistle with the 4:0 China lead, Dutch turn-over to 4:5 and a great equaliser from China to send the game to a  shoot-out (which China won).

It has been a real privilege to be a part of this great event during which I have met many new people and umpiring colleagues from all over the world. Sharing our hockey and life experiences and being part of a very different Chinese culture for two weeks gave me the chance to learn a lot and to contribute to my umpiring and as well my personal education and development.

Looking forward to new life and hockey challenges!

Source and Photographs: EHF/Ivona Makar