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Effective Communication


Assuming a basic knowledge of football rules and mechanics, communication is arguably the greatest single attribute of an official.  The following is a look at the different groups an official must communicate with in what is arguable a descending order of importance.


Coaches- Coaches have a need and a right to know what is going on in a game.  The sideline is not a good vantage point.  Consequently, they deserve to be informed.  Signals are one form of communication, but in many cases the personal approach is preferable.  As a minimum, when a foul is called, the coach of the offending team should be told the number of the fouling player.  If the officials dont have a number their creditability will be questioned.  In the absence of a number the response There was movement on the right side of the line is better than I dont know.  Unusual situation must be explained to the head coach.  In many instances the explanation can be done by the sideline official.  On others such as a reversal of a call, it may be best for the referee to do the explaining.


Crew Members- Officials who work with the same crew all season have an advantage.  They know each other much better and can be more open with one another.  Long road trips and social events are a good way to get to know crew members.  Taking responsibility for your actions and encouraging crew mates is a plus.  Putdowns should be avoided.  There is a fine line between putdowns and chiding.  Locally, there are two officials who have been friends for fifteen years.  They delight in criticizing each other, usually over trivial matters, before, during, and after the game.  They are the exception.  Most comments they make to each other would be resented by a third person.


Players- Whether the players are adults or not, they are all students in a learning environment.  Keeping that in mind can only help.  Admonishing players for fouls is not one of an officials duties.  Never throw a flag with a vengeance.  The safest way to address a player is by a number of positions.  Never son or Hey, you!  As a general rule the less you say to the players the better off youll be.  Avoid coaching players, but dont let that deter you from cautioning a player who is towing the line of something illegal.  There is a fine line between a warning and a threat, make sure yours sound like a warning.


Spectators- Officials communicate with the fans via signals and it should stop there.  If there is interference with a spectator, the situation should be handled by the game administration.  At lower levels fans may be allowed to stand on the sideline, its OK to answer a reasonable question, but avoid conversations or long explanations of rules especially if it involves a players parent.


Media- There is not much to be said about the media because officials ought not to say must to the reporters.  If the game was well officiated the officials were invisible.  The NFL prohibits media to interview officials.  At lower levels anything more than a rule clarification and youre asking for trouble.


Thanks to George Demetriou from Referee Nov. 2003