So, another season of indoor has come and gone. Improvements were made, the tournaments I was at had a higher playing standard than last year. At one such event, I was on the periphery of a conversation with three ccoaches who had decided to take the idea of using indoor to work on team deficiencies… Glad to see you read this column!
The one thing that was disheartening, however, was the level of abuse, vitriol and commentary towards the umpires.
At this point I should point out that I wasn’t perfect. As a player I have been carded for dissent, as a coach I have suffered the same fate. A few TD’s have had to calm me down and threaten me with removal over the years.
As a young player, I thought most umpires were awful, I thought I could make comments and I thought I was funny, and it was my right. As a young coach? Pretty much the same but now I had an audience of people who I was going into battle to protect. As an observer at a recent age group indoor tournament? I’m horrified.
Parents, U19 players, coaches all getting their digs in at umpires who are doing a wonderful job. Some of the abuse I witnessed – and there is no other word for it – was personal, rude, sexist at times and has no place in society, never mind at a junior indoor tournament.
It must change.
Most of these umpires are umpiring for the same reason we coach or play. They love the game, and they want to give something back. They aren’t making money doing this, they are simply doing it because they enjoy it.
I have never seen an umpire deliberately cheat – we must stop thinking that they do. We must accept that people are human, have feelings and are only trying to do our best. Umpires can only blow what they see – we all see different things sometimes and we must accept that.
If it doesn’t change, where will we be? I’ll tell you where we will be. We won’t have a game. The game will die at the grassroots level and there will be nothing left. The umpires in my opinion are the most important part of the game – without them there is no game. We need to leave them alone – how many mistakes do you make as a coach or as a player?
One of my best friends is a world-renowned umpire. They have done every tournament imaginable at every level. They recently told me that they were getting to the point where they were done. Sick of been yelled at, sick of the comments, sick of the lack of respect – especially from coaches.
They told me of an incident after a game recently where a coach had berated them about a Penalty Corner non-award. The team had lost their review and the coach felt a PC should have been awarded. To cut a long story short, the coach had the rule wrong and didn’t know what they were talking about. Think about it for a moment, an international coach who didn’t know the rules.
I’m taking a vow of silence during games I coach. I spoke to someone recently and said this and they thought I was nuts. “My team like it when I get after the umpires” they said, “It provides us a good energy”. Here’s a question for your coaching journey: How would you like it if someone stood five metres from you and berated you about key decisions/substitutions and tactical advice? Think about that for a moment, it wouldn’t be fun for you and it isn’t fun for them.
Time for a code of silence on the sideline and the stands.