Avoiding the appearance of being confrontational is all about tone, volume, and body language.
Try to make your tone as conversational as possible. Picture yourself at a restaurant asking your waiter about a menu item. Can you ask the umpire the question with that kind of polite, friendly tone?
Try to use a normal voice volume when asking the question. This requires getting within “conversation distance” if possible and appropriate. Ideally, only you and the umpire hear the conversation (or any players very close by).
Approach the umpire calmly and without demonstrative body language such as flailing arms. Position yourself more side by side with the umpire, as opposed to “nose to nose.”
I am reminded of legendary Pepperdine University Men’s Volleyball Coach Marv Dunphy, who is still active after 30 plus years. When he questions the referee, he has the ability to do it with a friendly smile on his face, even though he disagrees with the call. He is especially good at this in situations where the rest of us would have great difficulty masking our anger! This is one of the things that separates Marv from the rest. And this approach has gotten Marv slightly more than his fair share of borderline calls to go in his favor over the years!
Submitted by Ruben Nieves, National Director of Training, Positive Coaching Alliance