By Michael Vozzo
Eastern FL Head of Umpiring
From an umpire’s perspective, the integral ingredient to maintaining a good rapport with players and coaches is to use clear and concise communication both on and off the field.
Our umpires are continually coached and assessed on their communication.
They are asked to utilise appropriate language and explain their decisions to the players in an appropriate tone – just as we expect from the players.
Last weekend, I witnessed an umpire call ‘play on’ after a Lilydale player attempted a diving mark.
After the ball was locked in for a ball up, he ran in and said to the player, ‘from my angle, it looked like it bounced first’.
He said this within an earshot of disgruntled supporters also.
This bit of communication seemed to settle not only the player – although he already knew it bounced – but also the supporters in earshot.
For what it’s worth, the video backs the umpire’s view.
Signal demonstrations are also an affective form of communication.
I have noticed a few umpires tend to blow their whistle and signal too quickly.
This does not give players and spectators an opportunity to view and understand his or her decision, which at times causes some angst.
Last weekend at Boronia in the reserves, a field umpire picked up a terrific holding free against a Boronia player.
But by the time the players and spectators looked to see what the decision was, his arm was outstretched some 40m away.
Everyone was perplexed and asked, ‘what was that for?’
The umpire has been asked to continue to move in next time, tugging on his shirt to demonstrate a hold and to say ‘you grabbed him by the jumper when he didn’t have the ball’.
There is no doubt that would have diffused any of the ensuing angst.
Some of our more experienced umpires often “commentate” and/or “use encouragement” while they umpire to have players fully understand what they are seeing.
Quite often you might here an umpire say, ‘he got a handball away’ or ‘he knocked it out’ or ‘ the ball’s out’.
Some people might say this is annoying and not needed.
But I think for football at this level, it is appropriate and gives clarity on what is happening from the umpires perspective.
I would think most players would encourage this type of umpiring ‘communication’ as it keeps them in the picture of what is happening and what the umpire has just witnessed.
Michael Vozzo is the Eastern FL Head of Umpiring. This article was written for the Eastern FL Record.