Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Calling It Like It Is

If anyone was watching the FIFA World Cup final match this past weekend, they know that a referee’s job is not always easy. With a final match record 14 yellow cards and one red, emotions were riding high. So how do officials handle highly charged scenarios?

The referee plays a key role in soccer matches. His vigilance, concentration and authority on the pitch ensure the respect of the players and adherence – or enforcement of the Laws of the Game. This is true for any officiated sport. According to Sports Officials Canada and their Code of Conduct, officials are charged with emphasizing the spirit of the competition rather than its outcome, striving to provide a sportsman-like environment, and placing the safety and welfare of competitors above all else.

The following tips to prevent and resolve conflict are central to providing a competition focused on the sport itself as opposed to the personality of those participating.

Tips to prevent conflict:

  • Prevention is always better than cure! If action is taken early in the game, conflict is less likely to occur
  • Make competitors aware of your presence by reacting immediately to rule infringements (when appropriate)
  • Remain objective, no matter what prior knowledge of participants/teams an official has.
  • Be definite and firm with decisions and communication
  • Look sharp and act sharp - this will gain respect as an official
  • Don’t take criticisms personally. Remember that coaches and participants are seeing the game from a different perspective to the officials
  • At the beginning of the competition, provide structure and guidance, but also start a dialogue with the participants.
  • Acknowledge the participant’s abilities and experience, and invite constructive viewpoints from some participants
  • Speak clearly and firmly in heated situations. This will indicate confidence in managing the situation
  • Keep cool if the situation starts to get a bit heated

Tips to resolve conflict:

  • Be professional
  • Remain calm
  • Address the problem, not the emotions
  • Focus on the person
  • Be fair - avoid team or individual bias at all costs
  • Be confident and open
  • Be firm

References from the SIRC Collection:
Grunska, Jerry (2010). Enough is Enough: Where Should Officials Draw the Line on Coaches? Referee, 35 (2), p.62-63.

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