Cobalt Sport

Umpire Mark Windsor all set for new hockey season

Gloucester > Sport > Hockey

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Thursday, 22nd August 2019, 09:00

Mark Windsor Mark Windsor

Mark Windsor will be digging out his sat-nav again over the next few days in readiness for the new hockey season.

The league season gets under way in September and Windsor, an umpire, is sure to be in big demand in the 2019/20 season.

The 57-year-old, a member of the Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Hockey Umpiring Association, – or HGWHUA for short – has umpired at national league level in the past but these days operates in the Men’s West Premier Division.

That still means many miles on the clock, however, because as he says: "I can be umpiring in Cirencester or Cheltenham one week, or Swansea or Plymouth the next."

Windsor, who lives in Gloucester, qualified as a national umpire in 2002 and operated at that level for a couple of years before concentrating on the West Division.

And that is still a very good level of hockey of course, a level that requires matches to be managed.

"I umpire every Saturday," said Windsor. "It's programmed well in advance, you get about a month's notice. There are additional matches for which we get asked on an ad hoc basis.”

And Windsor, who is treasurer of HGWHUA and a former goalkeeper back in the day, certainly does it for the love of the sport.

"It's all done on a shoestring, there's no payment," he said, "although we do get a mileage allowance."

He also gets a partner on the pitch because these days there are two umpires per match, essentially one for each half.

"The games are played at such speed and the pitches are so big, 90 metres by around 55 metres," explained Windsor. "An umpire can't be in two places at once and we are linked by radio mikes. It's a modern innovation that was brought in five or six years ago."

Windsor said that you are not given the same partner each week, in fact it may be six months before you team up with the same person again.

"They want to ensure that we stay fresh, don't get into bad habits," explained Windsor.

Windsor has been an umpire for 27 years and he admits that he enjoys umpiring more than he did playing.

"I was a goalkeeper back home in Rugby," he said. "I joined the air force when I was 16 and played for their under-21s.

"But I've umpired at a far higher standard than I've ever played. I umpired on an RAF tour to Malaysia and Singapore in 2015."

He also umpired for three years in the US when he was based in Washington DC – he still serves in the RAF – before moving to Gloucester close on 30 years ago.

He played a couple of seasons in Gloucester Hockey Club’s 4ths before he got the umpiring bug. And it's a 'bug' that he wishes more ex-hockey players would get.

"Yes, there is a shortage of umpires," he admitted. "Artificial pitches and the introduction of Masters and Vets hockey means players are playing much longer.

"They'd have stopped playing at a much earlier age a few years ago and some of them would have gone into umpiring.

"It will get to the stage where neutral appointments grind to a halt and we'll go back to the early 70s where umpires are club based."

Windsor is a big supporter of the HGWHUA – "It provides a pathway to umpires who want to step up a level," he said – and is grateful for all the help he has received over the years.

So what makes a good umpire?

"Good umpiring is about man management," he said. "If you come across as stroppy, your umpiring will come out that way.

"You have to have an empathy for what the players are trying to do."

Windsor, who remains very fit even though he is deep into his sixth decade – "I'm as fit as a butcher's dog for my age," he said – admits that umpiring has nonetheless got more difficult as the years have gone by.

"Players’ expectations are much higher today," he said. "The behaviour on the pitch isn't always as good as it once was.

"I think that is a reflection of society in general but certainly players can be more aggressive now than they used to be."

That's something that obviously disappoints Windsor – "I want to enjoy my game," he said – so how long does he plan to continue umpiring?

"I'll be 60 in three years' time," he said. "I think that will be me done at Premier League."

And when he does finish, his fervent hope is that there will still be significant numbers wanting to be part of the Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Hockey Umpiring Association, an organisation that gives so much to the sport.

Anyone wishing to know more about the HGWHUA can call Windsor on 01452 538926 or go to www.hgwhua.co.uk

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