Across sports, worldwide, players often graduate to coaching or managerial roles as they try to stay involved with what they know best. You Hyo-Sik, however, decided to go for a bigger challenge – he became an elite umpire, in one of the fastest team sports.
You, one of the most decorated and skilled Korean players ever in hockey, turned to umpiring four years ago -- just like that. He did initially take the more traditional route though. Having stopped playing after the 2014 Asian Games – where Korea finished third – You turned to coaching, a natural progression for the son of Young Chae You, who coached the Korean women’s team to two successive Olympic silver medals in 1992 and 1996.
“But after coaching women’s university hockey for four years, I got wondering about umpiring and maybe I can do it. That’s just my style – I want to challenge everything, I am curious about everything. So I started thinking about how to do it and did the umpiring courses and just made the switch. No specific reason but yes, I have had an amazing life,” the three-time Olympian laughed speaking to Sportstar.
His curiosity, and his love to travel, are also largely responsible for his ability to speak good English, a rarity in Korean sportsmen -- he has learnt the language mainly from reading books and has plied his trade all over, including the top European leagues.
Interestingly, his teammate from the 2014 Asiad, Jang Jong-Hyun, at 39, remains a key member of the Korean side here and You admitted being an umpire while his teammate is still playing feels a little awkward. And as umpire, You has had reason to keep himself fit enough for the gruelling conditions on the pitch, making him often wonder if he quit too soon.
“I like to run and I still love hockey and even though I am on the pitch now as an umpire, my eyes are always seeing tactical stuff and individual skills. Sometimes even I am confused and have to tell myself, ‘I am an umpire now, not a player any more!” he laughed again.
While he didn’t play the 2007 Asia Cup – he broke his feet two weeks before the tournament – You has been part of the defunct Premier Hockey League in 2007-08 and counts Tushar Khandker, Arjun Halappa, VS Vinaya and Shivendra Singh among his friends.
“Only last night I was talking to Dilip (Tirkey) and we were having fun – I was the fastest striker and he was the man always marking me! We still talk about our playing days. And with Shivendra (India assistant coach) we rib each other – he says you are an umpire now, be fair, and I say you are a coach, can you coach me, I will play again! But they have all been very helpful here,” the crinkly smile is back.
Having seen it all at the highest level of the sport in his 15-year-long career, You knows exactly when a player is feigning. “Yes yes, I tell them, no tricks with me! Every player is just having a breakdown and then says ‘I am sorry’. But I say, a rule is a rule and explain to them with a smile. Some umpires are very aggressive with players, that’s not my style.
“But I also try to understand the player and his interpretation of what he may be trying to do – sometimes, they already know they have committed a foul and I also know that they know, so I say ‘no comments’. Indian players easily put their hands up and accept the umpire’s decision so I really like that.”
Despite his son preferring baseball – ‘he says hockey is scary, maybe I will convince him to play some years later like my father did with me’ – You prefers to train back home and is open to playing the Masters tournament at some point. “Possibly I will, if I get time. I never say no.”
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