Arguing With Yourself

Arguing with game officials is as American as apple pie. In the 1950’s “Kill the Umpire” was released. This comedy follows ex ball player Bill Johnson who, after losing various jobs in favor of watching baseball games, decides to become an umpire. A person he considers the “lowest of the low” ( In multiple scenes, brawls break out on field because of his unpopular calls. It takes the blessing of a respected player to calm the fans down until Bill makes another unpopular call.

Play Count the Veins in Coaches Head

Play Count the Veins in Coaches Head

Old movies aside, my few years as a zebra bring me to two conclusions. One, I am going to make 50% of the fans angry 100% of the time. Two, coaches who argue with me never get the call reversed or changed. How well could a game progress if every call was overturned because a coach was unhappy about it? We would spend more time talking than the players would play! Still, there are a few things coaches can do to get their point across to an official, but first we need to go over when you can debate a call:

  1. Judgement Call – Rule 7.13.1 firmly states that “the head coach may not debate a judgment call” (NFHS rulebook). This means if the referee felt the hit was unnecessary then the hit was unnecessary. No debate may take place in these situations.
  2. Misapplication of Rule – If a head coach believes an official misapplied the rule he may call for a 7-13 conference. During this conference the head coach asks for clarification on how the rule was applied. For instance, an official calls a slash on the opposing team and reports the penalty as a 30-second foul. The head coach of the fouled team should request a 7-13 conference and ask the official, “Sir, a slash is a personal foul and I believe that is a 1-minute penalty, and not a 30-second penalty.”

Now that we covered those scenarios lets dive into some Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Don’t
    • Call an official “you.” I’m serious “you” is the ultimate no-no when addressing an official. For example, “you are absolutely terrible.” Compared to: “Mr. Official you are terrible today.” The second version expresses your point in a way that respects the official’s position on the field.
    • Curse. There is no place for cursing in lacrosse, especially youth lacrosse. Review the language post for more info on this subject.
    • Run onto the field of play. Coaches remain in the coaching box for the duration of the game. The playing field is the domain of the players and officials only.
    • Complain about a barely there ward, moving pick, or push. All you do is prove to the official that you are more interested in getting one tiny call that is insignificant when viewed from the perspective of an entire game. If the official does not call the small stuff he is doing it for both teams. I assure you.
    • Attack the official’s integrity. How would you like it if I swung by your office tomorrow afternoon and berated your personal failings as a human being in front of your co-workers? Leave the personal attacks at home and focus on their performance only.
    • Lastly, when your team is up by ten goals you no longer get to complain about anything other than a safety issue.
  • Do
    • Call the guy in stripes “Mr. Official, sir, or Mr. Last Name.”
    • Politely phrase all your comments. For instance, “Mr. Official can you explain why that call was made?” Compared to: “Get over here right now and explain how in the world you made that call.”
    • Calm your assistant coaches down. Rule 2.3.1. states that “only the head coach will communicate with the officials” (NFHS rulebook). Most officials will answer questions posed by the assistant coaches, but as far as the rules are concerned the assistant coaches have zero right to enter into an argument/debate with an official.
    • Wait 24 hours and submit questions, complaints, or concerns to

Even if you follow all of the do’s and don’ts, you will still run into an official who will not change his mind. Take solace in the fact that he will not change his mind for the other coach either. Recognize this situation early and you can avoid arguing with yourself for the entire game.

Casey at Bat

Casey at Bat

Still don’t believe that arguing with officials is as American as apple pie? In 1888, Ernest Thayer wrote “Casey at Bat.” I read this poem back in elementary school and I am amazed at how the fans are portrayed. Read the poem and enjoy some nostalgia.

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning left to play;
And then, when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go, in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which “springs eternal in the human breast;”
They thought, If only Casey could but get a whack at that,
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn procede Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a no-good and the latter was a fake;
So, upon that stricken multitude grim meloncholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball,
And when the dust had lifted and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second, and Flynn a-huggin’ third.

Then from five thousand throats and more threr rose a lusty yell,
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell,
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face,
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the croud could doubt `twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tounges applauded as he wiped them on his shirt.
Then, while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there,
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped —
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him; kill the umpire!” shouted someone from the stand;–
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud,” cried the maddened thousands, and the echo answered “Fraud,”
But one scornful look from Casey, and the multitude was awed.
The saw his face grow stern and cold; they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip; his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh! somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has Struck Out.

Are you as amazed as I am that a poem read to children has the message “kill the umpire” embedded in the text? The best part about the poem is that Mighty Casey never argued the call. Despite striking out, he was still a great sport about it.

Featured Image Credit –

Your Out!

About Lou Corsetti

Gordon is a born lacrosse official who played for ten years before realizing he'd much rather ref the game than play it. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia and officiates youth, high school, and collegiate men's lacrosse games all over the southeast. His passion is educating and training officials, coaches, players, parents and all other fans on the rules of lacrosse, it's history, and how best to develop lacrosse in new areas.

2 thoughts on “Arguing With Yourself

  1. Bo Sasnett


    Thanks for the post. Sometimes in the heat of battle we forget that we are coaching kids lacrosse. Our first and overidding responsibility as coaches should be to set the right example for our kids. One such is example is respecting the officials and not continuinually arguing calls. In today’s youth athletics as well as in higher levels of sports it seems like we have a culture of arguing with the officials. One of our goals in youth sports should be to respect the officials and to not let a call that may not go your way impact you as a player or coach.

    Thanks again.

  2. Gordon Post author


    Spot on. Players, consciously or not, pick up on cues from us. I understand the “heat of the battle,” and I am glad that 95% of the time cooler heads prevail. It’s that 5% I want to make sure we jump on quickly to prevent things from escalating to a fever pitch. Involving officials, coaches, and parents as collaborators in the development of youth players we will be successful every year.


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