Behind every sport there is a group of dedicated volunteers whose efforts make it possible for the players to do what they do.
It is a fact Rotorua Hockey members are well aware of and this weekend they are acknowledging the tireless work of their junior umpires by treating them to a trip to Auckland to watch two international women's hockey games.
The association has 21 junior umpires who, between them, took charge of about 400 primary, intermediate, secondary school and senior hockey games during this year's winter season. While four cannot make it, the other 17 will watch the Black Sticks play Korea and USA play Netherlands at Harbour Hockey Stadium today.Rotorua Hockey division co-ordinator Fiona MacGregor said it was important to acknowledge the efforts of the umpires.
"Often it's the players or the winning teams that get singled out or looked at - the umpires cop a lot of flak and seem to get overlooked. So, we thought we'd look after them and to acknowledge the time and effort they put in we'd take them to these Hockey World League games. The stadium is sold out - it's a pretty massive event.
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"They are a great group of committed and passionate young kids and they have fantastic futures ahead of them. It's a really good opportunity for them to see some top level hockey and have some fun," MacGregor said.
She said umpires were arguably the most crucial component of any hockey game.
"Without an umpire your game cannot start - it's simple. We have two umpires per game and without them it won't happen. Basically, the way they are treated and looked after determines their future in the sport, without them we don't have a competition. It's applicable to all codes - it's vital they are acknowledged for the effort they put in."
She said attributes that umpires needed, and which Rotorua's junior umpires all had in spades, included strength of character, assertiveness, patience, the ability to read the game, commitment and dedication.
"We see them as a team - a vital team. They have to be able to ignore comments from players and the sidelines and not be reactive. This group are all generous people who love their sport and want to give back to their sport."