Shweta Patil, from right winger to state’s only international woman umpire
Pune: Officiating the sport that she loves overpowered her desire to play it. Meet 26-year-old international women umpire Shweta Patil, who shifted her focus from holding the stick to manage the game at 24.
The Kolhapur girl, introduced to hockey as a goalkeeper, played as a forward right before choosing to become an umpire.
“I was 21-year old when I first got the opportunity to do umpiring in Pune. It was the state junior hockey championship 2014. I started liking the responsibility and developed an interest to excel,” said Shweta, who has accompanied the Kolhapur team playing the state senior women’s championship at Shiv Chhatrapati sports complex in Balewadi.
According to Shweta, interested candidates are given a chance to officiate in local and district tournaments and their performance is judged by umpiring managers present at the event. The state association recommends promising candidates to Hockey India who conducts umpire/official technical test and trains those who clear the test.
Shweta officiated junior and senior matches in the state, besides completing the Hockey India umpire course in 2016.
“Learning the basic steps of umpiring was hard, but Sagar Jadhav sir always encouraged me. Other state umpires also helped me a lot,” she said.
First big break
Shweta was 24 when she got her first opportunity to officiate in Australia Hockey League in Perth.
“I was nervous, but my co-umpire, who had 24 years of experience, guided me and boosted my confidence. I started to enjoying my work,” she said.
Adept at umpiring, Shweta worked hard to be conversant in English.
“Being from Marathi medium, it was tough. I read books and even joined English classes that I had to later discontinue. Speaking English at Hockey India’s umpiring course helped me. Now the language is not a barrier,” said Shweta, who aims to officiate in 2024 Olympics, Paris.
According to Shweta, talented women players in the state have to discontinue playing hockey at the senior level because of less job opportunity.
“I have seen many girls drop out as pursuing the sport does not guarantee jobs. The government should create more job for girls to take up hockey,” she said.
Quote: Shweta Patil, International Hockey Federation umpire
“It is one versus 22. So, you are at pressure as every decision makes a lot of difference. An umpire needs to be calm and focussed while officiating a match.”
2019: 4 nation junior hockey women championship, Dublin, Ireland
2018: India vs France Test series, Lucknow
2018: Asian Youth Olympic Qualifiers, Thailand
2017: Australian Hockey League, Perth
2017: India vs Belarus Test series, Bhopal
Domestic tournaments: 25 plus
Age when started umpiring: 21