Hi everyone, this is Pete Jaskulski.
I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine (John) who is an umpire and an umpire trainer. He told me a story about an umpire that we had recently trained who was going to stop umpiring because he had bad experiences with an assistant coach and some fans in a recent youth baseball game. This upset John because our goal as trainers was to have the first year umpires come back for a second season.
The role of social contracts
I have been involved in these types of discussions quite frequently lately, so John and I decided that it should be my responsibility to create a plan for umpires on how to address these situations. My idea was to meet with the umpires we have trained and then reach out to the various youth organizations in our area to train other umpires about how to solve this issue.
After some deliberation on my part, I centered my plan on Joel Lashley’s idea of developing “social contracts.” We as trainers taught the umpires how to behave on the field, now we have to teach the umpires how to set the “social contract” up for the coaches, players and fans.
Baseball already has social contracts for behavior such as not stealing bases when you are winning by a large amount of runs. Disputes are going to occur in baseball games at all levels. There are also “social contracts” on player and coach behavior such as it’s the coaches’ job to dispute calls (not the player). The head coach should be the only one disputing the calls so there are not three coaches on one umpire. There are rules that cover some of this behavior but it’s the “social contract” that covers those areas that are not in the rule book.
How it works
As trainers, John and I can help the umpires by speaking to the coaches and fans of the various youth baseball groups and explain the baseball “social contract” that deals with disputes and behavior at the ball park (and the ramifications for poor behavior). The umpires can help themselves at the ground rules meeting by utilizing the Universal Greeting (to create that reasonable doubt that they are not a jerk) and by highlighting how disputes will be handled.
By defining the social contract, it provides umpires, coaches, players and spectators with an expectation of proper behavior. The applications go far beyond the field however. Creating social contracts in your personal and professional lives can ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them in terms of proper behavior and the consequences for breaking that contract.