An official who has a pleasant style, quick smile, and calm demeanour creates a positive environment that has a soothing effect on players and coaches. For example, a tennis umpire who uses the same tone to enforce a penalty point as he or she uses to announce the set score does not antagonize the penalized player and elicit an abusive reaction. In contrast, a finger-pointing or verbal argument with a player or coach might demonstrate your certainty in the call but distorts the real message you want to communicate.
Remember, communication is a two-way street.
If you keep the lines of communication open, you will be more likely to have constructive and enjoyable relationships with athletes, coaches, and spectators.
A recent survey of high school basketball officials indicated that officials‘ style and nature of communication are influenced by interactions with players, coaches, and fans.
Approximately 41% of the officials surveyed said they were more demonstrative in making and signalling calls in front of hostile crowds;
30% said they made adjustments in hand signals and administration of the game depending on the reaction of the crowd;
and 36% admitted they were conscious of fan response when making unpopular calls.
An article in the magazine Referee suggests some keys to communicating with players, coaches, and spectators at any level:
Have your head on right.
- Don’t think your umpire shirt grants you immunity from having to take a little criticism.
It’s part of officiating. Plan on it.
Successful officials know how much to take. Ask one when you get the chance.
Don’t be a tough person.
- If a coach is on your back but not enough so to warrant a penalty, then stay away from him or her. This is especially true during time-outs. Standing near an unhappy coach, just to „show him“, will only lead to further tensions. Some officials develop irritating characteristics.
Don’t be one of them.
- If you don’t like to be shouted at, don’t shout at someone else. Be firm with a normal relaxed voice. This technique will do wonders in helping you reduce the pressure.
Shouting indicates a loss of control – not only of one’s self, but also of the game.
- Cockiness has absolutely no place in officiating. You want to exude confidence. Your presence should command respect from the participants. As in any walk of life, appearance, manner, and voice determine how you are accepted.
Try to present the proper image.
Forget the fans.
- As a group, fans usually exhibit highly emotional partisanship and delight in antagonizing the officials. Accepting this fact will help you ignore the fans, unless they interrupt the game or stand in the way of your doing job.
Answer reasonable questions.
- Treat coaches and players in a courteous way. If they ask you a question reasonably, answer them in a polite way. If they get your ear by saying, „Hey ref, I want to ask you something“, and the start telling you off, interrupt and remind them of the reason for the discussion.
Be firm, but relaxed.
Choose your words wisely.
- Don’t obviously threaten a coach or player; this will only put them on the defensive. More importantly, you will have placed yourself on the spot. If you feel a situation is serious enough to warrant a threat, then it is seriously enough to penalize, without invoking a threat. Obviously some things you will say will be a form of threat, but using the proper words can make it subtle.
- Your purpose is to establish a calm environment for the game. Nervous or edgy officials are easily spotted by fans, coaches, and players alike. Avidly chewing gum, pacing around, or displaying a wide range of emotions prior to or during a game will serve to make you seem vulnerable to the pressure.