5 Tips for effectively using a communication system from field hockey umpire Benjamin Göntgen


 When I started to umpire in the hockey Bundesliga in Germany, the umpires were far away from using headsets. To umpire international games was a great opportunity and experience how it will be to be connected with your colleague with a headset system during the game. If you had it once, you will never miss it again. Of course, a headset system doesn’t make a better umpire but it will help you to umpire as a team. Today I can say, it is no longer conceivable that we umpire without headset in the Bundesliga or international matches (especially when you have a video umpire, you have to communicate with him/her).

To all young umpires: Learn umpiring in the old fashion way without headset. It will give you a feeling about communication with eye contact between you and your colleague and a non-verbal teamwork. These are your basic umpire tools you will need in the future. If you master the basics you can start to learn and how to deal with the fantastic extra umpire tool: HEADSET!


In this blog I will try to give you some tips and trick for using a communication system in an efficient and effective way, improving your performance during the game.

1. Less is more

First of all, using radios is not making a phone call. Less is more. Be focused when and what you say. If you talk all the time, your colleague can be disturbed.


2. Make quick decisions


Be aware of what you’re saying. Use easy words or short information. Don’t tell a story. Players want to have a quick decision, our sport needs a quick decision.
So take your time during the pre-match talk and discuss, what kind of information you need and want to give to your colleague and in which situation it’s necessary to talk.


3. Coaching


Especially for an umpire team which consists of an experienced and inexperienced: the experienced umpire can coach and help with using the radios. But again: don’t overpower someone. Talk with your colleague before the match starts, if he/she wants coaching during the game. Sometimes it can influence your performance. You can lose the focus while listening to your colleague. But it can be helpful if you get tips during the game, how you can manage players/situations better, so that you don’t lose the control of the game.


4. Headsets not make you a better umpire


Keep in your mind: having a radio doesn’t mean you’re a better umpire before using a radio or without one. It’s another tool, which will help you to cooperate with your colleague as a team. You’re still the same person with one more tool to umpire a game. Use it wisely – don’t show off.


5. Sell the right decision


Don’t forget the basics. Whistle tone, whistle timing, body language, big signals. It’s only your colleague who can hear you over the radio. No player, no coach, no spectator crowd – but they are the important people to understand, what you’re doing. Using a radio will help you to get the right decision quickly with you umpire colleague – but to sell the right decision to all the others you need the basic stuff.