How referee body language affects the perception of performance

How referee body language affects the perception of performance.

I recently watched the new documentary “The Referees” which follows a number of FIFA referees through the Euro 2008 finals. The film is a great record of the stresses and pressures put on the top officials in the modern game at the highest level. It also reveals some mighty large egos!

As a referee at a local level, I can identify with the challenges of getting it right in every game. The film gives some insights into what is in the minds of the officials at key moments in games as we can here their miked up conversations. Yet the top officials keep their doubts (for the most part) hidden. How do they do this? Through confident non-verbal communication.

In the Empire Magazine review of the film, the reviewer says the defining shot in the movie is “an Italian linesman practising his flag-waving in front of a dressing room mirror. Absolutely priceless.” The reviewer has got it completely wrong. The assistant referee is actually checking that his flag technique is clear, unambiguous and, most importantly, delivered with confidence. Every decision that assistant gives is going to be scrutinised. He has to convey that he is absolutely sure of the decision (even if some of the conversation we hear suggests he is not).

Check out this clip of research into what footballers want from a referee;


The research confirms that players want the referee to be;

  • competent
  • dependable
  • respectful

Notice how players decide on this based on a number of verbal and non-verbal (mostly visual) clues. This is consistent with the work of Albert Mehrabian, who showed that body language and tone of voice are the most important factors in someone hearing the right message and,crucially, believing, it.

So, how do we do this? Here are a few tips to help;

  1. Make strong eye contact when you are speaking to a player.
  2. Once you have made a decision, be quick and clear with your flag or hand signals.
  3. Talk to players as you expect them to talk to you – be firm but respectful. Never swear. Use your tone of voice to convey authority, not arrogance.
  4. Where you can, give players clarification on your decisions, but state this as fact from your point of view. Don’t allow your doubts to surface. Then move on, whatever you have decided it has gone.

Follow these few rules and we can all be perceived as more competent, dependable and respectful referees. Whether we are or not depends upon accurately knowing and applying the Laws of the game.

Thriving with Change

Thriving with Change

It’s an old cliché, but let’s face it the only thing that’s constant is change. This is particularly true at the present time, with economic uncertainty leading many of us to consider career changes, though not always through choice.

So how can we best cope with change?

It is my philosophy that it is possible to not only survive but to actually thrive with change. It’s all a question  of approach.

In this article, I will introduce a concept from NLP that facilitates this. In fact it is one of the core concepts from NLP, namely, setting well-formed outcomes. This is a technique that has applications beyond managing change. It can be used for any future planning. It is also a useful check for letting us know when we are not achieving what we would like to – it may be a sign that one of the well-formedness conditions is not being met.

So how do we set well-formed outcomes? All you have to do is answer the following questions. You can do this on your own (self coaching) but it can be helpful to have someone else guide you through the process. Any good coach will be able to help you set good well formed outcomes for your career or, indeed, your life.

Here’s how;

  1. State what you want in the positive, i.e. “what do you want” (rather than stating what you don’t
  2. Convert a good objective (see 1 above) into an  outcome by answering “How will you know you’ve got it?”
  3.  Use the full range of sensory language (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic) to ensure you are clear about your desired future.
  4. “Can it be started and maintained by you?” This is crucial, as we are all limited by what we can directly change, or our ability to influence those who can. When we are experiencing rather than leading change, it is often this lack of control that leads us to feel unhappy. Within the context of the change, focus on what is within your control. Do your own personal SWAT analysis, and focus on your personal strengths and minimise your weaknesses.
  5. Give your outcome an appropriate context;
      • “Where, when and with whom do you want it?
  6. Maintain the current positive by products. This is the one part that is crucial to, and most often missed out, when organisations and individuals initiate change; find out what is liked, by you and others, about the current way of doing things, and make sure that where possible you take them with you into the changed future.
  7. Do an Ecology check; Is it worth it in terms of:
      • Cost to you?
      • The time it will take?
      • Your sense of self (personal identity)?

Setting well-formed outcomes is crucial to not only surviving but thriving with change. Follow these steps to ensure you can turn even the most challenging situation to your advantage.

If you want to learn more about NLP, I recommend the following book “The NLP Coach” by my teacher, Ian
(with Wendy Jago).

You can learn more about this strategy and others at our upcoming workshop “A Change for the Better”.