PDA

View Full Version : Communication skills



Red Horseman
07-11-14, 09:11
I gave a presentation a while ago to my local refs society on subconscious influences on decision making (my background is in hostage negotiation), and have now been asked to give a presentation to coaches around communication with referees.

Could I therefore ask forum members for examples of verbal and non verbal communication that they regularly encounter - either from coaches or players - that affects your on-field relationship with them in both positive and negative ways.

PLEASE DO NOT IDENTIFY A CLUB OR INDIVIDUAL - that is not the purpose of the exercise!

Thank you.

Dixie
07-11-14, 12:11
Great idea!

As a fairly recently retired ref, I can give a very honest and dispassionate response without fear that it may affect my Society's view of me and my impartiality.

The comms from the captains were almost always kept within proper bounds. The only times that exceptions occurred came when the captain was party to a commonly-held myth - usually "you can't take the second one quickly", or "he has to let him up, Sir!". I have yellow carded more than one captain for unacceptable dissent when his team has switched off and conceded a score in the belief that I was required to allow them time to reorganise when they'd cheated to prevent a tap penalty going anywhere. It would help if captains were to be given training in the laws, but by and large the captains are not the problem when it comes to communication.

Individual players seem to believe that all refs are both deaf and stupid. This leads them to say things like: we're playing against 16 here, lads! Dylan Harley, like countless players before him, found to his cost that the referee (barrister Wayne Barnes in his case) was not so stupid as to believe that his derogatory remark was anything other than a marginally indirect comment on his integrity. Most rugby refs look at soccer referees and wonder how they are expected to remain impartial when one team is surrounding him, screaming into his face that he's a blind f!*&ing c*%t while the other stands back and watches gleefully as the screamers do their level best to turn the ref against them. The best communication with a ref is none at all, unless you are either captain or pack leader.

Pack leaders who are not captains can get it very wrong. Their very limited role is to select options at lineouts and scrums, and (if so delegated by the captain) to offer up to a referee's attention matters that seem to be going awry that the referee may not be aware of. Many seem to believe that they themselves are unsanctionable during the game; that they can mutter dissent throughout; that they can tell the referee how to do his job; and that they can sigh and moan in obvious disagreement with decisions, while expecting to be listened to respectfully.

Coaches are rarely problematic during games, but when they are it has huge potential to influence the team. The coach who cannot stay the right side of the whitewash (whether it be the technical area, the touchline, the dead ball line or whatever) presents the referee with a problem, particularly at adult games. This type of coach is usually controlling, dictating plays and patterns throughout the game while refusing to allow his charges to think for themselves. His belief in his control extends to the refereeing, so he will be as vocal about that as he is about his team's failure to execute his detailed game plan. The team picks up on his negativity, and before you know it the ref has lost one team, while the other sees (in the award of perfectly ordinary decisions) the ref being influenced by the noisiness of the oppo, with obvious ways of even up the situation. I have no problems with a coach arguing a point of view passionately over a pint, but the guy who can't respect the 30 minute cool-down period is a headache, and it may lead to a referee viewing with distaste the prospect of officiating his team.

The referee voluntarily gives of his time to facilitate a game between two teams who share his love of the sport. If he feels this donation is not appreciated, he is less likely to work his socks off to get the best out of the team showing disdain for him. The crowd can be the loudest negative influence during a game. While at Twickenham the elite boys may be able to rationalise that this is mere partisanship and not actually personal, it is very much harder to take that view when there are only 20 people watching, all within 5m of the touchline, and all of whom will feel free to tell you where you went wrong in the bar afterwards. Coaches tend to feel that crowd control is the responsibility of someone else on game day, as they have their hands full; however, there is little point them instilling discipline into their players if they are prepared to allow the spectators to turn the referee's sympathies against the club, and thus (subconsciously) the team.

Red Horseman
07-11-14, 13:11
Some great points - thanks. Most of them tie in nicely to the 'subconscious influences' presentation as well !

crossref
07-11-14, 14:11
I gave a presentation a while ago to my local refs society on subconscious influences on decision making (my background is in hostage negotiation), and have now been asked to give a presentation to coaches around communication with referees.

Could I therefore ask forum members for examples of verbal and non verbal communication that they regularly encounter - either from coaches or players - that affects your on-field relationship with them in both positive and negative ways.
.

Red - if I understand you right, you are giving a presentation to coaches on how they can use subtle verbal and non-verbal communication techniques to influence referees ?

why should we help you ? ! :)

I think there is a long game, and a short game coaches can use.

The short game is bellowing from the sideline. It's a very blunt instrument and while I am sure it works to some extent in influencing some referees, it also has very unpredictable side effects. For instance if the coach spends a lot of time on the touchline shouting that the referee is being unfair, then his own team can start to believe this, and confidence collapses. Suddenly they wonder that perhaps it's all pointless, they can't actually win

The long game is to win over a referee the opposite way - feign great enthusiasm when he arrives 'Are you reffing us today? Excellent!'. And so on. If the referee likes you that might pay off better -- in the long run

I remeber someone posting here while changing he could overhear the coach briefing some players next door
- you know this ref boys, he's hard but very fair. He's got eyes in the back of his head, don't risk being offside. He won't take any back chat, don't give him any. etc etc. obviously staged for the ref's benefit. I don't suggest coaches should go that far!

Red Horseman
07-11-14, 15:11
Haha! The refs presentation was actually intended to help them to avoid being influenced. The one for coaches is motivated by a recent red card for dissent.
However, human behaviour is what it is, and how to empathise and keep a ref "onside" will by definition involve influencing skills - as your examples illustrate. We all want games to be hard but good natured, and a happy ref is part of the equation. (I know - I was a ref many years ago!)
Grateful for your views.
RH

FlipFlop
07-11-14, 23:11
The best I can think off is the general comment. If every break in play, a captain is asking me to look at this, or that, or.... Then I stop listening. And the relationship can turn sour. But if a Captain picks and chooses what and when, it can have a huge impact. The old - be quiet unless it REALLY matters.

I know a captain who in the first half would always agree with the ref, praise him etc. But if they needed a PK at any given time the 2nd half, there would be a comment to the ref about some oppo cheating, and 75% of the time, he would get it, even if not deserved (his own admission).

Red Horseman
08-11-14, 09:11
Thanks FF. Good honest comment. A lot of similar themes starting to emerge here!
RH

Phil E
08-11-14, 09:11
For me coaches who collar you before the game with something like "ref, we have this move I want to run past you to see if it's legal" are usually trying to test out your tolerance levels in advance. They know full well if it's legal or not. My usual answer is "I will have to see it before I decide" and lo and behold it never.....and I do mean never, happens.

The thing that really gets on my nerves though is captains who are the problem, rather than the solution.
"Skipper, you deal with your teams discipline please"
"Yes Sir, don't you worry, I'm all over it"
Followed later by "skipper, you said you would deal with the discipline, but your not, in fact the only indisciplined member of your team is you, you need to start setting an example".
A good coach will recognise that this relationship between the referee and the captain is going sour and change the captain. No good will come of the captain being the problem instead of the solution, it just gets on the referees nerves, consciously or subconsciously.

Simon Thomas
08-11-14, 10:11
RH

Interesting stuff and one I have been interested in for many seasons.

At Society level over the years we have had speakers on verbal and non-verbal communication, confrontation management (police and military), communication skills, etc. Also we have had the occasional coach come and talk about their pov, expectations, etc.

the RFU has covered the topic in the past with Panel and Group squads.i assume that the Elite squads have ongoing work in this area.

The RFU has either employed or had retained consultants in sports psychology and performance and much of the development programme structure and content is based on their work over the last few years.

I will dig out any material I have and PM you. It may be worth asking your Area RFU Training Manager what they have as they now cover both referee and playing coach aspects in a single department.

Game Mamagement is THE crucial skill at levels 7/8 and higher, so we devote a lot of effort in at area across communication and control, which includes verbal and non-verbal communication, judgment, decision-making, motivation, objectivity, consistency, confrontation management, etc.

You identify an interesting (and important) aspect is the coach to referee interchanges, and we should do more in this area. Well done.

Red Horseman
08-11-14, 10:11
Thanks Phil. That's exactly the sort of thing I'm aiming to try and offer solutions to. Warwickshire isn't too far from Yorkshire....
RH

Red Horseman
08-11-14, 10:11
Thanks also Simon - these bits are coming in thick and fast! I certainly would welcome any material, and the world I work in may have a different perspective to some of it that might be of interest.
RH

Phil E
08-11-14, 11:11
Warwickshire isn't too far from Yorkshire....
RH

LOL, they are worlds apart :biggrin:

Pegleg
08-11-14, 11:11
For me coaches who collar you before the game with something like "ref, we have this move I want to run past you to see if it's legal" are usually trying to test out your tolerance levels in advance. They know full well if it's legal or not. My usual answer is "I will have to see it before I decide" and lo and behold it never.....and I do mean never, happens.

The thing that really gets on my nerves though is captains who are the problem, rather than the solution.
"Skipper, you deal with your teams discipline please"
"Yes Sir, don't you worry, I'm all over it"
Followed later by "skipper, you said you would deal with the discipline, but your not, in fact the only indisciplined member of your team is you, you need to start setting an example".
A good coach will recognise that this relationship between the referee and the captain is going sour and change the captain. No good will come of the captain being the problem instead of the solution, it just gets on the referees nerves, consciously or subconsciously.

Good post.

Browner
08-11-14, 11:11
Hi Red,


Strong predictors of match management discipline issues to come, include:
*stud check/ briefing joviality/obvious disinterest shown
*match card request/STE front row identification requests met with disinterest
*Any team who answers your request to be introduced to the captain with "who is captain today lads......"
*the "what's that for" comment that precedes your very first 'secondary signal' then compounded by the immediate counter claim of "what THEY did...."
*the captain being a winger
*teams with players wearing unmatching kit or football shorts!
*coaches, dressed in jeans/smoking etc...
*my first decision to a captain getting a response of " is he joking" from the player he then talks to

Sub conscious negative influences can include:
The coach who 'innocently' :sarc: enquires about your last playing level, or is keen to offer his playing level CV, or names who he knows well in your Referee Society hierarchy.
Shabby/dire changing facilities
Immediate references to last weeks "shocking ref" by the greeter/s


Positive mood indicators include (antonyms.... for all the above)
*Any coach/capt who asks for "my interpretation" on a semi/contentious law matter B4 they warm up, so that he may "ensure players are on the same page"
*If I'm asked " if there is anything you need prior to kick off, then let me know " by the greeter.
*any coach carrying a clipboard/pad
*an organised and disciplined captains run warm up.

I've completed x2 'match official abuse reports" in last two seasons , the principal influence in these cases were
"This weeks captain" , and "a disinterested coach in jeans" examples.

Red Horseman
08-11-14, 11:11
Thanks for all that. All very relevant.
I guess what a lot of this boils down to "which team is more likely to get the 50/50 decisions, regardless of how impartial referees believe themselves to be?" That's where the subconscious influences, that we have no real control over, come in. Recognising the triggers may help to allow better reactions to events though.
RH

Browner
08-11-14, 12:11
Thanks for all that. All very relevant.
I guess what a lot of this boils down to "which team is more likely to get the 50/50 decisions, regardless of how impartial referees believe themselves to be?" That's where the subconscious influences, that we have no real control over, come in. Recognising the triggers may help to allow better reactions to events though.
RH

PS...add, past (im talking predominantly negative here) experiences with player/club, to the " being on guard" arrival pot.

Hmmnn,
So you're kinda saying that .... At whistle time, pause and reflect whether the decision about to be made should consider/counter the subconscious influences that might have already happened.

Aka .....Pseudo 'positive discrimination' ?

Browner
08-11-14, 13:11
Well aware that I might be setting myself up here, but a quick calculation of my fixtures this season thus far shows

11 home wins
2 away wins

I'm clearly 'hostage' to the touchline, despite a belief that I ignore the white din.

I've refereed one club four times, x2 home wins x2 away losses ......crikes, I'm now needing to negotiate myself out of this pre-match mindset, thanks for nothing Red , in this you have now assumed terrorist status to me.

But then. Closer examination shows a correlation between league position, opponents organisation, and travelling with light numbers .....thank the lord for that, I was getting concerned !

Red Horseman
08-11-14, 13:11
Glad to be of help. Now, it's Saturday afternoon. Shouldn't you be getting your kit ready? :-)

ChrisR
08-11-14, 17:11
Coach to referee communication is an excellent subject. Here are my thoughts as a coach who occasionally referees.

Coaches my not realize that they are communicating with the referee throughout the match by the actions and attitude of the players. Here are some points worth covering:

1. Verbal abuse of the referee. Never. Ever. If a coach hears it, even if the referee ignores it or is unaware, he needs to act. Temporary time off or substitute.

2. Dissent. Pointless and distracting. The decision has been made and the player’s responsibility is to prepare for the next event. Captain, step in and take charge.

3. Eye rolling, head shaking and muttering. A common form of dissent and absolute poison. Coaches, have your players imagine themselves as a team leader and at every decision a member of your team acted this way. How would they feel? How would they react?

4. Running commentary. Please, STFU! The referee doesn't need your help. Save your breath and focus on the game.

5. Perceived wrongs by the opponents not caught/punished by the referee: A single occurrence? Ignore it. The referee may not have seen it, it may not have been a law violation, he may have deemed it immaterial, or he may be playing advantage. Either way, get on with play.

Repeated offences by the opponents: Players, speak to your captain. Captain, judge for yourself as to how repeated/important it is. If you wish to raise an issue with the referee then do so politely, privately and at an appropriate break in play. There is also a right way and a wrong way.

Wrong: “Hey ref, watch the holding on at the tackle.” Implies the referee has a vision problem.
Right: “Sir, May I have a word? Our guys would like a quicker release at the tackle, please.”

Wrong: “Ref, you’re letting them feed it” Implies bias.
Right: “Sir, can you be very strict on the feed, please. We’ve been working on taking it against the head.”

Wrong: “Ref, they’re offside at every ruck!” Implies general incompetence.
Right: “Sir, they seem to be getting the jump on us at the rucks. Can you be extra vigilant regards offsides, please?”

6. Players, read the referees signals and listen to his words. React accordingly. Note the recent USA vs. NZ match in Chicago. USA offside at the ruck, no advantage accrues, PK awarded at the point of the original offense. Referee clearly signals the offence and the PK. The USA just stands there, no reaction, no retiring for 14 seconds! NZ take a quick tap and score in the corner. Had they not scored I would have expected the PK to moved forward 10m.


Coaches can set the tone with the referee in the following ways:

1. Have the pitch correctly lined, pads and flags in place, ropes to keep the throngs at bay. This is a responsibility, not an option.

2. Have your players there on time and correctly kitted.

3. When the referee arrives greet him and introduce yourself. “Welcome to Cowpasture. I’m Chuck, Chuck Wood, coach of the Ramblers” This is an invitation to be on a first name basis. This familiarity may be accepted by the referee but any communication during the match begins with ”Sir.”

4. Ensure that he has a place for his kit and refreshments. Have any required paper work ready.

5. Agree on the time for PMB, stud, jewelry and underwear check. I like this at least 20 minutes before kickoff to allow uninterrupted warm up and run through. I expect all players to be there kitted up and ready 30 minutes before the match.

6. If there are some unorthodox aspects to your game it’s better to cover them now. Example:

“We like to use three man line-outs. The receiver steps in to a gap to be lifted, the player not lifting steps out to be the receiver so we keep the LO numbers at 3. We will use this configuration unless 10m or less from their goal. Then we’ll use 7. We do this to get a tactical advantage not to get a numbers FK”.

7. If you have player concerns such as an inexperienced front row player then raise it now.
During the match, keep quiet, take notes and focus on the actions of the players, not the referee. If you have issues with his calls raise them through your captain.

Be positive example for the supporters. Be willing to shut up the loudmouth. Let them know that they are not helping, they are distracting, they are a bad example for the players and to tone it down.

After the match thank the referee for his time and effort and invite him to your social. If you have questions or comments ask him to give you a minute once you've debriefed your team.

Above all, be polite and positive.

Red Horseman
08-11-14, 17:11
Great answer. Thanks. Being able to appreciate how both sides work is a real advantage (and the basis of good negotiations!).
RH

Rushforth
08-11-14, 18:11
Agree on the time for PMB, stud, jewelry and underwear check.

Last season my front row PMB was perhaps too long when I did it; I do stud checks almost always (not for sevens, obviously, nor at every game of a tournament).

I have become more observant as a referee, but as a coach also watch out for the self-safety issues of jewelry, not only with female players, nowadays.

As of this season checking for hard (field hockey-style) shin-guards as per Union directive.

Not once have I done an underwear check. Nor a Prince Albert check, for that matter.

To bring it back to communication skills: teams who I have refereed before tend to know that I not only am slow to whistle when there is potential advantage, but also will signal first aid to come on to the field while the ball is still live (as long as moving away from the injury). I'll call "injury" to make sure both sides know I am aware of it, of course, and will whistle as soon as there is any added danger.

Players accept missing say, a forward pass, if another player - even an opponent - is temporarily the focus of a ref's attention due to laying prone on the ground. Until the whistle is blown, their first priority as players remains to play - in attack or defence - but they all dread a serious injury to themselves, and would not wish it on other players. Hodie mihi, cras tibi and all that.

Browner
08-11-14, 21:11
Glad to be of help. Now, it's Saturday afternoon. Shouldn't you be getting your kit ready? :-)

Only had a 15min drive to today's match & I arrive already changed.

Another home 20+ point victory, despite x2YC & a RC against home side v no cards for away.....
Mind you I did have my own changing room and a chair , so that put me in a good mood.

ChrisR
09-11-14, 15:11
"Mind you I did have my own changing room and a chair , so that put me in a good mood."

3070

FlipFlop
09-11-14, 18:11
Communication skills - today I was the English ref, with German and Irish ARs, with a French team playing an Italian team. I'm sure there is a joke in there somewhere.

And we had fewer issues understand each other than a Welshman and a Irishman in the Eng v NZ game! :biggrin:

Dixie
09-11-14, 19:11
"Mind you I did have my own changing room and a chair , so that put me in a good mood."

3070

It's a slightly modified Tardis - plenty of room!

ChrisR
09-11-14, 20:11
.... and a place to put your kit bag under the seat.

Red Horseman
11-11-14, 16:11
Thanks to all contributors to this issue. I have enough material for my presentation now.
RH