Hockey is more than a mere sport for Tanya van Niekerk, Craig Pedersen and Shaun Elliott. For the three athletes, it is a passion and a way of life.
Recently, the three hockey enthusiasts were selected to umpire at the Inter Provincial Hockey Tournament. The tournament will be taking place from the end of June to the beginning of July, at Martizburg College.
Craig will umpire at the U/18 boys IPT division, while Tanya will be umpire manager. This will be followed with Craig and Shaun umpiring at the U/16 IPT on July 6.
With the three Newcastillians preparing to head out to umpire a major hockey tournament, what does this excursion mean to them?
“It really helps hockey development. Especially in terms of how to interpret hockey rules,” says Craig. Furthermore, he explains it is the ideal way to see youth from various schools in action and the potential they carry.
But, while the three are set to carry out their duties, they are bracing themselves for obstacles which may come their way.
“I started umpiring in high school when I was 14-years-old. With umpiring you need a real passion for the sport, as you are not always the most popular person on the field,” says Craig.
Tanya explains that while she does not umpire as much as she used to, she agrees with Craig fully. “I have gone more to managing now, but we are currently trying to build up umpiring in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. There are not as many umpires from our area anymore, because of umpire abuse.”
Tanya explains a lot of spectators spew out abuse to umpires on a regular basis. “This needs to stop, as we do not vent our frustrations on the children. It is unnecessary to take out your frustrations on the umpire.”
Yet, despite the abuse on umpires, the trio are passionate about hockey. “When Shaun was in Grade 7 at St Dominics Newcastle, he showed immense responsibility. He would often help warm the other players up and assist in training them. He is extremely responsible and has a presence on the field,” Tanya says.
With Craig having grown up in front of Tanya, she says very few hockey players can get away with anything under his watchful eye. “I remember he used to be rather naughty, so he knows all the tricks and this is also why he is so strict.”
With the IPT set to take place in a matter of weeks, the trio are set to ensure the art of umpiring is perfected and local hockey players benefit from their experience.