There are tons of refs and umps across the world, and more are needed every day. We believe there is a special class of recreational officials called “Social Refs.”
People like having them on the field. Player see them as a benefit to the game and to your league, instead of viewing them as the enemy.
A Social Ref feels fair, helpful, and fun.
A ref thats fun? An ump that helps? What the heck? How do you do that? I thought refs have to be tough, and strict, and ‘do things by the book.’
Social Refs are masters at communication. They learn and master simple communication habits first.
Everything in the Social Ref Book, the online video course, and this website focuses on this core starting concept:
It’s not your calls that will make you a great ref, its your communication.
Social Refs are communciation masters in 3 main areas: info habits, defusing conflict, and proactively reffing.
The way most leagues and programs teach and train new rec officials is different than this core philosophy.
Memorize the rulebook. Learn the right signals. Make the correct call. Act like a professional. Keep your composure.
This is the old philosophy. Learn the rules, and enforce them fairly. Get the call right at all cost. If you get the calls right, you will earn respect and credibility. and the players will like you and your games will work out over time.
This old philosophy is unecessary, and it does not work.
It focuses on the calls. The pros focus so much on the calls, and the obscure decisions and rules, that they have decided to use instant replay across the board. Get the call correct, at all costs. Learn every single rule, and every weird outlier that can crop up.
In rec leagues like intramurals departments, Sport and Social Clubs, and youth leagues, its never the calls, its always the communication.
You will make incorrect calls, but you can make a good call, thats still incorrect, and you can survive those first scary 15 games, because of your communication system.
Programs focus so much on the rules and protocol systems, that they never get to your communication system. They spend so much time teaching you what the rules are, and how to call them, that they miss how to communicate when no one likes your call, agrees with your call, or even understands your call.
The 2nd Philsophy says: start with communication. How are you communicating the game info, how are you teaching players who never read the rules, how are you dealing with conflict that is a given (CAP) no matter how “correct” your call was.
This is the philosophy of a Social Ref. The credibility and trust that new refs are desperate for when they first start, when they want so badly to make a big call, or pull out an important rule, is actually earned through simple, repetitive communication habits.
The second philosophy doesnt make sense at first. People want to get to the rules, and the calls, and the eventual arguments! Thats why I am a ref. To make calls.
Your calls will be better, and more accurate, and you will have less conflict, if you start with your communication system first. If you start by ‘becoming the scoreboard’ first. If you learn how to handle questions and conflict instead of fighting back, or hiding and running away.
Your communication will help you survive bad calls, and bad games. Your communication system will help you become a great ref, no matter your sport, your rulebook, or your league setup.
The 2nd philsophy starts with your communication first. Your communication system will allow your brain to start the hard work of seeing and engaging with the game as a Social Ref.