The referee and coach relationship can be a little strained in any sport. What can we do to keep things sweet?
I am a coach and referee which is useful in terms of perspective. I am also a strong believer in that appropriate ‘man management’ skills will resolve most conflict before it ever really arises.
When a coach raises an issue it can be pretty emotive. They have two levels of investment here: The personal effort that they have put into developing a player and also the empathy they have for the player.
So, here are tips for referees!
- BE CALM: No matter how upset a coach may be it is absolutely essential to keep your cool. The moment you start shouting is the moment that the situation is totally spiralling out of your control.
- ENFORCE BOUNDARIES: The previous point does not mean you have to take screaming abuse. Calmly set your boundaries and enforce them. This means being ready to walk (or run?!) away if things are not working out.
- SHOW RESPECT: Chances are the coach has given up hours of their time in coaching. They have done the courses. They have kept their skills up. They want their players to succeed. Never, ever put up ‘Referee vs Coach’ walls. This includes NEVER EVER using the immortal phrase of, “You’re not a referee”. This is the instant best way of losing control of the entire situation.
- LISTEN BEFORE RESPONDING: You know what, the coach may be entirely wrong. You still have to listen to what they have to say. This is because you must understand where they are coming from as there may be a misunderstanding or an assumption which is causing all this which can be easily resolved. If you don’t listen, you will never find out what it is!
- EXPLAIN YOURSELF: Explain your reasoning for the decision in question. Interpretation and your view of events is really important in these sorts of conflicts. The coach will be much more understanding (well, sometimes!) if they can understand WHY something has been done.
- YOU MAY BE WRONG: Never start with the assumption that you are right and the coach is wrong. Some coaches have experience at national and international level which will exceed the experience of the referee. No-one is infallible. That includes you. If you in capacity as referee can’t admit your own mistakes, what real hope is there for fair play?
- IT MAY NOT WORK OUT: At the end of the day, you may not reach any form of agreement with the coach. You may ‘agree to disagree’ (Perhaps on interpretation of a rule) but ultimately the coach may be adamant that they are right and you are wrong. That’s fine. You can’t win ‘em all. Recognise when there is no point in discussing things any further because they have gone circular and walk away.
- BE FIRST: If you anticipate issues with a coach, why wait for them to come to you? I’ve had best results by going to THEM first before general grumbling becomes anger! Nip problems in the bud first if you can. This also helps with maintaining the appropriate authority you have as referee. Not only that, it’s showing you actually do care…
One final thing: Are you only ever talking to coaches when there is a problem? Does this seem right to you?
I hope that these tips prove useful in any further conflicts that you have. Do you have any advice of your own to share on this subject?