By: Bob White, Northern Maine Board of Approved Soccer Officials (43 yrs), Maine HSA Soccer Rules Interpreter (28 yrs), and NISOA (29 yrs), NISOA HS Referee of Year 2002.
This article reviews the two major types of communications that the Interscholastic Soccer Referee has to be concerned about: VERBAL and VISUAL. Each type has four major components.
In Verbal Communications we discuss: 1. Pre Contest Referee Team Briefing, 2. Communications between Referee Team, Scorers, Timers, 3. Communications between Referee Team, Coaches, Players, and 4. Within the Referee Team.
As part of Visual Communications this article reviews: 1. the role of Signals, 2. the impact of Referee Appearance, 3. Mechanics and Referee Teamwork, and Physical Fitness.
This review defines the four aspects of each of the four components : as either the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY. Obviously, your aim as an NFHS Sports Official is to adopt the GOOD aspects of each component so that your officiating is at the best possible level.
Effective and positive Verbal Communications are a must if the Interscholastic Soccer Referee is to manage any contest in an organized, safe, manner, in keeping with the “Spirit of the Game and the Rules”, and insuring that an environment of fair play and sportsmanship is maintained.
The first aspect of Verbal Communications is the Pre-Game Referee Team Briefing.
a. Cordial introductions of Referee Team to Coaches and field officials, b. relaxed, positive attitude by Referee Team, c. brief preliminaries that cover all required procedures, d. no threats, negative remarks to Team Captains at coin toss and required pre-game briefing.
a. Rush to get it over with, b. lack of interest in Captains, or game, c. answer questions in negative, threatening manner, d. give impression of just going through the motions of required pre-game briefing.
a. Give impression you do not want to be here, b. conduct a long rules interpretation discussion, c. threaten players if certain rules are violated, d. unprepared, e.g., no coin; not willing to acknowledge approved local rules modification, e. reminding teams of past conflicts or problems.
The second aspect of VERBAL COMMUNICATIONS: Between Referee Team, Scorer, Timer, Ball Holders.
a. Acknowledge their role and importance in keeping the contest flowing, b. be positive when making sure that they are aware of their duties and responsibilities, c. make them feel comfortable to ask for help if a problem arises in their duties.
a. Waiting until last moment to brief them, b. assume they are aware and prepared for all key duties, responsibilities, c. confusion; they receive different instructions from each official at the site.
a. No instructions at all, b. negative attitude toward student Scorers, Timers, Ball Holders, c. refusal to answer questions, d. showing a lack of confidence in their ability.
The third aspect of VERBAL COMMUNICATIONS: Between Referee Team, Coaches, Players.
a. Open minded, respect for all parties, b. willingness to listen, c. regular eye to eye contact by Referee Team, d. thorough knowledge of rules without reference to book on site, e. quietly speaking to players about correcting borderline or improper play.
a. Becoming defensive in discussions, b. raising voice to make a point, c. causing confusion by poor communication.
a. Threatening statements, b. “Ego Trip” – refuse to communicate, c. toe-to-toe confrontations with participants, d. refuse to listen to legitimate comments, e. lying to cover mistakes.
The fourth aspect of VERBAL COMMUNICATIONS: Among Referee Team.
a. Coordinate travel, arrival plans in advance, b. conduct pre-game Referee Team briefing, c. use “Referee Team” approach to game management, d. emphasize clear signals and regular eye contact, e. subtle communications when assistance needed for decision.
a. Mechanics, signals not all the same, b. no advance coordination of travel, arrival plans, c. lack of discussion during game intervals, d. late arrival, miss pre-game briefing.
a. No pre-game briefing, b. each official has own agenda on how game should be handled, c. criticizing other Referees to coaches, players, d. arguments among Referees on calls and interpretations.
Now we will review the second type: VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS. There are four aspects: 1. Signals, 2. Referees’ appearance, 3. Mechanics, Teamwork, 4. Physical Fitness.
Good VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS are a must in all sports contests in order to overcome crowd noise, keeping in constant touch with Scorer and Timer area, communicating with other Referees, and keeping Coaches, Players and Spectators aware of key events during the game.
The first aspect of VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS is Signals
a. Use only authorized signals, b. Signals given each time required, c. Clear signals, from stationary position, d. can be seen and understood.
a. Used only occasionally, b. too fast to be effective, c. not correctly executed.
a. No signals, or very few, used, b. unapproved signals used, c. each team member uses different, own signals, d. incorrect signals given.
The second aspect of VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS is the Officials’ Appearance.
Well groomed and well dressed officials communicate a very positive feeling with coaches, players and spectators when they enter the contest site. It is one foundation of confidence and respect by coaches and players, and leads to easier communications.
a. Referees properly uniformed, b. All officials in same approved type of uniform, c. neat, clean personal grooming, d. promotes teamwork among Referees, e. Indicates Referees are well prepared for the contest.
a. Referees not dressed alike in approved uniforms and badge, b. team concept not demonstrated by being dressed alike, c. Uniform not well maintained, d. personal grooming deficits.
a. Referee(s) wear a non-approved uniform or badge, b. Referee(s) has own dress code and ignores the required uniform and equipment specifications, c. Major personal grooming deficits.
The third aspect of VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS involves: Mechanics & Teamwork.
a. Referees “flow” with contest, b. “Presence Lends Conviction” (i.e., keeping close enough to play to demonstrate correct calls), c. regular eye contact among Referee Team, d. adjust to style of play, weather, game and behavior control needs, e. act to keep contest moving along.
a. Improper positioning, b. little help to other Referee Team members, c. signals sporadic, not consistent, d. behind the play.
a. Behind play and out of position, b. lack of signals, c. conflicting calls, d. inconsistent calls, e. calls trifling infringements that are better left alone.
The fourth aspect of VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS is: Physical Fitness. The appearance of good personal physical conditioning and fitness during a contest is a subtle form of Communication that promotes increased confidence in Referees by Coaches and Players.
a. Good physical appearance, b. alertness, concentration, c. timely response to game events and misconduct.
a. Unable to maintain consistent field coverage, b. late, unsure decisions, c. out of position when making decisions.
a. Coaches openly commenting on official’s apparent lack of fitness, b. Referee makes light of inability to adequately cover field, c. Referee admits “should have hung it up last year”.
Summary. The two major types of communications and their components are:
VERBAL COMMUNICATIONS: 1. Pre Contest Officials Briefing, 2. Between Officials, Scorers, Timers, 3. Between Officials, Coaches, Players, 4. Between Officiating Team
VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS1. Signals, 2. Officials’ Appearance, 3. Mechanics & Teamwork, 4. Physical Fitness
We have reviewed these two major types of communications, and in the review have related their importance to successful interscholastic refereeing. And finally, we have considered the Good, Bad and Ugly aspects of all components of the two types of communications, and how each affects your refereeing performance. We hope that this will encourage you to develop good communications skills, and to learn to put those skills to good use to improve your refereeing performance.