In the lead up to the International Women’s Day 2024, a year that marks 100 years of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), we are speaking with women in hockey, who have made major contributions towards the growth of the sport over the past few decades. 

In today’s story, we feature Sarah Wilson, an FIH umpire with over a decade of experience officiating at the top level and the winner of the FIH Umpire of the Year award in 2017, who will also be officiating at her third Olympic Games in Paris 2024!

Sarah’s umpiring career began after a back injury derailed her promising hockey career as a Scottish Under-21 player. Her desire to be involved with the sport led her to say yes, when the club she played for inquired if she would like to umpire for them. She considers herself lucky to have had the support of experienced umpires who mentored her in her early days and helped her reach the top of her field. 

As a player, Sarah grew up idolizing Dutch star Miek van Geenhuizen, because of her mesmerizing skills on the pitch. However it was South African umpire Michelle Joubert, Sarah looked up to, once she started umpiring. Michelle had a storied career as an umpire herself and recently hung up her whistle after the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021, but not before Sarah had the opportunity to work with her multiple times across Olympic Games and World Cups, and become good friends!

Speaking about the support system she has had throughout her career, Sarah mentions the unwavering support from her family and her friends. “I have been very lucky to have an incredibly supportive family. They have always supported me in all avenues of my life. I have sacrificed a lot throughout my playing and umpiring years but my friends have always understood and supported me and I will always be grateful for that.”

As an avid and engaged sports fan, Sarah points to the shift in the way women’s sports are now marketed and promoted as a positive step towards achieving gender equality. “In recent years, there has been a big shift in the amount of publicity of Women’s sport is beginning to get. More exposure and equal treatment for women’s sports are steps in the right direction. It’s important for young girls to see their idols achieving great things. There have also been mixed gender appointments in hockey umpiring, which we are also starting to see in other sports now.”

Sarah believes there is plenty more that can be done towards achieving further gender equity in the sports world. Equal opportunities for men and women to be involved in all aspects of the sport, as well as equal pay for male and female athletes across all sports are important next steps towards achieving an equal future. She would also love to see more female coaches getting the opportunities to take charge of international teams. 

On a personal note, Sarah spoke about the opportunities to experience different cultures and the friends she has made along the way, as a hockey umpire. “I have been so unbelievably fortunate to travel to so many wonderful countries and experience local cultures. I have umpired so many memorable matches and being part of that makes me so proud. Most importantly, I have made friends for life. They are my team and I couldn’t be without them!"

Asked about what advice she would give to the next generation of aspiring hockey players and umpires, Sarah says, “You have to work hard to achieve your goals but you have to enjoy it too! Just be yourself, stay humble and enjoy the ride!”