Intermediate Penalties/Restriction to the Bench/Dugout
The basic premise for education-based athletics is education. The adult coach and game official work collaboratively to teach, train, oversee, model positive behavior and arbitrate the students under their charge. As part of these “teachable moments” the game official is responsible to maintain order and control the contest so both teams have a fair opportunity to do their best and perform to their highest level.
That responsibility is detailed in NFHS Rule 3, Section 3, Article 1, Bench and Field Conduct and Rule 10, Umpiring. We all should promote preventative officiating. While not listed in the NFHS Rules book, preventative officiating is practiced by the more successful and experienced umpires. Verbal and non-verbal tactics are practiced to let a coach know that you are aware and understand his concern, acknowledge that you are doing your best to officiate the game and that his behavior if negative, is not helpful, in fact it is contributing to the detriment of all that are involved. These are a few key factors in de-escalating a possible contentious exchange.
Under NFHS Rule 3-3-1 and Rule 10, we are provided tools to issue a written warning, then restriction to the bench/dugout and ultimately ejection from the game. Unless the situation calls for such a drastic response, ejections should not be your first option. The lessons best learned by a young person in this environment is by his coach(es). It does not benefit the student if the coach has done something that warrants his removal from the field. Ejections may be avoided by listening to the coach and attempting to understand his perspective prior to responding. A restricted coach may continue to teach, guide and control his team while an ejected coach places this same responsibility upon someone who may not be as prepared for it. Developing preventative officiating skills and using the penalty structure that is in place should make for a healthy and safe environment for all the participants.
Proper Catcher’s Equipment
Because of the significant amount of exposure to thrown or batted balls and thrown bats, the catcher is involved with every pitch and most of the action at or around home plate. It is imperative that they are properly equipped. Prior to start of a baseball game, the head coach verifies that the players are legally and properly equipped. The catcher’s helmet and mask combination shall meet the NOCSAE standard which includes having full ear protection with dual ear flaps. The skull cap and mask combination does not meet the NOCSAE standard nor does it provide full ear protection with dual ear flaps and is not permitted for high school baseball. The catcher shall wear a throat protector which is either attached or part of the catcher’s mask. It shall adequately cover the throat. When a nonadult is in a crouch position and is warming up a pitcher at any location he shall wear face and head protection with throat protection and a protective cup (male only). Ensuring that the catcher is properly equipped will reduce the risk of serious injury and maximizes his enjoyment of the game.
Sportsmanship-Celebrations Around or Near Home Plate
Any walk-off game winning base hit or home run generates immediate excitement for the player who hit the ball, his teammates and fans. Adolescent emotion is at its best when a young person does something successful. Unfortunately, for the team that just gave up the run or lost the game, their emotion is different and being jubilant is not their first thought. Everyone on the winning team wants to congratulate the successful batter as he turns the corner at third base and heads to home plate. The problem is that the umpire-in-chief has to be able to verify that the runner scores.
His job becomes exponentially more difficult if his view is hampered by cheering players along the third base line and around home plate. It is important to keep that area around home plate clear of bodies (and equipment) so the umpire can do his job correctly. In addition, hovering around the third base line and home plate is a perfect opportunity for bad sportsmanship actions with taunting and other boorish behavior. Celebrations will be focused on more diligently because of the number of poor sportsmanship incidents being reported throughout the country.
Whenever a game is ended by a great play or controversial call, emotions typically run high for the unsuccessful side. While winning and losing are perfect “teachable moments” opportunities, disrespectful behavior severely erodes the basic premise of educational-based athletics. When coaches and players allow their emotions to get the best of them and they act badly, the rules allow for warnings, restrictions and ultimately ejections from the contest.
Guidelines for Effective Communication with Coaches
One of the most often heard concerns expressed by coaches is that officials will not communicate with them. Because effective communication is a critical component of successful officiating as well as any other of interactive endeavor, we cannot simply dismiss this concern. As officials we need to constantly work at being better communicators. To achieve effective communication we need to be able to define what it is and use certain tools and techniques that enable us to attain it. What is effective communication? Effective communication involves being a good listener, understanding the issue, responding appropriately, sending the right message and being correctly understood and knowing the difference between effectively communicating and over communicating. How do we effectively communicate with coaches? Acknowledgement: Acknowledgement can be accomplished as simply as making eye contact or a nod of the head. You must acknowledge them, initially do not ignore them. Initially ignoring or dismissing a coach makes effective communication difficult at best. Be Approachable: Do not send the message of being unapproachable by appearing to be aloof. Portray confidence, not arrogance. Avoid assuming a defensive posture or body language. Be open to communication. In certain situations it might be better for the game to not go opposite after a foul call and stay table side to more effectively communicate with a coach. Let your partners know that you will be staying table side. Answer Questions: Answer questions not statements. If a coach asks you what you saw or what a player did, answer the question. If a coach makes a statement such as, “the foul count is 7 -2”, acknowledge the statement but don’t try to answer it. If the question involves a ruling made by your partner called, never say, “It’s not my call.” Support your partner, keeping in mind you cannot answer for him or her and don’t try to. Brevity: Keep it short. Effectively communicating with a coach does not mean a dissertation or ongoing dialogue. Honesty: Be honest. Don’t try to justify or rationalize a mistake. If you missed a play - admit it. If you got it right, say so in an appropriate way (e.g. “Coach, I was in good position and had a really good look at the play.”). Honesty is the most effective way to diffuse a situation. Choose Your Words Wisely: Listen first and then choose the appropriate words to communicate the message you want to send. Keep your tone unemotional and never use profanity or derogatory statements. If you don’t know what to say to convey the message you want to convey, don’t say anything, but don’t ignore the coach. Keep it professional, not personal. Know when it is over: Once a coach has been acknowledged, appropriately responded to, it is time to move on. If coaches continue to press the issue or their point or they begin to repeat themselves, appropriately let them know that the issue has been addressed and it is time to move on. These are just a few tools and principles we can use to help us become better in our communication with coaches. Keep in mind that effective communication is a learned skill that is improved through practice and experience.
Colorado Rules by State Association Adoption
The NFHS rulebook (p. 67) delegates authority to the state associations for certain rules. The following shall apply in Colorado.
1-2-9 Double First Base – Not allowed. 1-4-4 Commemorative Patches – Must be requested of CHSAA on a case-by-case basis. These may not exceed 4 square inches. 1-5-5 Artificial limbs and prostheses are allowed. 2-33-1 Speed-up Rules - Courtesy runners for the pitcher and catcher may be used. 3-2-1 Coaches Uniform - Reasonable accommodations consistent with the team uniform are allowed (3.2.1E). Umpires should refer questionable cases to their Area Director for resolution with CHSAA. 4-2-2 Mercy Rule – The game shall end when the visiting team is behind 10 or more runs after 4 ½ innings, or after the fifth inning, if either team is ahead by 10 runs in an equal number of innings. 4-2-4 Game Ending Procedure – Regular Season Games: Any game which is terminated by darkness, rain or other cause before it is a regulation game will be considered a suspended game and shall continue from that point of suspension at the earliest time possible. However, any remaining play may be shortened or terminated by mutual agreement of the opposing coaches. Post Season Games: All games will be played to their conclusion in seven innings unless the 10-run rule comes into effect or extra innings are needed. All suspended games at the district, regional and state level shall be completed from the point of suspension to the conclusion of the contest at the earliest time possible. All games will play seven innings unless otherwise terminated by the 10-run rule or the game goes into extra innings. NOTE: In all cases, the innings pitched by the pitcher(s) count toward the maximum number of innings allowed. Sub Varsity Games: If a league elects to have a time limit on sub varsity games, that time limit shall be 2:15 (two hours, fifteen minutes). No new inning can start after 2:15 has elapsed. Leagues and umpires cannot alter the time length. This applies ONLY if a league has elected to have a sub varsity time limit; otherwise, the game is seven 7 innings unless shortened by the 10-run rule. This adoption does not affect coaches and the umpire-in-chief mutually agreeing to end a game. A game may be shortened at any point. 4-3-1 Note 1 Tie Game – Subject to league policy. 4-4-1a Forfeit – If a team is late arriving, umpires must wait at least 30 minutes before leaving the game site unless they have confirmed the team will not show. Umpires shall not declare a forfeit for late arrival or for a team not showing. That decision is subject to league policy. 4-5-1 Protests – Protests are not allowed. 6-1-6 Pitching Restriction- Umpires are not responsible for enforcing the CHSAA policy. 10-1-9 Umpire Uniform – The navy blue or powder blue pullover shirt shall be worn. 1/5/12
Dealing with Fans
This memo provides guidelines for handling unruly spectator behavior. There have been situations where the officials have made a bad situation worse by engaging in conversation with these unruly spectators. Officials assigned to officiate a contest are responsible for the conduct of the contest. Controlling crowds and crowd reactions are not within the officials’ province.
That responsibility falls to game administrators. If spectators begin to interfere with the conduct of a contest; cause an official to become distracted through continual and unrelenting verbal abuse; or berate players, coaches, or officials in an unacceptable or vulgar manner, officials should stop the action, report the spectator(s) to the home school administration or the nearest uniformed security officer and ask that they be restrained or removed from the facility. If the home school administration or uniformed security is unwilling or unable to comply and the official does not believe the contest can be safely continued, the official must declare the contest ended at that point. If no game administrator is present, as is often the case at subvarsity contests, officials may have to call on coaches or other school personnel to remove an unruly spectator. Officials should never engage directly with spectators. Under no circumstance should an official ever confront, challenge, rebuke, or threaten a spectator, or make gestures of any kind toward a spectator before, during, or after a contest. Officials should respond to threats and vulgarity from spectators by using the same good judgment they utilize when ruling on a key play. Locate the game administrator, uniformed security personnel, coach, or other school personnel and request that the unruly spectator be removed. Addressing the spectator directly is a no-win situation and often serves to make a bad situation worse. In summary, officials should not deal directly with spectators, but may ask game management to deal with disruptive spectators. The game may be temporarily halted until the situation is resolved, but terminating a game because of problems with spectators must be an absolute last resort. Following the ejection of a spectator, please file an incident report with CHSAA.
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