Guest speaker Sep 2013: George McCaffery – Communicating through body language

In September we were fortunate to have as our guest speaker, George McCaffery. George is a highly experienced FA Tutor (and it showed) and a Level 4 referee coach as well as a Contributory League assessor. He has been heavily involved in tutoring and assessing for many years, working on the National course for tutors as well as being an FA Support Officer for the Assessing Schemes at Contributory and Supply League levels. He also co-ordinates referee for Premier League Youth Tournaments, co-ordinates the FA Dallas Cup Development Group. Member may remember that our speaker in August, Will Finnie was part of that group. He is a coach for the South West Development Group as well as being Vice-Chairman of Melksham RA and a committee member of the West League Referees Association.

“It’s not what you do but the way that you do it.”

George’s subject for the evening was communication and in particular body language and he started by getting us in large half circle so all could contribute.

It’s all a matter of perception George said, your body language can;

Aid control – Aid pacifying players – Aid clarification


Needs to be assertive – Needs to show authority and control

But what is body language? Of course you will shout at players, you should shout at players but it is the way that you do it and it should not be an explanation of your decisions. There is always the question of personal space, when talking to players you don’t want to be too close, as it can be seen to be intimidating or provocative.

This is just part of non-verbal-communication which George says is the unconscious part of our behaviour, in fact, the most basic part of our personality. This includes your appearance and George picked out one member with his shirt over his trousers and then asked him to go behind the screen and tuck his shirt in, asking members for their observations. Then there is posture. If you are tall you already have something going for you but we can all stand tall with our shoulders back Eye contact is another essential part of non-verbal communication. Then of course there are our facial expressions. It would be wrong to smile when you are cautioning or sending a player off but there are times in a game when a smile enhances our standing with players.

George then showed a series of slides of referees giving hand signals and asked what members thought they signified. The illustrations he said, does show that the way signals are done can give different meanings, perhaps different to what you intended. Then there is the act of showing cards. George asked a member to illustrate. Don’t get too close apart from the fact that you could be hit, remember not to intrude peoples’ personal space. Show the card calmly above your head so all can see it. Your body language can help you handling crucial decisions and the aftermath. Non-verbal communication he concluded is a tool to help you control the match, to show authority and self-control, it isn’t an explanation of your decisions.

Thank you George for a well-illustrated presentation of a subject of great importance to all referee at whatever level.


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