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Judgement Calls

Most of the calls made by umpires are judgement calls. Safe or out, ball or strike, infield fly, running outside the base line, and fair or foul are all judgement calls. An umpire’s judgement may be poor or worse but umpires are not there to be right, they are there to make decisions quickly so the game can go on. Never argue an umpire’s judgement call.

Only Human

The umpires for youth sports are just getting started in umpiring in most cases. They are paid almost nothing for the time, trouble, and aggravation. They are probably no better at umpiring than the players are at playing. They will make errors of judgement and be wrong about the rules from time to time. If you make a big thing of their errors, you take away from the players’ enjoyment of the game. You teach them to throw a fit when they don’t get what they want.

The Player Response

If a player feels they are the victim of an umpire error and gets upset by it they will not play well. Therefore your job is to minimize the consequences of the inevitable bad calls that go against your players. The first thing you can to is to warn the players before the game that umpires make errors just like the players do. The umpires are not biased any more than the infield surface is biased against the players when it produces a “bad hop” on a grounder. The second thing you can do is tell the player-victim that they did the right thing. It was just bad luck that the umpire blew the call. Give them the feeling that you still like them and still have confidence in them to play well. THe third thing is to get their mind off the bad call. This should not be done for a couple of minutes to give them time to calm down a little. Then talk with them about their successes. Remind them that to play well they must remember doing it right. There is nothing like making a good play to get over the bad call.

Dealing with Umpires

The key word here is respect. Every interaction you have with an umpire should show your respect for their office if not the man (or woman as the case may be). Respect their judgement calls by not arguing them. Respect their office by not raising your voice or expressing anger. Never attempt to question their judgement or their fitness for the job.

If you have complaints about an umpire’s attitude or on-field behavior, take it to the league office and let them deal with it. When an umpire does a good job report that to the league officials.

Never complain to the parents/fans in the stands about the umpiring. If the crowd gets rowdy, do what you can to calm them. If they are upset about something they have misunderstood, explain the situation to them. Since you are the coach they will to a considerable degree take their emotional queue from you. If you are a hot-head about a call or calls then they will tend to follow your lead. You can just imagine how unhappy and fearful this behaviour on your part and by the crowd will make the players of both teams.

It is a game for the children to enjoy. Don’t try to make it life and death. Don’t try to make it a morality play. Be cheerful in the face of adversity even if it makes your jaws ache.

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