Collaboration towards a good sportsmanship and a positive image

One of the areas where I had hoped to be able to continue to work in the IHF towards further improvement is the collaboration between match officials and team officials in the pursuit of good sportsmanship and a positive image.

Here the [u]two aspects[/u] that come together, or sometimes clash, are the need for the [u]coaches and team officials to carry out their function without unnecessary constraints[/u] and the need for [u]our sport to project a favorable image[/u] at our major event. The coaches have a job to do, and this inevitable involves emotions, physical (re)actions, acts of self-interest, and even some ‘gamesmanship’.

[u]The match officials[/u], both the referees and those ‘at the table’, have the job of contributing to a [u]good atmosphere[/u], enabling the players to display their skills, reducing the risks to the players, providing a ‘level playing field’ by [u]applying the rules in an even-handed manner[/u], and generally helping create a [i]positive image[/i] of our sport. I think it is fair to say that problems, when they do arise, are generally [u]initiated by the teams and the coaches[/u], while the match officials tend to have more of a preventive and enforcing role. But it still makes sense to me look at the issue from both perspectives.

If one listens to the [u]coaches[/u], they attach a lot of importance to seeing the match officials do their job in a pragmatic, common-sense fashion, [u]without undue bureaucracy[/u], and without hiding behind rules and regulations. They want to see real reasons for any constraints placed on them when they are trying to do their job in a tough situation.

A [u]coach[/u] will also, quite reasonably, expect that the match officials have a good deal of [u]understanding for the circumstances[/u] under which the coaches work. The coach expects appreciation for the fact that it is not a like a desk job where one calmly tackles one task after another. In the match, the coach is under great pressure, gets many reasons to react strongly, and finds it natural and inevitable to express the emotions in a verbal or physical manner. The match officials must be able to [u]distinguish[/u] what is natural and spontaneous from what is calculated and unsportsmanlike.

From the standpoint of the [u]coaches[/u], it is also vital that the match officials are absolutely [u]consistent[/u] in their dealings with the ‘benches’, just as they expect consistency in the referee decisions on the court. Credibility and respect will quickly be lost, if one team is admonished or punished for its bench behavior, while the other team is allowed to ‘get away with’ things that are just as conspicuous. This is compounded, if the clamp-down is on ‘bureaucratic’ aspects, while unsportsmanlike actions are ignored.

The [u]match officials[/u] also tend to have their ‘pet peeves’. Nothing becomes more irritating than a coach or team official who is constantly acting in a [u]provocative[/u] manner, for instance trying to ‘help’ the referees discover an offensive foul or a passive play. These [u]calculated[/u] ways of influencing are resented more than a spontaneous reaction after a referee decision. Coaches somehow do not want to appreciate that and, conversely, match officials are often [u]letting it go too far[/u]. Somehow it does not seem so easy to deal with it…

A major dilemma arises for the [u]match officials[/u], when an otherwise well-behaved coach [u]ignores or loses control of the behavior of his/her players[/u] on the bench. Perhaps it is understandable if the ‘head coach’ gets too caught up in what happens on the court; and this may be why some coaches delegate the ‘letter A’ (the designation for the ‘responsible team official’ under the rules) to someone else. But there can be no excuse if [u]none[/u] of the officials realizes that things have gotten out of hand, so that instead the match officials have to step in with punishments, a situation that is guaranteed to cause further irritation. But the fact is that one [u]cannot ignore[/u] a bench with players who do not just spontaneously celebrate a goal but constantly jump up and down, protesting referee decisions with words and gestures, or even ’egging on’ the spectators.

A third cause for friction is when the [u]table officials[/u] encounter a coach who thinks so highly of himself/herself that [u]arrogance[/u] becomes the main attitude displayed towards the ‘lowly’ table officials. There are many gimmicks involved, such as ‘playing games’ with the ‘green card’, constantly and knowingly blocking the view of the ‘table’ despite reminders, ignoring requests for common courtesies, such as attending to some minor but important formality. Dismissive gestures also tend to part of the ‘arsenal’. Again, ‘strange’ behavior caused by stress and emotions is understandable, but deliberate disrespect has no place in the game.

In other words, there are [u]aspects that need and can be improved from both sides[/u]. Part of the problem is that the overall issue of collaboration, sportsmanship and image tends to be ignored. Contacts between federations and teams/coaches rarely focus on such matters in anticipation of a major event. It seems that [u]much could be achieved by simply starting and maintaining a dialog [/u]about the importance and benefits of avoiding irritation and controversy during matches and instead keeping the need for a positive image in mind.

Clearly it would be of great help if [u]coaches[/u] came to accept that their job is not just to lead their team in a determined and partisan manner towards victory. They are key representatives for our sport and highly visible. They must realize and accept that they do [u]have a responsibility for the image[/u] and the future success of our sport.

The same goes for those who nominate [u]‘table officials’ [/u]and those who serve in that capacity. These functions should not be filled on a ‘political’ basis, as rewards, or on the basis of positions held in a federation’s hierarchy. Instead, these are positions which require suitability, training and experience. I suspect that federations tend to make the double mistake of not establishing a specialized group of officials and, moreover, of finding it awkward to question the competence and the need for training on the part of those whom they do nominate. This is not fair to the teams, and it is not good for [u]our image[/u].

Views on this issue would be appreciated!