This is one of our primary tools in exhibiting our professionalism and overall approach to officiating. It is important that we realize that often how we say something can out weight what we say. By the same token, we are often scrutinized and evaluated by the messages we emit and transmit. I define emit as those intangibles such as tone, body language, and word choice. Transmit is the message which is actually sent and can be garbled by how/what we emit. Think of your message as one being sent into space and how it can become interrupted and even bent by the effects of solar energy, physical obstructions, and weather.
example: The message we often “think” we are sending is, “Coach, please
help me out and keep the players in the team box.”
The words “please help” appear to be very courteous and in the spirit
of good will. However, often there is “static” and the receiver hears,
“Get these players back!” Then
we get the automatic, “Just worry
about the field and not the sidelines!” Or
my other favorite is, “Great, you miss the clip and the PI but you see ONE of
my kids two inches over the line.” To
maintain our goal of perceived professionalism we must rely on good
COMMUNICATION skills. These skills are vital to our image as officials.
I am fairly accurate in my
assessment of officials by several observations which involve COMMUNICATION. How are fouls reported?
This is one little detail which tells me volumes about an official.
If the official tends not to go in and get the information it signals me
that he is not confident or he is lazy...he wants to take short cuts and once we
learn to take a short cut in one area we begin to take them in more and more
until we are at a point where we are merely going through the motions and not
dedicating ourselves to do the best job possible.
How can he relay good and accurate information if he does not know what
happened? An official who gets
within five yards and then merely yells the information is setting up a wall
between him and the coach. He is
also indicating that he is not confident and/or is intimidated.
Coaches are like piranha...they smell blood, they swarm, and then they go
into a feeding frenzy. How and what
is reported- Choice of words is important.
Don’t merely tell the coach that 77 committed a personal or
un-sportsmanlike foul...get specifics and report them. “77 spit in 22’s
face.” “33 is reaching around the waist and not letting 65 through.” I
know it is easier to say holding but the extra time it takes reaps tremendous
Speak in very clear tone with no
hint of emotion. No need to yell if you are right in front of the coach.
Slow pattern down so as not to create a sense of panic or uncertainty.
No need to debate. Coaches
disagree, hear them out, acknowledge that you have heard them and then move
away. Often we attempt to buy our
way into the good graces of coaches by trying to prove we are right by citing
book and chapter when the end result is that we bury ourselves by citing
misinformation. If the coach has
more questions I offer, “Sir, I don’t have time now to discuss this but if
you want to take a time out I can certainly take more time with you. ” Also,
if I don’t know something I will tell the coach, “Let me ask and I’ll get
back to you at the next natural break in the game.”
Another key ingredient is how we
talk to the players. Remember that
at every level which we officiate these young men are just than...YOUNG.
We need to set the tone and serve as examples.
If we yell at players is it any surprise when they then yell at us?
I address all players as, “Sir”, “captain”, or by number.
I never call them son, or boy.
Show respect and you increase your odds of getting the same in return.
Speak to them in a calm tone which indicates that you are not emotionally
involved in the events. Repeat information if you read that they do not understand
what you are saying. I will add
that there are times when we need to be a little authoritarian in tone but I try
to utilize that component after exhausting all others....an exception is when
there is a situation which requires more severe action; such as a fight or
“dissing” going on.
Look directly at the person whom
you are speaking to and also listen to them.
Don’t start looking for the ball or the umpire after giving captain his
options...it gives the appearance that what the captain has to say is
unimportant. We have lots of time
and lots of ways to make up for lost time.
If a player comes to me and complains about something I never tell him to
have a captain take care of it. Each player should be made to feel that he will
be heard. I always ask players for
specifics like number etc and then tell him that I will watch for it.
If I warn a player about something or have called a foul on him I make an
effort to commend him for a good legal play.
This signals to that player, and to the team, that I am paying attention.
It also helps our COMMUNICATION lines to deal with positives as well as
In short, it puts the fun back into the ball game.
SIDEBAR a good umpire and referee can work wonders for the climate of a game as they have the opportunity to talk with players between each snap. Don’t hesitate to do preventative officiating during dead ball periods. It is amazing how the rapport an ump/ref can build by utilizing these periods to dialogue with players. By the same token, the side officials can work the same magic by their interactions with sidelines during these same periods. There is a major difference between having “rabbit ears” and showing teams that we are open to positive COMMUNICATION.
As a referee I always look up to the Press Box when giving signals. I do this as I feel it is professional and that eye contact with the Box shows that I have command and presence. COMMUNICATION with my fellow officials is also imperative. When I need to ask another official for information I do not want to give any keys that I disagree with the call or the action.....the post game is the time for that. Do not destroy your “team” by indicating dissatisfaction. I have had occasions where I have had to enforce a judgment call which I knew to be bad but to do so creates more harm than good. If I use the immediate time to “teach” the official I know that he will spend the rest of the game thinking about my action and thus he is no longer focused on the game at hand.
In NCAA games, if I feel the pass may have been uncatchable I never ask the covering official, “Do you think the pass was catchable?” This sends many messages which are not helpful. One, he may be intimidated by my presence and feel that he now needs to say it was uncatchable merely because I planted the seed. It can also send the signal that I disagree with the call and am challenging his ability. Instead I ask, “Did you see the pass?” Open question which plants no seeds and yet still gives the official an opportunity to rethink his position.
In Fed games, the same is true when situations apply. I have also learned that to ask a question more than once is not helpful. It only prolongs the agony and increases the chances of COMMUNICATION lines being disrupted
COMMUNICATE as a team.
It is never “he” had PI; it is 77 committed PI.
Or “we” have PI on 77. Better
yet, “there was PI on 77”. Signals
are a very important part of our communication.
Make them brisk and professional. Look
at your self in the mirror as you practice signals.
Crisp signals send a clear message of our attitude towards the game and
ourselves as officials. Enough
pontificating. Here are my objectives for COMMUNICATION:
1. Pre-game Be a listener: no dressing, no side chatter, look at the person doing the talking.
2. Pre Kick off Introduce self to my sideline and shake coach’s hand. Look him in the eye and explain I will be reporting all fouls to him or his appointed agent. I offer that it may take me a minute depending on game situation but that I will always get to him. Introduce self to chain crew and go over my check list. Smile, be courteous and professional. Learn their names so I can talk to them on a personal basis if need be.
players as people...sir, captain, number use calm tone-do not yell, go slow,
shorten up personal comfort zone. Use the right words...think before I speak get proper data
from other officials before talking with captains or coach.
Do not get caught up in the tempo of the game...relax and work the game
same tempo from kick off to final whistle.
Step in if I feel a mistake is being made and offer my view... then
withdraw without allowing my ego to get in the way of possibility that I may be
wrong. Look everyone with whom I
speak in the eye record all pertinent data on my game card so that I can
decipher it if needed. Very
important that all officials document game situation at the end of quarters 1/3.
Verbalize information before proceeding with duties. work on signals...30
minutes per week all year long. Pay
attention to timing devise...we should all be aware of the status of clock and
time. HL may be the only one exempt as he does have other tasks to attend.