Post Match Conversations contribute to the Umpiring is Everyone's Business campaign.

Building Relationships with Post Match Conversations

By Peter Mair
Field Umpires Coach
Southern Football League

The Southern Football League Umpiring Department this year introduced “Post Match Conversations”, a program whereby football coaches and field umpires got together after the completion of a game for a chat. The conversations were trialled at three senior matches in the Southern Football League (SFL).

Keen to continually develop football club and umpire relationships for the betterment of the game, I worked with Wayne Holdsworth, SFL Chief Executive Officer, to identify football coaches who could be approached to be part of the trial program.

The football coaches were contacted several weeks in advance by the SFL Football Operations department.  The SFL field umpires who were chosen all had a reasonable level of experience and had the ability to contribute positively. All had umpired senior grade grand finals.

In each of the trial matches, prior to the game, the umpires confirmed with the football coaches their participation for the day. At an agreed time after the match both football coaches and both field umpires met as a group to conduct their “Post Match Conversation”. Most conversations were held in a somewhat relaxed environment. Various items were discussed, with the focus mainly being the match day environment.

A template was provided to the field umpires to assist with focusing discussions around the whole match day environment rather than only how the umpires performed on the day.

Themes of the Post Match Conversation included: Facilities, venue, umpires communication, umpires general decision making, communication from coaches, players participation in the game, and importantly, having a supportive, encouraging, non-abusive match day environment.

Gaining feedback from the umpires and the coaches about their thoughts of the program was an important part of the trial.

The general view of the umpires was that it was a positive move to encourage conversation between coaches and umpires; however, perhaps not an ideal time for an in depth discussion about free kicks and decision making, especially if the game just played had been a close contest.

The majority of coaches involved believed the trial was worthwhile, however, thought that the “better” umpires had been involved in the trial, and questioned how the Post Match Conversation program may work if umpires had performed poorly on the day or were less experienced.

Some of the coaches reiterated the importance of both umpires being consistent on any given day. One football coach said that it was important to allow players to talk to umpires during a match about free kicks, as this was imperative for an improved player / umpire rapport.

Some of the football coaches suggested that within the league, not all clubs were as approachable towards umpires and as one another. It was important for everyone involved in footy that they understood that by building relationships with all participants of the game it would in fact make the experience more enjoyable for all.

A number of players who witnessed the Post Match Conversations trial made positive comment, suggesting that the program goes a long way to improving relationships and the respect for the role of the umpire, player and coach in the game.

The idea of the Post Match Conversation is very much about building relationships, developing learnings from an umpire perspective and from a football coach / player perspective about the whole match day environment.

Based on results from the trial I suggest that Post Match Conversations should be carefully managed, perhaps four times throughout a season. Those participating should strongly believe that the program will enhance the game of football in the SFL.

For the success of the program, ideally Post Match Conversations should be facilitated by an independent person, not associated with umpiring or the football clubs involved, perhaps a Board Member of the league.

Thanks again to Wayne Holdsworth for his tremendous support, the SFL Umpires Association, the umpires, the participating SFL clubs and football coaches for their contribution to the success of the trial.

“Post Match Conversations” – a great way to build relationships.

Umpiring is Everyone’s Business.

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