The first weekend in November saw the U4E exchange in ‘Sunny’ Scotland.

All participants umpired top national league matches with Usman Mani umpiring Kelburne V Aberdeen at the Glasgow national hockey centre (GNHC). on Sunday, the Scottish Cup 3rd round tie between Wildcats & Watsonians Manis’ observations

He is delighted to be a part of the group saying I would like to start by thanking EHF, Scottish hockey, Norwegian Bandy Forbundet, Eileen, Monty, Fraser, Christina, Mihaela and all the umpires that have been so helpful and provided me with knowledge, friendship and trust throughout the course of this program. I feel honored to have met you guys!

I would especially like to thank John Heron for the support and help that I have received. John’s mentoring skills were exactly what I needed to improve. His way of conveying accurate improving points, his way of conveying a message and his ability to be straightforward has transformed me from being a moderate umpire to become a good umpire

The U4E program is a great addition to international hockey as young umpires meet experienced and often international umpires with a lot of elite games under their belt. I have been raised while looking at a tiny picture of Hockey as a separated sport in Norway that was neither welcome or organized. With time, this has changed. Seeing the environment in Breda showed me a bigger, picture of what hockey actually is about! The amount of experience that I could extract from my two stays in Breda and Glasgow equals the experience I have gained from umpiring for the last 10 years in Norway.”

Luka Zupanchc, umpired Wildcats Wildcats v Uddingston, a Saturday 8 goal thriller. On Sunday Scottish Cup 3rd round tie, Stepps V Edinburgh Uni at the GNHC. Luka said,

We asked him about the exchange “For me the exchange weekend in Scotland was all about opportunities and gaining as much experience as possible. First of all having the possibility to umpire in Scotland, meet and umpire with new colleagues, work with mentors after the games, learn from the colleagues and mentors, spend a nice, educational and unforgettable weekend with the U4E group and furthermore make many new friends and renew the old ones. A big thank’s again to John, EHF, Scottish Hockey and all the people involved in giving their best to make that exchange weekend happen and such a great event.”

Russell Donaldson added: “I have now completed my second U4E exchange in November 2018, having been invited by mentor John to spend a weekend umpiring in Scotland. On Saturday, in a very wet Glasgow, I umpired a Division 1 game between Clydesdale and Watsonians with my good friend Ali Munro. That’s one of the nicest things about the U4E exchange – being able to go to an unfamiliar setting and umpire with someone you already know well. On Sunday, I headed to Glasgow Green (location of the 2014 Commonwealth Games) to umpire a tie in the Scottish Cup between two of Scotland’s top sides – Kelburne and Grove Menzieshill – with Richard Oakenfull. It was an exciting, intense game of hockey, with Grove coming back from 3-0 down to win 4-3. For me, the exchange is the most useful part of the U4E programme. Not many people get the chance to umpire in a league other than their own so, whilst going from Ireland to Scotland is a little like home from home for me, it’s a nice challenge to umpire different styles of hockey in another league and to officiate with different people. I think the biggest benefit of the exchange is the focus on getting feedback during the weekend from experienced mentors who have watched your games. I found their perspective very useful, and being able to sit down and talk through a game away from the side of the pitch has given me plenty of things to work on when I’m umpiring back at home. I really enjoyed my exchange weekend in Glasgow, and hopefully, I’ll get to see many of the people I met again in the not too distant future.”

Cristina Perez Martel, who umpired Watsonians V Clydesdale Western and Eskine Stewarts Melville FP V Edinburgh HC said “First of all, I would like to thank the Spanish hockey federation to allow to participate in this adventure. Having a great mentor and incredible teammates, but I have also lived and am living an intense experience and the new experience that I have gained, I hope will always endure in me. I have been able to sense how they work in Scotland, how they support the umpires there, the willingness to continue growing, the enthusiasm that they put to everything when we have been with, the whole team. All this without asking for anything in return, just that we were comfortable and happy. I hope to keep going in this program to learn to be a better umpire and person. Millions of thanks for collaborating with us and for making us fulfil our dream step by step.”

And finally Miheala Dimitrova who umpired Grove Menzieshill V Edinburgh Uni, and Eskine Stewarts Melville FP V Edinburgh HC.  Miheala’s commented:  “My exchange weekend in Scotland? Wow, such a blast! All the way from Glasgow to Edinburgh and even Dundee. It was all perfectly coordinated! The feeling of so many of the hockey family motivated by the love of hockey was amazing! They supported and coached us and we all had a great fun together. I had the chance to umpire with one of the best women umpires in the world, such a role model… also meeting UMs of highest level who were there for us, to share their experience with us and again, have fun together!”

She added: “Such an exchange is so valuable and not only from a hockey perspective, I have met people from different areas, with different professions and they opened and shared hockey and personal experience, which definitely has helped me see from different perspectives! I had Jean Duncan as a coach on both if my games and left Scotland with very detailed feedback that I will use for my future improvement and my Mentor, John- I can not wait to send him my next Tournament report and make him see that all of his efforts were not useless. Big thanks to everybody involved for making this Exchange weekend happening and looking forward to meeting you again! 

John Heron, mentor for the group, wished to convey his thanks to Scottish Hockey, Ged Curran, Jean Duncan, Aileen Ross, Martin Monaghan, Alex Fedenczek, Fraser Bell, Richard Oakenful, Jamie Telfer, Greig Cunningham, Sarah Wilson Ali Munro and Caroline Ellice who have helped to make this happen 

Featured photo: Miheala Dimitrova umpires with Sarah Wilson under Jean Duncan’s  (centre) watchful eye.