The month of May not only saw the return of European Hockey to England, as Surbiton hosted the EuroHockey Club Cup, but also the return of England’s Hannah Harrison to international umpiring. We talk to Hannah about her experiences of returning to the fold after her time away from the whistle, due to the birth of her daughter.
Hannah is 33 and currently lives in the North West. “I’ve been umpiring for about 18 years and I came through the England Hockey Young Umpire Development Programme.” Hannah was the first female umpire to graduate from the programme, inspiring many other young umpires to follow suit. “I got into umpiring at school as my mum was a PE teacher and I helped coach younger teams. It was around the time England Hockey started the young umpire programme.”
When asked about the highlights of her career, Harrison cites travelling and meeting the hockey family, getting her National Badge and FIH Badge in 2009, the Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, and being named top umpire for the Women’s Premier League for the past two seasons.
This success on the hockey pitch was mirrored when Hannah had her daughter Amelia in December of 2017. “I took a break from umpiring midway through 2017 as I was pregnant, so I missed the first half of this season and had to withdraw from the EuroNations, which at the time was a really hard decision to make but the short term sacrifice for a lifetime gain was the way I saw it! Amelia is now five months old and is totally amazing.”
Amelia’s arrival has only made hockey more important for Hannah: “I had a really positive birth experience so was able to start training & running very soon. After three months I went back to umpiring – I really missed umpiring and to have something that was still ‘me’ was very important for my mental, emotional and physical health.”
“Having a baby means you get a new label – mummy! Which is all consuming when they are so little. But I knew I needed something that helped me maintain who I am as ‘Hannah’, and that was umpiring.”
Hannah also shares the changes she has had to make to accommodate motherhood: “I am usually an evening person for training, but now I have had to learn to train in the morning. With a lot of hard work, I manage to fit training sessions in whilst Amelia sleeps. After five months my body is healing well but they say it takes nine months to make a baby and so nine months to fully heal. Each time I umpire or train I feel stronger and stronger and this was very much the case by the end of the EuroHockey Club Cup tournament – I was back to umpiring at the level I knew and enjoy best! It was a fantastic tournament to make my return and one I very much enjoyed. The hard work has so been worth it! After going through child birth I now truly understand what my body and I are capable of, so I have no doubt I will be back to full fitness swiftly and that all the things I wanted to achieve before I became a mum, are still my goals! I haven’t changed, my dreams and goals are still the same, I just have extra responsibilities now.”
“All this is only possible with the amazing support from family. Like all great players, umpires also heavily rely on family to take the lead when they need to go away for days and weeks at a time to umpire. I’m incredibly lucky to have a husband and family who I can rely on and support my umpiring aspirations”. Hannah is a strong advocate for women returning to sport following childbirth: “Having a child is a blessing and one I am very grateful for, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up your hopes and dreams as an individual. So many successful athletes have returned to full competition very quickly after having a child; Paul Radcliffe and Laura Kenny are super examples. I want my daughter to know and see that she can have a choice in life and follow her dreams no matter how big or challenging they may seem.”
We wish Hannah the best of luck, and look forward to seeing her on the international stage again.