Comfort, Counsel, Correct

Published on February 6, 2015


By: John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

Two seasoned NISOA officials are assigned as an assistant referees on a highly competitive game. The referee assigned is younger and considered to be “on the fast track” for officiating higher level games. The younger official has displayed the ability to control games, make good decisions and is physically fit. During the pregame conference, the referee appears confident and ready to accept the challenge. On the surface, it seems like this should be a fun game to be a part of the officiating crew.

Early in the game there is a hard foul near the touch line and assistant referee. The assistant motions to his/her pocket to advise the referee that a caution should be issued. The referee makes eye contact but elects to talk to the player who committed the foul and the game continues. Soon there is another hard foul and again the referee decides to give a verbal warning. As the game progresses it becomes more physical and the referee is having a hard time keeping control.  At half time the assistant referees recommend that the referee call more fouls in the second half and issue cautions and/or ejections if necessary. The second half is even more difficult to control and the referee issues multiple cautions. The players are very frustrated and by the end of the game a fight ensues. The referee ejects four players, two from each team. Neither coach is pleased with the officiating and berate the referee after the game.

Most NISOA members have been in a situation as described as above. The question becomes what do the two seasoned assistant referees do to help the referee so that the next game does not have these problems? The first thing is to comfort the referee. Every referee that has been in this position leaves the field with his/her head down. The referee knows that he/she could have done better and is now second guessing him/herself. The two assistant referees need to help the referee through this period by providing comfort and assurance. This is the time to rebuild the confidence of a fellow official. This is the first step. Immediate criticism of the referee will not be well received. He/she already knows that the game did not go well and does not need to be reminded of it. The assistant referees should work with the referee to comfort him/her and help get through this difficult time.

Once the referee is comforted the next step is to counsel. The two assistant referees can provide constructive advice on how to prevent the problems that developed during the game. This counseling should be positive in nature and not condescending.  The assistants should point out specific incidents in the game and describe what happened and how it impacted the remainder of the game. The assistant referees should then provide ideas on how to handle the situation differently so that a positive result will occur. This type of counseling will normally be well received and help the referee in the future. The assistants should also bring up positive aspects of the game and what the referee did well. At the end of the discussion the referee should leave the locker room with ideas on how to improve and strengthen his/her game control in the future.

The last step in improvement is to correct the officiating techniques in the next game. The referee should head the advice that was provided and apply it to the next game. This must be done in a manner that the referee does not try to change his/her overall style of officiating, but take the key ideas and apply them during the next game. Trying to change too much at one time can lead to distraction and inability to properly officiate the game. The referee should try one, two or three new methods of game control and work with those ideas until they become a normal part of the officiating experience. This will help the referee improve his/her overall skills and become a better official in the future.

Comfort, counsel and correct is a good method to help any official improve his/her performance. The critical aspect is for the official to listen and learn from every experience.

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