Bruce Weber stated it best, “It’s not just the opposing team that the players and managers want to defeat; they want to get the better of anyone in their way, the umpire included. This essential aggression is built into the game, and it’s something an umpire has to recognize and accept before he can handle himself effectively on the field.”
As a coach, you have to interact with officials in lacrosse. In fact, the rules require it. For instance, only a head coach may request a timeout, and only the head coach can properly certify that all players are legally equipped before the game to the officials. Sometimes, though, when you are coaching, the most frustrating part of the game is dealing with the officials. It is important to remember effective strategies for dealing with officials:
Communication, Communication, Communication
This is easily the most effective method there is to maintaining a good working relationship with officials when coaching a team. It starts with the very first handshake, and continues through to the conclusion of the game. Good communication involves politely asking the official questions in a manner that you would like to be asked questions. Demands for answers seldom bring good results, but a quick question, nicely delivered requires a response at an appropriate time.
Use The Coaches Certification To Ask Questions
Good officials respect coaches with solid questions. Not, “how are you going to call this game,” but, “Is pushing a technical or personal foul, because it’s been called both during this season.” Frame your questions in a way that is not accusatory. Remember, just because you didn’t like the officials on your first game does not mean the officials on your second game will inspire the same dislike. Officials may wear the same stripes, but each has a different reffing style.
Use Timeouts To Your Advantage
Timeouts create dead ball time, which means the officials have a moment to answer questions or strike up conversation. Ask the refs how they are doing. Ask if they want a drink (better yet bring a water bottle with you, I rarely refuse a chance to hydrate during a game). If the refs are not doing anything, like conducting a stick-check or checking the score, there is little harm in talking to them. If the officials don’t want to talk, then no worries, just go back to your team. By the way, this is usually the domain of the assistant coach since the head coach will often be talking to the team during the timeout.
Take The Four-Minute Mark At Halftime Seriously
This is your opportunity to talk to the officials about what happened during the first half, so use it! If your league does not use a full ten-minute halftime, let the officials get a quick break from the action, then ask them for some clarification on calls. If done respectfully, you will usually get a respectful answer.
If The Official Says Stop Talking, Then Stop Talking
Sometimes and official just has to tell a coach to stop talking. Maybe the coach is taking away needed concentration for the game, or maybe the official doesn’t think the coach is being as respectful as the coach thinks he is being. No matter what the reason, if the official says stop it is probably a good idea to avoid addressing the official unless absolutely needed. No need to get a penalty unnecessarily.
Control Your Assistant Coaches
Head coaches are the only speaking coaches. They are certified at the beginning of games as the speaking coach, and no other coach may talk to the officials. Now, confident and experienced officials will allow assistant coaches to respectfully ask questions and chat, but no official worth his/her salt takes flak from assistants. When warned to shut up your assistant coaches, pass on the message until your assistants get the hint.
Control Your Players
No official takes grief from players. Good officials will give a warning if a warning is warranted, or a penalty if the player steps over the line. Ensure that your players take any issues they have with the officiating to you so that you as the head coach can address it coach to official.
If the official makes a call you disagree with it does nothing to pitch a fit. In fact, yelling and screaming and berating the officials generally makes things worse because they invite a conduct foul to be called in addition to the call/no-call you are complaining about. The best coaches generally have an air of silent confidence around them. Coaches are always welcome to argue their point, but try to do so in a manner that is reflective of how you would want to be argued with. The words rationally and calmly come to mind. You may not change the officials mind about a call, but you will earn that official’s respect.
Always keep this in mind: approach the officials the same way you would want to be approached.
If anyone has any other strategies that they use when dealing with officials I would love to hear them. Post them in the comments section below!