How To Approach An Umpire
How To Approach an Umpire (If you must)
Umpires and coaches (athletes) cannot get along. Working with an umpire implies that the two parties have a common goal. This is not the case. In fact, they have diametrically opposed jobs. An umpire’s job is to keep the playing field level and ensure the best team wins. A coach’s job is to help their team win whether they have the best team or not. With these realities it is inevitable that they will not always get along. Both parties should embrace these roles and try to make the best of what can be a difficult situation. The key for coaches is to make sure the lines of communication remain open with the umpire. Anything the coach does to hamper or hinder this relationship will make the game more difficult for everyone involved.
Tips on Approaching Umpires
- 1. Be proactive-establish a rapport at the plate conference. Let the official know that you respect their role in the game.
- 2. If you want to question a call use a neutral voice. Nobody likes to be yelled at!
- 3. Make sure you ask, and receive time or a break in play before stepping on the field.
- 4. Take a deep breath before you approach the official-often we get caught up in the heat of the game and appear more aggressive then we actually are.
- 5. Don’t let fans or athletes know you are upset. Coaches are leaders and if they are upset it often leads to others following suit. If you are very upset, take out your line-up card when you talk to the official so people who are out of earshot think you are making a change and the umpire can save face.
- 6. Don’t ever argue face-to-face with an umpire, negative body language leads to increased confrontation. Approach the umpire slowly, using your neutral voice and stand shoulder to shoulder when you are having your discussion. This is far less confrontational and allows the umpire an opportunity to walk away when they have finished their explanation.
- 7. Don’t overstay your welcome. Know when the conversation is over and return to the bench.
- 8. Be polite. Look the umpire in the eye and take off your sunglasses when you are talking.
- 9. Know when to hold them, know when to fold them-Arguing every call is not going to get you anywhere. Umpires respect coaches who know the rules.
- 10. Listen. You have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion.
Ideas for Coaches
- 1. Your athletes are watching you, model good behaviour. If you yell and scream every time you get (perceive) a bad call your athletes will do the same thing.
- 2. Understand the role of perception in psychology. Sometimes we want something to be true so badly, we convince ourselves that it is true. I have been in situations where I am absolutely convinced I saw something and asked for time to discuss it with an official, only to be set straight by the athletes when I got back to the bench.
- 3. Understand that “working” the umpire-does not work. Many coaches believe that if they yell at umpires early on in the game they will get the benefit of the doubt on close calls. Are you crazy? Why would I reward someone for yelling at me?
- 4. Nobody is perfect. Coaches make mistakes; athletes make errors, expect the odd mistake from an official.
- 5. Know the rule yourself. Many confrontations that lead to abuse stem from rules that coaches simply do not understand.
- 6. Know what level you are competing at. If you are at a Provincial or National championship, it’s fair to expect more from the umpires. But if you are at a league game or coach minor ball, understand that this is where minor or developing umpires gain experience and confidence and handle yourself accordingly.
- 7. Control your athletes. Nobody likes whiners and if your pitcher is begging for strikes or your hitters are showboating, get control of them before the umpire has to.
- 8. Respect the Game. Umpires are stakeholders in our sport, and the vast majority of them do it because they love the sport. Remember, we couldn’t play without umpires.