A Coach’s Approach With Umpires

Posted on July 16, 2013

I would like to write an article about the relationship between a coach and an umpire. Having been a coach for 34 years and an umpire for 21 years, I feel like I have some expertise in this area.

The first and foremost thing is to realize that both of you are out there to do a job. This truly should not be an adversarial relationship, though sometimes it reduces itself to that.

I’ve always kept in mind when I coached younger kids that the umpires themselves were just starting out and probably do not have the experience nor the expertise to handle every situation that comes up in a ballgame.

They certainly don’t have the maturity to handle a coach that is on them from the first pitch and about every call. Nothing really good is going to come of this kind of interaction. The umpire is going to become very defensive about his calls, and in fact the less experience they have with coaches and situations the more likely they are to eject a coach or a player over something that was really just part of the ballgame.

The other possibility is the umpire will take any amount of the static from the coaches, players, and fans and therefore loses control of the game besides ruining it for everybody.

It has always been my opinion and experience that coaches and umpires realize why they’re both out there on the field. It’s not the umpire’s job to make everybody happy every call. A close play is usually going to disappoint 50% of the people.

An umpire should look at the play, make a decision, then be firm in announcing it and go on with the game. You’ve never seen an umpire change a ball/strike or out/safe call. That is just the way it is and should be.

Coaches have every right to an explanation of a rule and theapplication of the rule; in fact that was always my rule of thumb. When I would talk to the umpire as a coach, I wanted the rule and application of that rule explained and wanted the application changed. The application of rules is what can be changed not the call itself.

As an umpire I always appreciated and gave the utmost consideration to a coach that knew what he was talking about and only complained or questioned the rule. I’ll guarantee you that you’ll get more done going out there and saying “I need you to explain to me” or “Why did you call it that way?” If you go out there and are argumentative that’s what you’ll get: an argument.

I will say right now that the umpire that is worth his or her being out there will win each and every argument. That is the way it has to be and that’s why they’re working the game.

When you are arguing with an umpire there are words that you should never use and they are not always the obvious ones such as cussing. Depending on the level of the game a coach can be more vocal, but no umpire in the world likes to hear the word “you” or “cheater” in front of any statement that you may make.

When I was working college or high school we discussed things very adamantly at times, but the minute the coach put “you” in front of his words he stood a good chance of getting tossed.

Remember the umpires are there in the game just as you and your players. To try to manipulate him is the same as trying to manipulate your players.

I will agree if an umpire makes the wrong call by applying the rule incorrectly then you have every right to try to get it changed. But you are creating a situation that you really don’t want when you complain about balls and strikes or safe or out.

Arnald SwiftArnald Swift was a High School baseball coach and umpired games at many levels in Colorado. He currently is the director of customer relations at BaseballTips.com.