Debbie Kniffin | Iowa State middle blocker 2008-11
I hate swearing. Absolutely hate it. Curse words are a lazy, reactionary way of communicating. There is usually a more creative and convincing way of getting your point across. Swearing is acceptable only when the speaker has demonstrated a profanity-free mastery of the language. And even then, only sometimes.
I feel the same way about yelling at officials and getting carded. It’s just lazy, reactionary coaching – except in the unicorn-like cases where a coach is totally in control of emotions and makes a calculated, in-the-moment decision to throw a fit for the benefit of the team. (Ahem, this has never happened!)
So stop yelling at officials. Seriously. Just stop!
The alternative will require effort. But it will be worth it because there is a more creative, more calculated and more convincing way of stating your case. For 15 years, I’ve watched coaches raging on the sidelines and accomplishing exactly nothing. For just as long, I’ve watched coaches productively and professionally interact with officiating crews. Based on my observations, here are 5 tips for how you can improve your communication with match officials:
- Know the rules. An uneducated conversation/explosion accomplishes nothing more than ensuring that the officials won’t respect you. Rough place to be, am I right? Make sure you know the rules inside and out so your comments can be calculated and grounded, not emotionally charged and reactionary.
- Don’t kid yourself. You probably raged at the ref because you were experiencing an emotion (like injustice or frustration) and reacted in anger and outrage, not because you wanted to fire up the team. And while the silver lining may be that your team is fired up in that moment, that’s a shortsighted way of instilling motivation.So be real about your emotional predispositions and motivation for sideline behavior so you can make a conscious decision about how to act in a heated moment.
- Keep your cool. When was the last time you screamed at a ref and had it go well? Exactly. If you plan on arguing your case, try to follow courtroom etiquette instead of bar brawl manners. It won’t necessarily get the call turned over, but there’s a better chance of clearly communicating your case if you stay calm. And if you think manners aren’t appreciated on the stand, think again.
- Confident beats cranky. When it comes to bad calls, players feel the effects more than you do. But you can set the tone for the team. If you confidently present your case to officials, confidently talk to the players about the next play and confidently commission them to steady on, it WILL rub off. Don’t let yourself get cranky and sulky. That rubs off, too. Next-point mentality applies to players AND coaches.
- Be appreciative. This is a good first filter for most of life, and it’s especially relevant when it comes to disagreeing with officials. The refs are doing a job, and you are doing a job. Honestly, you could both be doing better. Filter your comments through a lens of appreciation before starting a conversation. It’ll keep you from getting too tied up in the perceived injustice and allow you to refocus on the task at hand – winning with the circumstances in front of you, not the ones you think you deserve.
Debbie Kniffin, a former program director for the Badger Region Volleyball Association, was a middle blocker at Iowa State from 2008-11.