8th February 2018: On International Women’s day when we have joined with the FIH to #PressforProgress It was our pleasure to speak to Yolande Brada, Project Manager for the National Olympic Committee of the Netherlands’ campaign on Female Umpiring/Refereeing for 7 national sports federations. KNHB (Hockey), KNVB (football/soccer), Nevobo (volleyball), NBB (basketbal), KNZB (swimming, but in this specific situation waterpolo), KNKV (korfball) and NHV (handball)

Yolande, a former Grade 1 umpire and now a World Panel Umpires Manager was invited to take on this role. Yolande started her international umpiring career in Largs, Scotland in 1987 and after she retired she took on the role of Umpires Manager.

We asked her why she took up this challenge “My passion is to bring younger women into umpiring and refereeing.”  She added that it is her experience as an Umpires Manager that has been of huge benefit in this project “It’s interesting as an Umpires Manager when you work with a group of women who often have different life experiences, different cultural backgrounds but the goal is always to bring together this group of different women and get them working to the end goal of being the best team of umpires that they can be. I often find that the women have not be encouraged enough to develop and that there can be a real lack of attention to the women. It’s important to have a platform like International Women’s Day to really focus on women.” 

“All sports tend to have the same core values so we use that culture of sport in this project, we focus on organizational skills and developing independent thinking and skills. The 7 sports have their own culture and I have been listening to how they manage to encourage women. I must say that in The Netherlands in hockey the other sports are listening to how we have an umpiring license for all players over 14. This is really something that could be transferred into the other sports.”

We asked her about those different cultures work, she advised that the other sports tend to be gender specific, like hockey, when it comes to international games (i.e. men umpire / referee men and women officiate on women’s games). “However I’m delighted that in many of the sports in this project we have female role models who umpire men’s games, on occasion at the highest level.”

When asked what are the obstacles that women face in umpiring she said “Studies have shown that there are several obstacles that hinder women to get to the top. The most important one is that women doubt their talents. That is not only within the sport!  When umpires here in the Netherlands start to umpire, between the age of 14-18, girls are most vulnerable. They suffer from intimidation of spectators and are more sensitive to the comments on their decisions. It is my opinion that women need to learn to be mentally stronger. We need specific mentoring before and during matches to give women the tools to get mentally stronger.”

Yolande is convinced that fun should be a motivation. She said, “It is a well-known fact that when people are good, feel happy they will continue to be.”  Talking from her own experience she realized that as a goalkeeper she was not good enough to reach the top but she could do, and did, as an umpire. “Of course,” she said “I had my doubts but I worked hard on my mental strengths.” She has noticed that women prefer to play rather than umpire, due often to the social aspects and this is something that they must learn, that umpiring can be fun and that there is a community and social side too.

Finally, we asked her if she is enjoying the project which started in February “Oh yes of course, my heart is truly committed to it. It’s a wonderful new challenge to take my learnings from hockey and bring them into other sports.” 

Football/soccer, volleyball, hockey, basketball, handball, korfball, waterpolo hope to welcome a hundred, new female national umpires at the end of this year. Strong on the point of equality Yolande concluded “There are federations who have more female than male member/players. It is time that this percentage is reflected in the group of umpires.”

We asked Marijke Fleuren, EHF President to sum up Yolande for us “In Yolande Brada the Olympic Committee of the Netherlands has the perfect Project Manager to ensure the continuing development of women in umpiring/refereeing across these important sports. Yolande is one of the most passionate, experienced and professional Umpire Managers in Europe. I am very happy that a woman with her wealth of knowledge of managing groups umpires and having umpired at the highest level is sharing that knowledge with other sports.”

Photo credit: Koen Suyk (c)