Our Friday Focus today is a blog from Katie Howie, from Scotland who is currently on the EHF’s U4E (Umpires for Europe) programme.

“After a very early start to our Saturday, myself, Richard Muller (GER), Ole Ingwersen (GER) and Greig Cunningham (SCO) met at the airport where Peps (our mentor) picked us up and took us to his house. After a lovely walk around the local area and catching up, Simon Olivier (FRA) joined us alongside John Heron (SCO) and Fred Deneumostier (BEL) for a lovely lunch provided by Peps’ family.

In the afternoon, we went our separate ways to umpire in Belgium’s Saturday youth leagues. I had the pleasure of umpiring with Anne van den Bosch in a girls U19 match which was met with positive feedback from coaches and players. We reconvened back at Peps’ for us to discuss our games, with the boys reporting their matches had also gone well, with good feedback from all three umpire coaches and good learning points for the next day.

We headed to the hotel and were lucky enough to join the UDP group 11 for dinner on Saturday evening. It was great to mix with new umpires and ask of their experience of the UDP program as well create new friends we all hope to meet again at future hockey events.

Sunday again saw us all venture out to umpire in Belgium’s Division 1 league for men and women. Richard was sent to umpire a women’s match with another Belgium umpire while I had the pleasure of umpiring with Simon. The match was a test of our player management and a great learning experience for the future. We then watched Greig and Ole umpire a competitive and feisty men’s match which also tested their management skills.  After, we headed to the airport following a very fun and productive weekend.

As I now come to the end of my two years of the program I can reflect on what a great experience it has been. For me, the best part of the program is meeting other young umpires about to begin their international journey. It’s nerve-wracking enough heading to your first couple of international tournaments, and then to not know anyone when you arrive only adds to these nerves. Thanks to the U4E program I now go to tournaments and know other members of the umpiring team which only adds to my confidence, and in my opinion, improves my umpiring ability. If able to, I would encourage any young aspiring umpires to get involved with the program!

From behalf of my U4E group, we would like to thank John and Fred for their coaching during this trip as well as the Belgium hockey federation for their hosting. Most importantly though we would like to thank our mentor Pierre-Philippe Van Besien for not only hosting us and organising the weekend, but being a fantastic mentor.”

For more information on our U4E programme and how to get involved, click here