Developing Rapport

Friday, January 18, 2013

Developing positive rapport with players is important in making the game enjoyable for all players and umpires. 

Effective communication before, during and after matches is important in building that rapport.

During a match an umpire should blow their whistle strongly and use strong and firm verbal and visual communication to players.  It is important to use a clear voice and avoid shouting at players.

The umpire should try to remain composed and controlled with their body language and use positive gestures such as smiles and nods and use eye contact when talking with players.

Strategies for developing rapport with players were discussed amongst field umpires undertaking their level 3 field umpire accreditation in 2012.  Some strategies that were suggested to build the rapport included:

  • “If possible, when arriving at the ground, try to talk to the players on the field.  This helps show them that you’re just a normal bloke.”
  • “Talk to them as you would want to be spoken to”
  • “When explaining decisions use the terms from the law book.”
  • “Address players by their first names.  As a minimum make sure you know the names of the captains and coaches.”
  • “Try to find out if there are any milestone matches or 1st gamers prior to arriving at the ground so that you can congratulate them before the match.”
  • “Where possible join the teams in pre-season training sessions and get to meet some of the players prior to the season commencing.”
  • “Show empathy and understand that players can get emotional.  Ensure you remain composed and rational.”
  • “Show humility.  Answer players’ queries respectfully and explain why you paid the free kick.  If they continue to ask, you can explain that was the way you saw it – you don’t need to be over confident and give off the impression that you are always right.  Or when you haven’t paid an infringement you can explain that you were on the other side of the pack and didn’t see the contact.”
  • “When players express some frustration with a decision quickly explain what the decision was for and if they continue to express confusion explain that you’re happy to talk to the player during a break in play to further explain the decision.”
  • “Allow yourself time before the match to ensure you get in a good head space which will help you remain calm and approachable to the players.”
  • “Be proactive – talk to the taggers and warn them of holding etc.  It will allow us to earn the respect of the playmakers that we’re being proactive and looking for infringements.”
  • “Learn the background of the team to give you something to talk about before the match.  Are they going to make the finals?  Are they coming off a good win?  Don’t just talk about the weather.”

Players will generally respect umpires who demonstrate clear and effective communication and have a thorough understanding of the laws.

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