Guest speaker Aug 2013: Will Finnie – Communicating with Players

For our first meeting of the current season, we were pleased to welcome Will Finnie from
Luton. Although he is only 18 Will is already a level 4 referee and an FA referee tutor
having qualified in February 2009. He referees on the Spartan South Midlands Premier
Division and is an assistant referee on the Contributory Leagues. He refereed the under
14 Cup Final at the Dallas Cup in the USA this summer on live US television. It is
almost certain that it will not be his last appearance before the cameras. Will is also Head
of projects on the RDFA Youth Council.
However, Will was not with us to talk about any of that but to run a workshop on the
subject of communicating with players. He started by posing a series of questions; what
are your feelings when you are communicating with players, how are you feeling, how is
the player feeling? When do you communicate with players? How regularly? How do we
communicate, what are our tools? He then split the meeting into three groups each to take
some of the questions. Incidentally, it was pleasing to see a good number of young
referees in attendance, some of whom left immediately after the session rather than
waiting until the end of the meeting, which we are happy for them to do.
The groups then reported back on their deliberations. The first group felt we
communicated when something occurred, when we needed to, considering how it will
affect our control and we need to control our own feelings. The way we present ourselves
must mask our feelings. With players, Will pointed out, their actions often take over from
their feelings. Your preparation can help, the way you come across, turn up badly dressed
for instance and you already create a barrier. If you have assistants and warm up well
before the match, it will give the impression of a confident team. Don’t forget that the
way you hold yourself, your body language will communicate throughout the match. The
way you communicated, another group felt depended on the temperature of the match and
it was agreed that you should restrict you whistle to when you needed to draw attention,
in other words too much whistle would mean that its effect would be lost.
There was some discussion whether the same is true about talking to players, should
you only talk when you need to. The warning was not to get drawn into discussion
defending your decisions and when you talk to players know where it is going. What
about praising players? Will asked. He sometimes did it to Augment a decision, for
example, shout ‘great tackle’ when opposing players might be calling for a foul. He also
asked if anyone warned players who look likely to commit a foul. Could this be counterproductive he queried, could you be accused of coaching the player?

Is there a particular type of player you struggle to communicate with, perhaps because
of his behaviour or his personality? For most this was the player who moaned throughout
the game but nothing quite bad enough to be considered dissent. Will’s suggestion was to
give some thought to how you might get them on your side or perhaps involve the
captain. Seek first to understand and then to be understood. The group that was asked to
consider how do you communicate came up with the following list. Body language,
whistle, voice, cards, delegate to captain, positioning selling the decision, pre-match
image, presentation. What is the most important? Will asked. What it is that has the most


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