Top Tips for Umpiring

Much like the show, the hockey match can’t go on without its true stars - the umpires. 

We all know a good umpire can make or break a match. Their primary role is to facilitate a fun and safe game. But we all know it’s not an easy feat. And as players, it’s fairly easy to get overly competitive and give an umpire a lot of chat about decisions we don’t agree with. And unfortunately, at London League standard, we don’t have a VAR. So yes, umpiring is hard. 

Some of us like the challenge - we relish the opportunity to tell people what to do, to show off our knowledge of the rules of hockey, and to contribute to the club. Some of us find it intimidating. But no one umpires wanting to scold at adults and send them off (we hope!). We're all here to have fun, so as your friendly THD elves, we’re here to help with our top ten tips to win at umpiring.


  1. Blow your whistle firmly and loudly
    1. Seriously, it should be a lot louder than you’d think. A loud whistle indicates a confident umpire. It lets the players know you know what you’re doing (even if you don’t). 
  2. Much like playing, it’s all about positioning. Some tips…  
    1. Keep to the right of the ball 
    2. Don’t go further upfield than the other 23 
    3. Get into your D well ahead of the ball arriving there if possible (so you can see play develop from vantage point ahead of it) 
    4. Get all the way across to left post if needed when action is in your D 
    5. Video examples here of positioning and movement 
  3. Blow what you see. If you’re not sure, look to your colleague. If the players challenge it, smile and explain that you can only call what you see. 
    1. Here are some helpful turns of phrase (always starting with a smile):
    2. "I understand... but what I saw was [the offense]
    3. “Sorry, I saw [the offense]”
    4. “I'm hear you, but I'm sorry, if I didn’t see it I can’t call it”
  4. Work with your fellow umpire. Stop time and confer with the other umpire 
    1. If you’re unsure about a call, look to your colleague who should indicate what they have seen. If neither of you are sure or it is contentious, stop the time and confer. 
    2. When you are agreed, explain to the players what the decision was and restart time. 
  5. If you think it’s dangerous - it’s dangerous 
    1. There is no definition in the rules of what is “dangerous” beyond “a ball that causes legitimate evasive action by players”. Due to the word legitimate, umpires have to judge the danger based on the skill levels of the defenders and the shot’s speed, trajectory and distances involved.
    2. Can a shot at goal be dangerous? Yes. 
  6. Use the captains to give warnings to the teams 
    1. If there is any recurring or unsafe behaviours stop the game, call the captains in, and tell them to warn their team to change their behaviour. 
    2. If it continues, don’t be afraid to use your cards. 
  7. Don’t be afraid to give a card, but don't throw them about
    1. Green = 2 minutes - green cards are used more commonly these days to help players enjoy the game. They're not seen as punishment as much as controlling the game. If one green card eliminates shouting for rest of game (which it will) the general niggle level will be lower.
    2. Yellow = minimum of 5 minutes - yellow cards are more serious and should be used when there is intentional dangerous play. 
    3. Red = until the end of the match - red cards are, of course, the most serious and come with a minimum 2 week ban and a lot of paper work. We should use them considerately but it is worth noting as a club we have instructed all our umpires that they should award an immediate red card to anyone who swears at them, calls them a cheat or is physically or verbally aggressive to them. And we have instructed any umpire who feels intimidated by the behaviour of a player or team to immediately 'down tools', ie walk away mid-match. In any such case THD will subsequently push for the maximum level of redress against the players or team concerned with their club and/or London disciplinary authorities.
    4. A personal penalty may be awarded in addition to the appropriate penalty
  8. Communicate loudly and clearly. 
    1. If you’re giving an advantage SHOUT “advantage, play on”
    2. If you ask players to go 5 and they don’t, ask again and use your whistle.  
  9. Don’t take bad chat. From players, coaches or spectators. 
    1. The rules are clear, it’s completely unacceptable for any player, sub or coach to abuse, seek to intimidate, make snarky comments or otherwise disrespect or dissent with an umpire. 
    2. Do not wait to address low-level/ annoying comments being passed your way or vociferously appealing etc. Warn the players the first time or two (“Guys, no more please”) then enlist colleague’s help as above. Stamping on it early in the game is far better than trying to rein it in later.
  10. Have fun! 



Take the free online rules test from England Hockey 

Here are the rules themselves (PDF download and/or an app): FIH Rules 2019


Umpire qualifications/ training: 

It is not necessary to get any qualification before umpiring a THD game. Feeling confident enough to do it is much more important. If you want to do a course either before or later the process is: 

● Do the online rules test (same one as above) 

● Book an online ‘Level 1’ umpiring course (2 hrs, you pay £30 which club will reimburse if you then umpire 3 games): 

● After doing this course you will be “Level 1 Unassessed” qualified 

● THD will arrange for an umpire assessor to watch you umpiring a game when you feel ready. Upon passing that you will be “Level 1 Assessed” qualified. 


Any questions: ask Jim Dickson (umpire coordinator),