“Fiery” Suzie Gomes, keeping things calm in the middle
By Avenash Ramzan
The Guyana Hockey Board is currently hosting the 14th annual Diamond Mineral Water International Indoor Hockey Festival at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall.
While the Board has been targeting the development of on-field play and Guyana’s progress as a hockey nation, it has also placed strong emphasis on officiating, consistently flying in qualified officials to control the run of play.
This year is no different.
We caught up with the Umpires Manager, who spoke at length about officiating and the direction the sport is heading in Guyana and the Caribbean.
Suzie Gomes is a Trinidad and Tobago national with the experience of 49 years as a player and official.
She has been playing the game since the age of eight, but an injury at age 20 sadly ended her playing career. “Fiery” is how she described her playing style.
Since that abrupt and premature ‘retirement’, Gomes has been dabbling in officiating, moving up from being an International Umpire to now an Umpires Manager for the Pan American area, a prestigious position in the sport.
“I’m supposed to be the Umpires Manager, which is doing the appointments, helping with the appointments, helping coaching the Umpires (but) as you see they still pull me on the court every now and then, but I’m getting old. I really need to just sit and watch now,” the 57-year-old told News Room on Friday.
Just moments earlier, she was running around the court, beating off the mid-morning heat whilst doing duties for a Men’s game.
But while Gomes has created a niche for herself keeping things in check, she is a bit concerned that there hasn’t been a steady flow of new and emerging officials in the sport, or maybe not at the pace at which she would like.
“Unfortunately, people don’t like to umpire and I basically know why; it’s because of the abuse (from players),” Gomes divulged.
“I’m trying to instill into some of the players that you make mistakes when you’re a player; let the umpires make mistakes. Now, I tell my umpires I would always defend them, I would always stand in front of them, nobody would touch them. But when I get them (umpires) in a lil corner, quietly I’m going to let them know ‘you need to step up.”
The challenge, Gomes pointed out, is a reluctance on the part of prospective officials and those already functioning to attend seminars and meetings that are geared to charter the way forward and catapult their growth and development.
“The umpires need to sit together and say ‘listen guys we blowing the drilling, this is how we interpret it, we’re not going to blow the lifted ball.’ You know those are the little examples of it, so if we do not do it before a tournament, what you think is going to happen? I’m going to blow it because I’m familiar with it; another younger umpire is not going to pick it up,” Gomes explained.
She highlighted that such inconsistencies in the calling can quite obviously be an irritant to players.
“Players are going to get frustrated and I do understand, because I was a player and I was very fiery as a player, and that’s why I became an umpire- to show people ‘listen, you want to go out there and play, let me see you carry a whistle as well.”
Gomes is currently attached to the Trinidad and Tobago Hockey Board, training young umpires who have an interest in the sport. It is an area of the sport she is passionate about developing.
A long-standing alliance
Gomes was invited by president of the Guyana Hockey Board Philip Fernandes 14 years ago to umpire in the first-ever Diamond Mineral Water International Indoor Hockey Festival and ever since then, there has been a solid working relationship between the two.
While she is impressed with the standard of the tournament, there is one area that Gomes would tweak.
“It would be nice to have teams out of Europe; you’d see the best of hockey. But I’m going to look at it on the officiating side; we need to being one or two umpires at that level. (Umpires) that would not only do a great game out there, but (local) umpires looking at them would understand how it works.”
Commenting on the issue of Caribbean hockey development, Gomes suggested that an alliance with top coaches in Europe would also do wonders for the sport in this part of the globe.
“While I mean no disrespect or no discredit to our coaches here, I still believe we need to bring in those European coaches or the Oceanic- out of Australia and New Zealand- who seem to have some of the best coaches, in my opinion,” Gomes related.
She added, “I have been to international tournaments and you can see the game, you can see the difference between them and us. And it’s not only about a turf; it’s also about being able to play the game how often we can play it. Remember, all of us have day jobs, we have to work. Some of those players don’t have to work; hockey is working for them.”
Gomes asserted that the efforts of the executives of the Guyana Hockey Board have fuelled a resurgence in the sport, especially on the female side, and she is impressed with the progress made, particularly as it relates to the new talents being unearthed through the Indoor Festival.
“I can see definitely what is happening to Guyana’s hockey now from when I started coming. I played against the Guyana women’s hockey (team) years ago and (then) they disappeared off the face of the earth. It was a treasure to see Guyana’s hockey back into the fray of things, and I’m quite impressed with what is happening, especially in the indoor game for Guyana, who seems to be going leaps and bounds with the game,” Gomes observed.
The rapid rise in young persons gravitating to the game is something that has also impressed the Umpires Manager.
“Definitely that’s a big plus. So you have that transition into the senior hockey. It has really been a joy for me to see where Guyana has reached from 14 years ago to current.”
The Diamond Mineral Water International Indoor Hockey Festival will continue this weekend, ending on Sunday with the category finals.