Backwards Context ...
[Part 2 in the "Newbie Reversal Series" - See Part 1 "Game Flow vs Day Flow"]
Beginning refs normally tend to follow the book. They are nervous, and lack some experience, and so they hang on to the book - often literally the RULEBOOK. The issue we see is that the rulebook doesn't provide any ideas about CONTEXT when you communicate. And so new refs often reverse contexts and end up getting them backwards.
Watching a new softball umpire on a cloudy day, the idea occurs that sometimes context needs to come BEFORE communication to be effective.
A nervous player, who clearly isn't very good at Softball, let alone holding the bat correctly, is up at the plate. They take a ball on the first pitch, and then swing awkwardly at the second pitch.
"STRIKE ONE!" the ump yells out in his most dominating ump voice. Technically totally true ... and by the book. But also the exact wrong context for a Social Ref.
Everyone on the field knows its a strike, including the new ump, and especially the nervous batter. You could in theory signal a strike and not say anything at all except to update the count to 1-1. Yet new umps and refs flip this context all the time.
They flip it while actually doing something that we encourage: "Reffing Big." Certain moments and calls and rulings and penalties in a game require you to ref big.
Reffing big means your 1) volume, 2) tone, 3) movement, and 4) signals are all working at the same time to make a big declarative statement about the play that just happened.
Reffing big is good ... just don't forget the context.
The problem is new officials "Ref Big" when they feel comfortable, and then ref small when they are not as certain or as confident.
That's almost always backwards. Its human nature, but as a beginner, you need to reverse that natural instinct.
On a called 3 strike that barely catches the corner - Ump Big - Give a big strike call, loud and with a big signal, if the situation makes sense.
On a swinging strike 3 with a "nervous nelly" up at the plate, no need to give that same big call because your context has changed.
We see this over and over again:
- A big out call at first when the runner is 15 feet away, but a timid call at first (a fade-away call) when the runner is out by half a step.
<A good rule of thumb: if players have to ask you 2 or 3 times what the call was you just made before they can even start arguing it, you might have just executed a "fade-away call">
- A big loud incomplete signal when everyone can clearly see that the receiver dropped the ball, but a small, confused call when the same player steps on the side-line while catching a pass making it incomplete.
- An official warning someone about some small procedural issue like lining up incorrectly, but then failing to issue a warning when it comes to big issues like trash talking or big contact.
- An official yelling out game clock information so loud that everyone can hear when there is TEN MINUTES left in the half or period, but not saying a word to anyone when there are 30 SECONDS left in the same half and the clock is running.
Context matters. But the context, not your comfort level, should determine the way you communicate.
The closer and more confusing the play, the BIGGER you need to ref. The later in the game, the bigger and more repetitive you need to be with game info and announcements.
Don't ref big when the call is obvious and the context doesn't need it. If its really clear to everyone, and you are really comfortable, you can probably ease off, while still communicating so that everyone can see and understand. Its when you are uncomfortable, confused, and dealing with incomplete information, that you need to let the context dictate when you ref big.
And if ideas like context and reffing big and small still seem a little new to you, just keep it simple - Don't reverse the context when you ref or ump like this guy:
Great technique and dance moves ... but maybe bad context....