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agdz59

NFHS: Dealing with unruly fans

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Hi all,

New to the forum. Been umping LL several years and just got into travel ball youth tournaments that run by NFHS rules. First tournament Was over Memorial Day weekend and I had one game as base umpire where 2 parents / fans of one team began riding me about not calling balks.  It got personal quickly and my general response was no response.   When I got home, I looked up NFHS rules and the Rule 3 section on Conduct talks about players, coaches and other bench personnel but not fans.  There is one item about coaches inciting fan objections but not fans themselves.

This weekend is the next tournament with this team being on the roster and I want to deal with it directly and appropriately.  I will talk to the TD before the game about how to handle it.  But before then, I'd like to hear from you experienced hands on how you deal with the fans when they directly and repeatedly challenge / malign you. "you suck" and "send me to the parking lot, I don't care." were a couple. 

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This doesn't answer your question but in addition to, people have asked me for years why I don't do "weekend ball." This is why. 

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Don't bring it up with the site director before the game. That just makes the perception that you are looking for trouble with the fans. Do introduce yourself to the site director and remember his/her name and go to them if you have issues with fans. Go to the tournament's web site and see if they have fan conduct rules on the tournament's page. If you have issues that you deem meet the level of removal, get the site director and calmly tell them who needs to be removed and why.

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1 hour ago, BobUmp said:

They pay a ton of money and are travelling and using their free/vacation time to support the kid on his tourney team, so they are in full vacay mode which means there are a subset that are going to get unruly, and not only go after the umps verbally, but the venue, the concession stand attendant, their coach, the other coach, etc etc. Much like some yahoos you see at MLB or Minor League venues. 

Yes, let's let fans say anything they want because they've spent a lot of time and money to harass me.

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Hey, I'm the first guy to say we should only deal with things within the confines of the field.

 

However, if unruly fans are inciting the players or coaches to act out, then you've got to deal with it.  Not deal with it in person, but use the site director or tournament director to handle it.  When the game starts, it's YOUR game.

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Your thick skin and selective hearing the first time around was good.  However, an escort down lonely street may have been appropriate.

Ejecting fans is a tough call.  I think BobUmp had some sarcasm in his post that was missed, but I also (my personal opinion) think his leash was a little too long.  Nonetheless, if it works for him, who am I to say.

Personally here are the things I look for:

  • Making it personal ... is “you suck!” personal?  Eh, probably not (though it could be).  However, I tossed a fan at a Varisty game because she said “His check is in his pocket, he’s a cheater!”  Yep, that buys you a one-way ticket back out of the ballpark.
  • Threats against anybody ... Telling a player to run somebody over or throw at them?  Don’t care if you are a coach or a fan, that one gets you a seat on that long train-a-comin’.
  • Acts of aggression or inciting other fans or players ... charging the fence, standing right behind me to make direct comments, throwing bottles ... Varsity baseball game and we awarded 4 fans with the evening off in the first three innings.  More on that in a moment ...

 

The proper process?  I would say first and most important: YOU don’t engage the fan.  Don’t even show them the respect of “the toss” move.  Call time.  Get with your partner to make sure you are a cohesive unit.  Then go to the coach the fan belongs to and explain what is going to happen.  That may look something like this: “Coach, Helicopter Momma over there has to go.  We are stopping play until that happens.  It is your responsibility to address your fans.  If she doesn’t go (or if you refuse to comply), we can and will call the game a forfeit.”  And YES, it is the coach’s responsibility.

In a tournament, immediately get the TD involved.  Just like an Administrator during a school event.  Let him or her handle the actual fan removal.  They may have policies that remove the fan from the park, the day, or even the rest of the tournament.

 

Back to the fearsome foursome we ejected ... The first EJ was four pitches in.  My BU called time, gave him the heave, and the guy slowly made his own way out as my partner explained it to the coach.  (Mistake #1, we did not get together first.)  EJ 2 occurred behind me (I had my selective hearing on so I didn’t catch it), so again my BU called time and gave that guy the heave.  As my BU was walking in to do that, another fan threw a bottle in the stands and my BU tagged him out also.  Fan #4 reacted and started screaming, so I welcomed him to circle the wagons in the parking lot.  Again, we failed to get together before talking to the coaches.

We then brought the coaches together and explained that they needed to control their fans.  Home HC balked at that.  We advised him if he didn’t want to handle it, he needed to get a school administrator on site immediately and would be subject to ejection himself.  Visiting HC said “You don’t need an Administrator, you need the police.”  At that point I told my partner we were exiting the field, and we did.  An administrator showed up moments later, some other fans left voluntarily.  After 10 minutes or so, we agreed to go back on the field ONLY because the kids did not get engaged in the shenanigans; they were very calm and cool through the whole thing.  We did advise the Administrator and the coaches that any subsequent ejection would mean we are clearing the whole park and the offending team’s HC would be going with them.

Plenty of lessons to learn there.  I’m sure others can point out more.

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If a coach calls me a POS he gets ejected, if a player calls me a POS he gets ejected. If a fan calls me a POS we are supposed to ignore? 

I am not thin skinned, I do not generally listen to fans and let 90% of it go with a smile or laugh but fans are held to the same standard as coaches to me. My favorite saying is people will treat you how you allow them to treat you. I am not going to allow anyone let alone a stranger who feels entitled because they paid to get in to abuse me. I do not engage fans but drop an F bomb or get personal and you are leaving. I also have no problem telling a coach to get control or he is leaving. I get tired of hearing how we signed up to UMP and it’s part of it.....no it’s not normal to be abused by strangers and asked to deal with it. 

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I don't care if they are on vacation mode. I'm a human being making $50 something dollars to umpire your kid's game. It's glorified volunteering. That doesn't give you a right to say whatever you want out there.

And you know what happens when you don't get rid of a bad apple or shut things down? The next parent starts. Then the next one. Then the other team starts. If the coaches haven't, they start. Then you have parents yelling at parents. You're losing control of the situation...or pretending that "everything outside the fence doesn't matter".

If you don't want to be a respectable human being and watch your kid's game, you can leave. I'm not just going to eat crap from some parent(s) for 7 innings just because they didn't literally say "I'm going to kill you." I like to umpire my games in relative peace. Better working environment for all.

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I saw this last night.   I was doing a double header 12u baseball solo.   The field next to us was 13u, 2 man.

We had started our 2nd game while the 13u game was still going.
In between one of our innings we all heard from the 13u field:  "That's bullsh*t blue"   The umpire tossed the fan.

I joked to the fans on our field...that's a lesson for everyone and they all laughed.


Come to find out the fan on the other field wouldn't leave, the umpires went to the coach and he didn't/wouldn't do anything.
So the umpires declared forfiet.   The game had to be near the end of time/innings.

Weekday game....I feel bad for the kids...they didn't deserve that.

 

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If they're impacting your ability to manage or run the game, run them.  Stall the game until the fan leaves, or the site admin/Home coach/TD does something about it.   Yes, you need a thick skin, but there is a line, and I don't think it needs to be very far away.   You're not paid enough to tolerate too much.  And the fans, even when they pay admission, don't pay enough to be able to do what they want.

I've been the TD in these situations. It's usually pretty quick once I show up.  I've had a couple who have said "what, are you going to carry me out of here?"  And I simply say, as I start dialing, "no, the police will."

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Last tournament I did a couple weeks back had a very strict policy, published on their web site and handed to the coaches. They, the coaches, were 100% responsible for the conduct of their fans. They were responsible for their actions, their mouths, and if needed, to send them packing.

Not in my game, but in a buddies... couple parents started getting dumb... friend called time, went to the coach and just made small talk, never mentioned the noise coming from the two loud mouths. But he did make sure to look in their direction while having the conversation... Never heard another peep from them the rest of the game. Now thankfully, the coach was wise enough to understand what my friend was trying to accomplish, and in this instance it worked.

Game management is a skill and an art form. There is no 'one size fits all' for any situation. You will need to decide, at your game, on that day, and in that moment the best way for you to handle the situation. All of this will be based on your perception of your safety, the safety of the athletes, the demeanor of the coaching staff, the availability of site management, etc, etc.

Do what you think you need to to to be safe, secure while protecting the kids and yourself.

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This may not be what you want to hear, but I recommend just not paying any attention to anything outside the fence that isn't a direct threat to safety or directly affecting the kids on the field. I do tourney ball, and some of the things that come out of parents' mouths at these things are unbelievable. I am only guessing, but since they are 'trapped' at these things all day and all weekend, a chunk of them are probably half in the bag from tailgating between games.

They pay a ton of money and are travelling and using their free/vacation time to support the kid on his tourney team, so they are in full vacay mode which means there are a subset that are going to get unruly, and not only go after the umps verbally, but the venue, the concession stand attendant, their coach, the other coach, etc etc. Much like some yahoos you see at MLB or Minor League venues. 

Best thing in the long run for your sanity and the experience for the kids on the field is to keep yourself out of their swamp and ignore any crap you get from outside the fences. 

Now, if it turns to taunting the other teams' kids, or violence or threats, or trying to encite their kids into doing something unsportsmanlike, call time immediately, get your partner on the same page, then both approach the coach you think "owns" the trouble makers, and get them removed either by the coach or the TD. An example, the FIRST Tourney of the year in late March, I had the plate for the 13U Final, which were the oldest playing since school ball was underway. A close game until about the 4th, when one team's BR hits an inside the park grand-slam, a "little-league" like shot off the fence that bounced crazy and got away from the two fielders, ending with a play at the plate that was a non-controversial safe call. As cheers were calming down and a new ball given to the pitcher, I hear two "dads" on the defensive side behind home plate say "The last two kids were WAY too comfortable up there, he should brushback the next hitter to make them less comfortable" and " YEAH, you're right.. HEY JOHNNY, throw at this kid, brush him back!".. I was shocked, 13U spring tourney and we are going to start a bean ball war?? I whip around and look at the two suspects, and get the "not guilty, guilty" look-ahead pose from both. I call over the defensive HC, and tell him "you will NOT believe what I just heard" and made him take care of it. Now, of course, after doing this, if anyone from behind the fence said anything unsportsmanlike i would be forced to call over the coaches and TD and shut the seats down and clear the area, because i already made the move and gotten myself involved beyond the fences, but i would have been able to justify it as a "safety" thing and reasonable parents would understand and comply.

So, unfortunately, i would say just eat it and ignore it if it is sent your way...

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