Confidence or Arrogance?

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer Referee. However, any soccer Referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find this series helpful.

All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance.  This month’s article will focus on the difference between being arrogant or confident.

Arrogance is defined as smugness, vanity, audacity, haughtiness, full of pride.  Confidence is defined as trust, reliance, assurance, belief in one’s own abilities.  With these two definitions in mind a referee should take a look inside to determine what definition best fits his/her referee style and attitude.

During the pregame anyone can easily determine if a referee is arrogant or confident.  The referee who conducts a pregame in a manner that appears to demean the assistant referees and alternate official is usually an arrogant official.  For example, the referee who advises the assistant referees that they are not to indicate fouls or only indicate fouls very close to them is an official who wants to totally dominate the game and not work as a team. A referee who seeks input during the pregame discussion from the assistant referees and the alternate official and makes them feel part of the referee team is confident.  This discussion should also include a thorough review of how the referee and assistant referees will work together to control the game and player management.   Another pregame example of arrogance vs. confidence is when the referee meets the coaches. . A referee who interrupts or talks down to the coaches is usually arrogant.   This type of referee is usually more concerned about his or herself than the coaches.  For example, during player warm-up, the referee goes to the coach and spends time in discussion about which color uniform the referee should wear.  Coaches are not concerned with this as long as it does not conflict with the field players and create confusion.

During the game an arrogant referee talks down to players and may even make a comment that will lead to a reaction from the player and potentially create a hostile situation.  For example, the referee incites the player and the player reacts and now the referee issues a caution or ejection.  This incident was initially created by the referee’s comment and now there are more potential problems from the reaction to the caution or ejection by the player, team mates and coaches.  Confident referees speak to players in a professional manner and use communication tools to gain respect and better game control.  For example, referee signals to the assistant referee that with a thumbs up or a comment that they made a good call.

Another example of arrogance vs. confidence during a game is when a coach questions a call or speaks out about the officiating in general.  An arrogant referee will react in a manner that may be unprofessional and lead to further problems.  One possibility is the arrogant referee stops the game and goes across the field in a deliberate manner and proceeds to chastise the coach for all to hear.  The arrogant referee is trying to bring attention to herself/himself rather than focus on the game.  This is very unprofessional and should not occur.  The confident referee waits to a stoppage or an opportune moment to briefly comment in a professional way to the coach that the complaint was heard and it is time to move on with the game.

A confident referee is not afraid to seek help to ensure the play is accurate.  When a  foul occurs near the edge of the penalty area, committed by the defense and the referee is not sure it is a penalty kick the confident referee will seek input from the assistant referee to ensure the proper decision is made.  A confident referee will seek help when there is a shot on goal and there is confusion in front of the goal and the ball crosses the goal line.  This referee will seek information from the assistant referee to ensure the decision made is totally accurate.  In these two incidents the arrogant referee will merely make a decision whether it is accurate or not.

Post game discussions with the referee team and/or the coaches will also define whether a referee is confident or arrogant.  An arrogant referee will defend his/her decisions and speak out to the coaches while a confident referee will explain what the situation was and why the decision was made in a professional manner and will limit the conversation so confrontation is minimized.  A confident referee will seek input from the assistant referees and alternate official in the locker room on how they felt the game was managed and seek out suggestions on how different situations could have been handled so that future games will be better managed.

In summary, a referee must exhibit confidence during a game but should not cross the line to become arrogant.