Effective communication with players is a key ingredient for effective umpiring.
While it's imperative the umpire controls the match – players, officials and spectators expect this – it is also essential that he or she does so in a manner which encourages mutual respect and understanding between players and umpires.
This contributes to creating a positive environment which is an essential part of umpiring.
The ability to handle players and situations is important to the conduct of the match. Umpires who are skilled in this area will be better equipped to umpire their matches and therefore find umpiring much more enjoyable.
In controlling the match, the umpire is called upon to make certain decisions and these must be carried out. It is important, therefore, that umpires be firm and assertive in their approach. Umpires have developed strategies and techniques in the art of effective communication that have stood the test of time and proven to be beneficial to umpires, players and the conduct of the match.
Included among those strategies and techniques are the following:
Umpires must remain calm in all circumstances. The ability to remain "cool under fire" communicates to others a sense of control, composure, maturity and skill in handling turbulent situations.
By remaining calm, the Field Umpire can think clearly thereby avoiding any tendency to "rush things" and become flustered.
Thinking clearly allows the umpire to prioritise the options and to choose the most appropriate course of action.
Umpires have to earn respect. Respect is earned by what Umpires "say and do" and how they "say and do it".
Umpires should treat players in a manner that they themselves would like to be treated, as equals – preferably on a first name (nick-name if appropriate) basis.
Umpires should not speak down to players or patronise them. All players know and understand that the umpire makes the final decision so there is no need for the umpire to continually reinforce this fact by making comments such as "I'm the umpire, what I say goes".
Good umpires exhibit self confidence. This can be achieved by using appropriate and positive body language, smiling or nodding at appropriate times.
When speaking to players, don't intrude into their personal space, stand further than an arm's length away, don't point your finger or thrust out your chest.
Wherever possible, if you are listening to a player or talking to him, maintain eye-to-eye contact.
Correct and positive indications for decisions that the umpire makes are other non-verbal actions that demonstrate self confidence.
Communication is a two way process, talking and listening.
Listening attentively means participating actively in the communication process by acknowledging and responding (where appropriate and possible) to the speaker's words and feelings.
Not all comments directed to umpires during a match could be classified as a complaint. A question or comment made in a rational and mature manner needs a rational and mature response.
Competent umpires communicate their decisions effectively and strongly.
Positive communication of a decision reflects self confidence and demonstrates a security in the knowledge that the decision was correct.
Players appreciate umpires who communicate their decisions effectively. They have a lot more confidence in umpires when they know and understand what they are doing.
Good umpires do not embarrass or belittle players. Most competent umpires avoid being the centre of attention and work hard at not embarrassing the players.
At times, the umpire may have to caution a player to cease certain actions to avoid being reported.
When communicating this, the umpire should be mindful to focus comments on the offending behaviour or actions, not on the person's character or personality.
This is particularly important when the player is angry or frustrated.
Some issues are better left alone, not every remark requires a response, especially if the remark was viewed as a natural expression of frustration.
On occasions, it may be better to ignore the remark at that time but take the opportunity to follow up at a later stage if necessary, when the player may be more responsive.
Sarcasm is a barrier to effective communication. The purpose of sarcasm is to hurt the feelings or reduce the self esteem of others; it is unprofessional and has no place in umpiring.
In many instances the umpire will not change the player's mind then and there. It is good practice for umpires to answer a question. Your answer should be brief and direct yet provided in a calm and respectful manner.