Refereeing, influential communication, and sins of the father

You may not know this, but I spend a part of my spare time as a football referee. Now, we are getting to the business part of the season where titles are won and promotion or relegation issues are decided. This can lead to a degree of tension in football matches, and the referee can easily be hated by both teams.

The aim of this post is not to issue a plea on behalf of referees, but rather to share some insights into influential communication that I have learned from recent matches.

Last weekend, I refereed 2 matches. On Saturday, the match was between 2 teams of Under 12 boys. It was a competitive affair, played in a good spirit, but not without its incidents. What impressed me was the calm way that the coaches and spectators (mostly parents) conducted themselves. There was very little, if any, negativity from the sidelines, and this was reflected in excellent behaviour from both teams. Even when a player got injured and crawled off the pitch, both coach and player accepted it as part of the game. It was clear to me that the players of both teams reflected the culture and approach of their coaches.

The following day, I refereed an open-age (adults to you and me) match. This time, one of the teams was quite relaxed and easy going. They were already relegated and accepted it for what it was. They contested some decisions, but always in a polite and respectful way. Some may say that this is why they ended up relegated, but that’s an argument for another day.

It soon became apparent that the other team took a different view, commenting or challenging every decision that I made as the referee. Eventually, I took the captain of this team to one side and warned him that I would have to caution someone for dissent if this behaviour did not stop. It didn’t, and so I ended up booking one of the team. This young lad had been offering me his opinion throughout the game and was the most frequent offender, so it was no surprise that he ended up in my book. I took his name and was about to restart the game, when another member of the same team stepped across the line and was cautioned. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this player not only had the same surname as the first offender, but was the father of the lad I had just booked!

So, 2 matches, 2 days, 2 contrasting atmospheres. What are we to conclude from these events?  Well, as children we learn how to behave from significant parental figures in our lives (Eric Berne, Transactional Analysis, TA). Mums, Dads, teachers and football coaches all contribute to ensure that we get the children we deserve; that is, reflections of ourselves, our values, and our behaviours. This is sometimes called sins of the father. So, keep this in mind when you are in any kind of man-management position. Treat others how you want to be treated, or live with the consequences.