Mick Malthouse talks with umpires Brett Rosebury and Jason Armstrong.

Generating Positive Match-Day Environments

By Steve Keating, Director of Umpiring, Geelong FUL

IT is timely to comment on the recent events surrounding an under-16 football game between Belmont Lions and Bannockburn.

A report on the game was headlined "Under 16 footy team walks off after ump's free call'.

The headline and perceived circumstances invite the question, "What responsibility do we all have toward generating a positive match-day environment for all our participants; that is, players, coaches, team officials, umpires, parents and spectators?"

It is the coach who sets the tone for the environment on game day, whether positive or negative.

The coach needs to be aware of his or her attitude and approach, especially in junior football. They must set an example that is required as part of their accreditation and code of conduct, regardless of circumstances.

So what is success? This is the important question. Your answer will influence your coaching, how you treat your players and how you conduct yourself.

Winning and beating the opposition as the key to success is competitive thinking. By defining success as winning, you are placing your self-worth on the line each match.

Achievement thinkers hold that whilst winning is a desirable outcome, it is not the only measure of success. They are gracious in defeat and victory because their self-respect is not on the line.

They control what they can and are not frustrated by factors outside their control. They are far less likely to blame umpires or other factors for a defeat.

In short, the junior coach's code of conduct requires familiarisation with and abiding by the Laws of Australian Football, teaching players that rules of the game are mutual agreements, which no player should break, and that the players involved play for fun and enjoyment.

This pertains to umpires also, and that winning is only part of it. It emphasises the importance of the learning and development of skills and positive attitudes, the development of team respect for the ability of opponents and judgment of umpires and opposing coaches.

When the junior coach's code of conduct is adhered to, the match-day environment is an enjoyable one. However, coaches will often get caught between the importance of processes and fun, and the desire to win.

The junior player's code of conduct promotes never arguing with an official or umpire. If you disagree, have your captain approach the official during a break or after the competition.

Regarding the parents and spectators of junior football, if you disagree with an official or umpire, raise the issue through the appropriate channels rather than questioning the umpire's judgment and honesty in public. The umpires give their time and effort for your child's involvement.

The umpires also contribute to the match-day environment. The Geelong Football Umpires League creed is one of integrity, fairness, respect and trust. Gaining the confidence of players and coaches by their demeanour, actions and decisions is important.

The umpires have a team rule of zero tolerance to abusive language and demonstrative behaviour. They are expected to act. By not acting, they are not only letting their team on the day down, they are letting down the umpiring teams to follow.

In essence, they are failing the entire umpiring group.

Although one of the largest umpiring groups in Australia, the GFUL is still around 80 umpires short of the required number to fulfil all its appointments each week.

As the region grows, and participation rates in football increase, umpiring needs also grow. The difference between the number of umpires required and the number of umpires available is growing exponentially.

Nationally, it is predicted to be 25,000 within five years. This is not umpiring's problem. If you don't have them or they are not up to it, then you do not appoint.

This is a football problem. This is a challenge that football needs to embrace.

Umpiring needs to grow with football. Hence umpiring is everyone's business.

Steve Keating is director of Umpiring for the Geelong Football Umpires League

This article first appeared in the Geelong Advertiser.

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