Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Peter asks an astute question in his post from June 5 (Kicking Back, When Does Reputation Matter) when he wonders if a player's reputation matters to how the referee handles him.  He says (and I agree) that it does matter, and then goes on to give some great advice about how to deal with it.  Did you catch his suggestion?  I hope so, as he put it in all caps:  TELL THEM!

This may be a difficult concept for some.  As referees, I am sure many of us feel that factoring in a player's reputation is wrong.  After all, we are a society that presumes innocence until proven guilty. 

But Peter is correct.  We must tell them what to expect.  And guess what, we already do!

I am not talking about the largely ineffective blanket warning to the benches before the game starts.  "I will not tolerate any dissent today."  That never really works in the manner intended. 

Nor am I speaking about finding some clever combination of words that the player will accept, although that is certainly a possibility.  (I once introduced myself to a coach known to be a problem to referees by offering, "Good luck today and I hope you are around to watch the whole game."  He must have gotten the right message because I never heard a word from him during the game.)

I am really talking more about OUR reputations, and the subtle messages we send from before the game even starts.  Like it or not, we communicate a heck of a lot more than we think, often without even saying a word.

Example from the State Championship tournament held just last weekend.  I observed two referees handling stressful situations.  One is a very young and relatively inexperienced grade 8 referee, about 5-1/2 feet tall.  The other was a mature grade 7 referee, about six feet tall with over 15 years in the program.  Advantage goes to the older referee, right?

Wrong.  Body language conveyed something different.  The rookie stood strait and appeared confident and assertive.  He looked people in the eye when he spoke to them.  However the veteran was slouched, and averted his eyes when speaking.  He appeared unsure and non-confrontational.  Both of those referees sent messages, and the players (and coaches and spectators) all received the message and acted accordingly. 

Oh yes, the words we choose also matter, as does our tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions, even whistle tone.  As referees, we are constantly sending messages about what we will or will not tolerate.  There is nothing wrong with this, in fact it is the essential tool we have in controlling a match. 

And it applies to everyone we meet in all facets of life.  Do not be afraid to tell people what you expect. 

Soccer is life.

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