By Karl Dewazien
Coaches and referees can improve the playing environment in their communities by simply making an effort to get to know each other on a personal basis; getting together at a social function to resolve misunderstandings; and then taking action to improve themselves and their program.
Making an Effort – to get to know each other on a personal basis but not at a meeting.
The definition of the word ‘meeting’ alone should give you pause: “An assembly or conference of persons for a specific purpose; a hostile encounter.” Even synonyms of the word ‘meeting’ should discourage Referees/Coaches to not gather at a meeting, “competition; confrontation; contest; encounter; showdown; conflict.”
As one of my colleagues wrote recently after attending a Referee/Coaches meeting, “These meetings are controlled and most of the discussions are held by those few people who have intimidating attitudes and personalities, or have their own agenda to impose on the rest. Many people will not speak out in those situations. Some people outside the meetings are a totally different person during those conversations. Why go to a meeting where you are afraid to speak your mind and always the same people are listened to and make the decisions? These are not relaxed, open-minded gatherings where voices can be heard, where honest discussions are held and decisions made by and for the program!”
Get Together – at an invitation-only social event for referees and coaches!
The definition of the word ‘social’ alone should give you reassurance to expect a positive outcome: “Seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; relating to, connected with.” Even synonyms of the word ‘social’ should encourage you to organize a social event, “Community; companionable; entertaining; hospitable; informative; neighborly; organized; pleasant; pleasurable; polite; popular.”
At the Social – Be sincerely interested in getting to know the other person. Approach the face-to-face meeting with the proper attitude. Your goal is to build a relationship that will benefit the program.
Greet the person with a firm handshake and a big Smile. The handshake helps convey certainty, confidence and competence. The smile is an instant energizer which makes you appear approachable, friendly, relaxed, open and comfortable.
If possible, find out and greet the individual with their first and last name. However, if you do not know the individual’s name, then volunteer your own name and listen for theirs. A person's name is to him/her the sweetest and most important sound in any language and you must remember it after the initial greeting. To do this, it is best to repeat their name in comments you make to the individual in follow up conversation.
Become a good listener and encourage the individual to talk about him/herself because when you are talking you will hear only things which you already know; but when listening, you hear things that you did not know. You would, therefore, be wise to keep silent and yet very attentive to find out all about this prospective ally.
When you feel satisfied and comfortable with the individual’s personal background, only then should you guide them toward more specific subjects and maybe ask some of the following questions:
- How many years has he/she been involved in soccer?
- Why/how did they get started?
- What age groups and genders have they coached/refereed?
Eventually get into nitty-gritty topics - such as the ‘Pre-Game Meeting’ which often causes Pre-Game Misunderstandings; ‘Keep ‘It’ Brief’ seems to be the mantra of many referee instructors. Exchange names, collect rosters, go over pertinent information such as length of halves and halftime interval, what happens in the case of a tie, coaching and substitute area, handshake, and ‘Good luck.’ Perform the coin toss and that is it. Another piece of advice given: Conduct the pre-game meeting just before game time so that there is no time for extended conversations.
An honest face-to-face discussion on this and other topics, such as sideline coaching in a social setting can resolve many future misunderstandings. When you connect with people on a person-to-person level you open the doors that can/will improve your program dramatically.
Take Action – by becoming allies! The word ‘ally’ should give you a clue as to your mutual obligations to the program and players. It is a person who associates or cooperates with another and takes the interests, intentions, or needs of other people into account. Our first priority is to take the needs of the players into consideration and assure that the playing environment is the best that it can be by allowing the officials to fulfill at least these functions:
- First, Control the Game: Enforce the Laws of the Game fairly and wisely.
- Second, Prevent Injuries.
- Third, Teach: At times the referee simply blows the whistle and points. At times he/she may tell the player the reason for the call and sometimes he/she teaches without making a call at all. This is especially true at the younger age groups.
Referees and coaches can improve the playing environment in their communities by simply making an effort to get to know each other on a personal basis; getting together at a social function to resolve misunderstanding; and then taking action to improve themselves and their programs.
And if you have either developed or observed any unique ways that have helped in successfully improving coach and referee relationships, please share them!
Karl Dewazien is the Emeritus State Director of Coaching for the California Youth Soccer Association. He is the author of the internationally published FUNdamental SOCCER Book Series and co-producer of the highly acclaimed 9 Step Practice Routine DVD. He is currently a renowned Internet Educator of all things Youth Soccer. Learn more about Koach Karl and the 9 Step Practice at www.fundamentalsoccer.com
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