THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
There's an old saying in officiating: "Remember, they're not your friends."
However, an article published last year in Referee magazine provoked some thought on the relationships officials have with players and coaches.
There's a certain mindset that sometimes goes into the relationship between officials and others in the arena of competition. Usually, it is akin to a level of animosity that broods a contemptible relationship, almost as if to shift attention from the relationship between two competing entities to a competitive nature between one of those entities and the officials on the contest. In other words, a team of 9 baseball players aren't competing with another 9 players in a different uniform, but rather the guys on the field in black/blue who are calling ball/strike, fair/foul, and safe/out.
In order for that type of a harsh relationship to maintain any sort of sustainability, it must be fed by all the necessary parties creating it. Therefore, if one party stops feeding it, it will cease to exist (or at least falter to the point of eventually not working as well).
Case in point: if an official makes a conscious effort to be more respectful and have a normal professional relationship with others, the chances of things going well increase. Obviously, it's not a fool-proof solution; there will always be situations where idiots make the game difficult. But tipping the scales in your favor can never hurt.
It's as easy as greeting people with a smile and a firm handshake. Rather than being defensive off the bat, understand that knowing how to talk to people and choosing the proper attitude has the power to reform the tone of a conversation and a relationship. Respecting people and eliminating "attitude" eliminates the potential for conflict. Even if there is a questionable call (or a blown call), choosing the proper words and approach can be the difference between the issue being dropped immediately and the coach being on you until you reach the parking lot.
By contrast, officials who walk on the field with clout and a bloated ego leading the way can immediately cause coaches and players to question their authority, especially in a day and age where our youth have the potential to be more belligerent and less respectful of others. An official who thinks that "this is my field and I'm just letting these kids play on it" is bound to have trouble find him/her, whereas an official who is ready to provide a quality service of officiating a game and making sure that they do everything they can to provide the best possible experience for the kids involved is more likely to walk off the field with the respect of the coaches, players, and fans.
In fact, when officials do the latter, watch what happens when those officials return to the field to see one or both of those teams again. Coaches may suddenly feel at ease knowing the game is in good hands with you at the helm!
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Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.