#Askfhu is our ongoing series of posts that focus on a single umpiring issue that you may have been or likely will be faced with at some point in your career. We'll focus on giving you tangible and effective strategies to deal with the situation. We also want to hear about your experiences and suggestions so don't be shy, get your comments on below!
This week, the so-called “friendly” game. A discussion started on FieldHockeyForum.com about how to deal with unprofessional umpires, which evolved to dealing with players in friendly games who assume the worst about your umpiring. One contributor talked about the bad feeling it leaves him when players take your management not as a cue to behave better, but as a signal “you are out to ruin their game come hell or high water.” His question:
My experience is usually the latter in club games and I often find myself wondering what other tools I could have used to bring the game to a more friendly atmosphere. One tries to conduct oneself with friendliness and openness in a game but that does not always suffice. I still have not figured this one out. Maybe it is the case that some things are just not saveable.
Here was Keely's FHumpires response:
First off, I would treat every club game with the same standards of professionalism as I would a higher-level game–a commitment to accuracy, and proactive and immediate management. It doesn't mean you can't have fun or smile, but it means that you address everything you can to the best of your ability and smile whenever you can.
I wrote in this post a while back about training myself to watch for the turning point of a game. This is the point when an umpire (including me!) makes a fundamental mistake of either technical decision-making plus mismanagement, or mismanagement on its own, after which I know things can then go haywire. This is because good management eliminates surprises.
Most often, accusations of bias or cheating come about when a player or a team is surprised about a particular decision because an umpire or both have mismanagement earlier opportunities to generate certainty (which leads to trust). If anyone has witnessed a player claiming bias or cheating in the first 5 min of the game I'd first be surprised, and then know that player had a problem from an earlier game they're carrying over. Instead, it's the cumulative effect of the mismanagement at the turning point and a later event that surprises the players because it's not consistent with what came before.
This is why it's so incredibly crucial to nab the first instance of a management opportunity and deal with it. That leads you on the path of consistency – the scorn whistle/verbal warning/cut-it-out-body-language has been given, so the GC is next – and then the YC – etc., and no surprises. The players might not agree with your standards but you're adhering to them and it's very difficult to come to a conclusion of bias or cheating in the face of consistent and evenly-applied standards.
The other problem that good early management avoids is the timing of the inconsistency, which will come later in the match's progression. I tell umpires that no one ever remembers the GC in the first 15min, or points to the PS given at 21:30 as the reason they lost a match. But they sure remember that YC you pulled with 3min left after failing to give the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th GCs that were warranted and that's why the lost the game.
For me, it all fits together as a single approach to early and appropriate management that prevents the scenarios that have been talked about here. I hope that helps.
Have you tried out any other strategies that have worked out better for you? What do you think of early interventions? Share your thoughts in the comments!