The Social Ref Glossary

Ideas and Vocab Terms that we use to teach the philosophy of becoming a Social Ref.

Social Ref – A special class of rec refs and umps that master communication in 3 main  areas: Info Habits, Defusing conflict and confusion, and proactive teaching and warnings.

 C.A.P. – Short for Conflict, Adversity and Passion, CAP is the combination of all the anger, confusion, emotions, and frustrations that players feel and communicate after a decision. It is a top 3 problem for new refs, because CAP really doesn’t care whether the call was right or wrong. This is why conflict is built into the job: you can do everything 100% correct and still get CAP. Often the better the call, the MORE CAP you get. 

Coin-Flip: A 50/50 call or ruling that 2 different refs could call two different ways, because the call is so close. In many cases you might have to flip a “mental coin” in your head and decide. Coin-Flip calls tend to clump around certain areas (like 1st base) and repeat game after game.

  Auto-Argument: A call made by a ref that is going to generate CAP and arguments no matter how obvious or easy the call was. Ideas like Pass Interference, awarding a penalty kick, a Block vs a Charge, or a call where the 1st basesman bobbles the ball are all common auto-arguments. Identify auto-argument calls early so the conflict they generate does not surprise you, and you can focus on trying to defuse.

Self Serving Bias: The idea that human nature causes people to take credit when things go well, and to blame others or look for an excuse when things go poorly. We won because “we are great,” but the easiest excuse of why “we lost the game” is often “the refs!”

3-Rep Habit: A info habit brain switch, where you repeat core game or scoreboard info at least 3 times, before players even ask. You can repeat and signal this info different ways, and at different times to avoid the “1 and Done” trap. This habit stresses frequency and redundancy, in order to create better communication.

  Defender Comment:  A comment made by a player or coach about the ref, that can feel like an insult, but is really meant to make a teammate feel better. Beginning refs think defender comments require a response, when they really don’t. They are a natural defense mechanism by coaches and captains to make their friends and teammates feel better, at the expense of the ref, and are a specific example of “Self Serving Bias” in action: “You didn’t do anything wrong there, it’s actually the refs fault.

“Send the Meal Back:” A game control concept meant to break the flow of bad momentum by stopping the game, calling an officials timeout, or using a “Ref huddle.” Sending the meal back builds game control confidence when info is wrong or your game is trending in the wrong direction.

Fake-Defuser: A instinctive response to conflict and CAP that the Beginner Brain thinks will help but actually just pisses people off and makes things worse. Ideas like telling someone to “relax / chill out/ calm down/ or take a breather” are all classic Fake-Defuse instincts that never achieve their intending result of actually helping defuse CAP.

Signal BoxDraw a line across your shoulders and down to your waist – This is the signal box – a box that Beginner Refs get “stuck” in when they start announcing and signaling to themselves right in front of their face. It makes sense to the ref, but no one else notices or sees the signals. For refs to have “open communication” and ref BIG, they need to get out of the signal box with their hands, arms, and movement.

Info Surprise – A situation where the ref has control of certain scoreboard info, especially the time, and then surprises teams which leads to confusion and ruins credibility. A new ref might simply announce “That’s Half-Time” or “That’s the end of the quarter” without having given any time update for several minutes, surprising teams and wrecking the trust that players have when you control the scoreboard info.

Volcano Call – A call or ruling that is 100% correct, but causes teams to blow their top because the call was made small, quick, and quiet. Instead of instant CAP, the volcano call erupts slowly because no one understands the call at first. This confusion then leads to more CAP once upset players realize the call went against them.

Hard Stop/Soft Stop – In “guarding players time,” this is the league setup for the field or court you are working. A Hard Stop means your last game of the day must stop exactly at a certain time because the lights go off or someone kicks you out of a gym. A Soft Stop means games are supposed to end at a certain time, but there is no hard cutoff at a certain time, and you could go over the Stop if you choose. Understanding these Stops is a key to the managing the League Operations “Hidden Job.” 

Crazy Pills – Reactions from players to simple situations that are so nuts, backwards, and crazy that you might think you imagined something or saw a ghost because you have ingested “crazy pills.” Crazy pills cause new refs to doubt themselves, wonder if they did something wrong, and question their own judgement and reality.

 Lesson Reps/ Growth Reps – When CAP shows up, a new ref can interpret the experience as a Lesson Rep or a Growth Rep. Lesson Reps teach you to avoid a situation in the future, with the lesson being let’s never do that again – (example touching the hot stove). Lesson Reps treat an experience as if you made a mistake. Growth Reps treat an experience as a challenge or difficulty that you need to push through to get better. After a great call, refs in Beginner Brain mode will treat conflict as a Lesson Rep and start to avoid making the same call going forward. Refs in Ref Brain mode will treat a big conflict situation as a Growth Rep, and learn to defuse the conflict.

Reffing Big/ Reffing Small Reffing Big is the combination of your volume, signals, engagement, and movement when it comes to big moments. Most new refs tend to ref BIG when it doesn’t matter on obvious plays, and then “ref small” on close important plays. They will make a call quick, quiet and to themselves, and fade away from the call as fast as possible. Reffing Big means you are moving into the call, with volume, signals, and repetition that tells players you are confident in your call. Reffing Big also means getting outside of the “signal box,” and not internalizing “coin-flip” calls. A call can be close, but the bigger mistake is making a close call like you feel it’s close.

“Turtle Up” – A tendency in new refs to get small, quiet, and hide after making a mistake or coming into contact with CAP. The new ref, moves less, signals less, and is afraid to make calls and rulings,  and will freeze up when they need to make a decision, Refs that Turtle up grab onto gear and shrink at the head and shoulders and get small to try and hide from conflict.

The Third Game – Fans and players always see the game that they want to see, so there can be many “versions” of the same game. The third game is the view of the action that only a ref can see, away from fan bias and just “rooting for the home team.” When seeing the third game, refs will begin to see action and ideas that most other players and fans never notice.

TV Ball – One of the most common Beginner Instincts, TV Ball is watching the game as if you are a fan watching the game on TV, and following the flight and path of the ball as much as possible. Doing so will cause you to miss the important action, and make it hard to see the “third game.” New refs need to learn how to look “off ball” and watch players moving who don’t have the ball, and let the ball come into their frame of view. 

 NEO PrincipleNamed after Neo from the Matrix who sees the world differently, when you begin to see the third game, there will be situations where you see a call or penalty that no one else notices. This is a sign of skill and progress, but can also be confusing and lonely for a new ref,  because you action that only you see often leads to instant arguments and confusion. 

The 5 Hidden Jobs – Most new refs have at least 5 jobs as a rec official:

1) Teacher/Coach 2) Scoreboard/Announcer 3) League Ops Manager 4) Field and Gear Manager 5) Ref and Ump.

New refs come looking to just make calls, but don’t realize that the hidden jobs of becoming the scoreboard, and teaching and coaching actually make the Ref and Ump  job easier.

Flamingo Call – When a Social Ref is practicing good engagement and moving into a call, you will often see them making a call on one leg, without even trying. The idea is not the leg in the air, but instead that the Ref Brain has taken over, and will start to do certain things instinctively, like making a call with one foot in the air.

“Book Cover” – How players perceive you before you even make your first call or announcement is your ref “Book Cover.” It’s a combination of your uniform, body language, face cues, tone and attitude, and movement and engagement. Players will see your call well before they hear or understand it, so being aware of visual cues is important to being seen as credible and engaged.

Comparison Baggage Players constantly compare you to what a normal ref or ump should look like, based on past experiences and on the TV. The difference between how players expect a Ref to look, and the way your book cover looks is referred to as comparison baggage. Refs who constantly deviate from their uniform and do things that make them stand out, will always end up with a large amount of baggage which makes it harder to communicate.

Ref- Journal – Taking your existing rulebook and prioritizing the most important specs, rules, penalties, and questions that a ref might encounter in the first 15 games. The journal can start as 1 page and then grow into a full journal as you gain more experience. It is an attempt to “prioritize” your rulebook, and avoid treating every rule as equally important when you first start.

Script-Sheet – Your list of go-to responses for situations that you already know are going to come up during a game. What’s your go-to joke? Your response when someone attacks you? Writing out and practicing these responses can help you avoid comebacks that feel good in the moment but actually make things worse.  [See the worksheet in the Library for a starter Script Sheet]

Hanlon's Razor – A mental model that suggests you not assume the worst about a person’s intentions, even if it initially seems like they are mean or out to get you. Hanlon’s Razor asks you to consider neglect and mistakes BEFORE you assume that people are intentionally trying to be mean or make your life difficult, and so is an important concept for new refs who assume the worst about players who are honestly confused and have “neglected” to read the rule book.

Curse of Knowledge – From the book “Made to Stick” – The concept deals with people’s difficulty in remembering what things were like before they learned what they currently know. Refs who are dealing with new players, explain and teach rules without remembering what things were like before THEY themselves learned the rules. So they explain situations with too much complexity, detail, or frustration because they are explaining the rules to their current self.

Core Habit – The practice of giving out game info proactively to teams as players as much as possible before and after a play. The core habit is the glue that connects to every other important idea including engagement, decisions, credibility, and your level of trust and communication with players and coaches.

Core Communication Sequence (CCS) -  A piece of game info that you can give out several times before each play that can quickly change, and that players will want to know even when they don’t ask. The CCS is a piece of scoreboard info, but is normally CORE to each upcoming play. The Down and Distance for flag football, the balls and strikes for baseball, kickball, or softball. The CCS is an application of the core habit, with a specific communication sequence using the 3-Rep habit every play.

“Remember Trap”  - A beginner’s natural instinct to not track or announce game info because they assume everyone knows it, and they believe it will be easy to remember.  Remembering is not a system, and will break down over time no matter how good your memory.

Habit Stress – Stress that blocks you from making progress and cementing habits because you keep your gear or your game info in a different place, or in a different way, every time. New refs suffer from habit stress because they haven’t employed the 1-place idea: every piece of ref gear you have should only go in one place. New refs create more stress because they go to make a call or complete a habit and find that their gear is not where it should be. The same concept holds true for capturing info, and recording it in different places and in different ways every game.

20 Second Rule – A concept from Shawn Achor that states to break a bad habit you should intentionally create a 20 second delay that keeps you from the bad habit, such as removing the batteries from your TV remote. The idea comes into play when trying to avoid traps and bad habits for new refs, like responding too quickly to insults, or blowing a whistle too quickly because you are keeping it in your mouth and not in your hand.

Squirrel Ref – A beginning ref who has fallen into the “Customer Service Trap,” and races around from issue to issue trying to comment on every play and answer every question. Squirrel’s think their job is to apologize for every time someone is unhappy, and respond to every comment and question as if it is a pressing issue. In reality Squirrel’s just race around trying to do everything, and never build the systems or habits to become a Social Ref. 

Granny ShotsBased on the “Wilt Chamberlin” 100 point game story, Granny Shots are habits you build that result in a high level of success, even if they look silly or embarrassing to an outsider. For example, a ref or ump holding certain game information in their hands after a play starts, might be embarrassed that they don’t “look like a pro” but they will be more accurate with core game info!

Honest Abe Trap (Responsibility Instinct)  – The normal Beginner Brain instinct to respond to a complaint or question by saying the situation wasn’t your responsibility (Ex. That’s not my part of the field, you have to talk to the other ref). Responses like this can be 100% true, but they make for lousy communication because it seems like you are dismissing a players concerns, and so they often escalate situations.

YES-NO ResponseA very normal instinct of responding to a player with the exact opposite of what they just said: “Ref that was a foul! No it was not a foul.”  “UMP no way that was a strike, YES it was a strike!” Most beginners respond in this way, to push back on players who could be wrong, but actually the YES-NO response instinct is just an escalator and a bad way to communicate with players.  

“Killer Comeback” – A big response (clapback) to a player who is angry or insulting that a ref actually gets excited about because it feels good! Which means they should never say in the first place.  Killer Comebacks feel good in the moment, and then always lead to medium and long term regret.

Classroom Talk / Field Talk –  The difference between explaining rules and calls like you were taught in training, and explaining them in basic language on the field. Classroom talk is full of language and abbreviations that only you understand. During the game, you need to have field talk sequences and explanations that are raw, simple and clear.

Negative Communication Patterns – A natural instinct to explain what didn’t happen or what you do NOT want to do, which layers on confusion and complexity: “There is no reason why I wouldn’t help you out vs. Yes I will help you! New refs use negative comm patterns, sometimes because they are afraid about being direct and often because they try to be “too polite.” These patterns are always mis-understood by players and fans during a game. 

4 Body Language Bugs:  The four most common bugs you should squash because they  hurt your communication by distracting people with your body language.

1) Crossing Your Arms (Conflict)

2) Hands in Pockets (Dis-Interest, Boredom)

3) Hand on Hips (Impatience)

4) Hand Shrug, Shoulder Shrug (Confusion, Inability to Help)

Pivot Sequence: A info technique to move on from conflict or traps in order to defuse CAP and keep your game moving. Most good pivots involve a FUTURE pivot - how you can help or what you can watch for going forward. Pivots can help break bad momentum, and distract players from anger or conflict that may not even be your fault.

Absolute (100%) Qualifiers – Phrases that feel like you are adding extra evidence to support your decision, but really feel like “piling on” when players hear them.

Saying someone 100%, absolutely, totally, definitely, no doubt did something feels like you are “selling” your call better, but actually just escalates a situation.

Bad Apples: Players in a league who love to intentionally cause drama and conflict and will drive you crazy if you let them. These soap opera players find it fun to argue and question everything and everyone. Don’t create your system around trying to fix or please them.

Kryptonite: Repetitive player profiles that will set you off and make you lose your focus like “the player who is constantly talking about safety, but is one of the dirtiest players in the league.” Don’t confront your Kryptonite, but do have a plan to manage them so they don’t derail your game and your day.

1 Good Thing:  The habit of trying to find one idea to agree with no matter how crazy or unfair a laundry list of complaints or arguments. Finding one point of agreement is a defuser and a starting point for communicating with even the most upset players and coaches.

“Teach & Tell” – The ability to stack teaching info on top of game info in announcements to get ahead of confusion and help new players. Some softball leagues have a courtesy foul, so an ump might say “2-2 and a half” or “2 and 2 none to waste,” once the courtesy foul has been used. A teach and tell sounds like: “2 -2 and a half on the count, this one needs to be fair” giving the CCS and teaching the idea of a courtesy foul at the same time.

Camo Compliment – A defusion technique which involves camouflaging a ruling or penalty around a compliment to take the sting out, since everyone likes a compliment.

“After the first down was achieved, we’ll go minus 5 yards on the flag guard” is a way to note the positive and compliment the 1st down, while still assessing a flag guard penalty.

Gifting Info –  A way to package normal game info and personalize it for players. Instead of 1 OUT, its “Batter, I have 1 away for you.” This technique builds a connection with players and allows refs to collect thank you’s and bank credibility with players for bigger calls later on.

Game Stopper (Ref Huddle) –
One of the best defusion techniques when things are trending badly is to simply pause or stop the game. New refs often feel they don’t have enough experience or even the ability to stop a game and skip this simple idea to break bad momentum and confusion. This can take the form on an officials timeout, or a ref huddle if there are multiple officials working the same game. 

“Own the Insult” –
The ability to grab a personal insult or attack and embrace it in order to defuse conflict directed at the ref. This normally takes the form of a joke that agrees with an insult and adds to it, instead of instinctively fighting back. “Ref you are BLIND!” – “Yeah well I can’t hear you very well either” – Owning an insult helps show that players comments won’t bother you, and is key to the idea that humor is always best used defensively and never to go on offense with players, fans, or coaches

Keep the Call –
An often overlooked defusion idea, where you make calls and penalties even while knowing you will eventually take them back or waive them off. New refs see such situations as a waste of time, but its always better to keep the call and “let them know you saw it,” then to try and save time by not making the call in the first place.

Split the Field –
The ability for great refs to move to parts of the field that regular refs seldom travel. When you make a call next to second base, instead of behind homeplate, players and fans notice that you split the field through good movement.

Credibility Bank –
Most new refs go looking for BIG calls to make to “prove themselves” and earn credibility with players. Big calls are actually where you SPEND the credibility that you have banked by doing small things throughout the game: game info, warnings, tips and lessons, hustle, and engagement. By getting the small stuff right first, you can build up the balance in your credibility bank to spend in the big moments.

the 3 H's –
Three ideas for player connection. Most players want a ref to 1) Hear them 2) Help them and 3) Have their back. New refs believe that players dislike the calls or decisions, but often players pick up on the 3 H’s in your communication much faster than rules or decisions. 

Sandbox –
 An environment where you can practice your habits and communication, and if you mess up, literally nothing will happen. Exhibition games, charity tournaments, and youth leagues at your local community center are all examples of situations where the organizers are normally grateful to have your help, no matter how lousy your calls. If your existing league is moving too fast, try looking for a Sandbox a level down to work on your system and Beginner Brain switches. 

True Confidence –
 A Ref Brain status often achieved by Social Refs when they stop trying to win arguments, get the last word, show that they are right, and change peoples minds, and instead focus on helping and teaching. In a true confidence mode, you are able to see the moments where you changed the future and take pride in them, even when no one else even notices.