Avoiding and Managing Conflict
Baseball can be a highly competitive and intense game. One unique aspect of baseball is that on every play in a baseball game the umpire is forced to make a decision. Often what we do, the way we act and carry ourselves projects more about the situation than anything we say. Body language is the gestures, movements, and mannerisms by which an umpire, coach or parent expresses thoughts or feelings. At times, coaches and players will perceive more based on your body language as an umpire than what you're verbally communicating. It's important to try to maintain positive body language throughout games, and not favor one team versus the other. Some tips for body language include:
- Any gestures with the hands should be non-confrontational towards players and coaches, and should be nonthreatening. Once hand gestures become slightly aggressive, coaches and players will pick up on that aggression and it could make the matter worse.
- When talking with coaches and players, eye contact and facial expressions should be made to convey that you are listening and engaged in the conversation. While eye contact should be made, umpires should take care not to glare - no matter what the situation is - and should also avoid tuning out and staring off into space.
- The goal is to always look calm, not confrontational. Keep body posture up and look approachable. This will give coaches the nonverbal cue that you are confident and friendly, and could help conversations be more agreeable on both sides.
When you have a coach get upset about a call, it can be difficult to refrain from arguing with them. Trying not to argue is often a very difficult task, but you should always remember that it takes two to argue. If a coach is trying to argue with you, and you are calm and non-confrontational, chances are that the coach will either calm down or stop arguing all together. It is important to always maintain control of the conflict, and know that not all conflicts are arguments. Calls made can be discussed in a respectful manner to all parties involved, which will be more beneficial for the players the calls impact. Here are some tips for avoiding arguments:
- Let the coach talk through their points
- Let the coach know you listened by repeating the comments back to them
- Judgment calls should not turn into debates
- Keep your composure at all times
- Be assertive and decisive (if a coach knows you are indecisive about the play call, it may make matters worse)
- Only discuss the current issue, the call made last inning does not matter anymore.
- Focus on reaching solutions without causing more problems.
When it comes to issues that arise, it may take some help from your umpiring staff to calm the situation. Knowing when to step in can be tricky, so knowing your umpiring staff and their abilities to handle conflicts is important. Veteran umpires should aid less-seasoned colleagues to show them the correct way to handle conflicts in order to not allow the issue to escalate. Often, rookie umpires can be targets for conflict. When the umpiring staff does step in to help ease the issue, they also need to know to step back out when the situation is under control