Rare topics induce more debate than technical fouls (or, of course, yellow cards). I used to be a T-guy, giving them always easily, without any hesitation, to anyone.
Yes, anyone. The ones that complain, that trash-talk to their opponent, or to me, ones that flop for an oscar trophy, and the ones I didn’t like. Of course, they pissed me off! What did you think? I’m a human. I have feelings.
We need to be careful because it’s a first-class weapon when it comes to calming people down, but also, when it comes to provocation. The fact that a technical foul is most of the times validated after it happens makes it more difficult to use.
I consider the biggest mistake beginner referees make is that they don’t face conflicts. I know, it’s shit. And people don’t like shit. They hide their heads in the sand hoping it will work out by itself. But it won’t. If you want to be a top referee you not only have to face conflicts, but learn how to avoid them, and how to manage them when they appear.
Here are a couple of principles I consider before giving a T
1. Try to understand the reason
There is always a positive intention behind every action. There is always something players or coaches want to achieve with the action they take. You need to mind that intention and act accordingly. Put yourself in the other’s shoes and ask yourself: what is motivating him to act like this? What does he want to achieve?
For example, when the reason for complaining is all the time to put pressure on you on purpose, you need to deal with it as soon as possible.
Other times they are simply weak on their nerves and the game at stake brings them down. In this case, you have other techniques you can use first. But you should always take care of everyone on the court. The other team watches how you react, and they will adapt to your style.
2. Know if the behaviour is controlled
Players and coaches also have the reptilian brain and they use it most often. People at the FBI, interrogating suspects use a very important distinction. They try to separate answers they get from the body right after the question and ignore all the others because they are most of the times fake.
Similarly, after a call, there is a reaction by instinct. The first reaction. They can’t control it. They just have it. And if you reply using your reptilian brain also, maybe you’re gonna be in trouble, because it only escalates the conflict and doesn’t solve it.
So after a call, wait a second. Wait until the instincts work out. And then, after the first reaction you expect them to behave. If they don’t, you need to do something.
3. The reaction of the other team
When you give a warning or a technical foul, you show it to everybody on the court. You give it as a sign of your limits. A sign of what you let them do. They are not crazy, they listen. And if they see that you tolerate more, they will do more.
The other team will also notice this limit and act within that.
Be aware of it and set the standard. It is not only for a player or a coach, but it’s everybody on the court.
4. The reaction of the supporters
A lot of players and coaches use the pressure from supporters. They complain remarkably in order to pin up their fans against you. You need to be tough and some pressure shouldn’t bother you, but why make your job more difficult than it is?
If this is the case, make the necessary actions.
5. Short vs. long time consequences
Giving a T is not always easy. You may be hesitant to give a T to a player you like, or in front of a large and angry crowd. But you need to be tough in these times, and when necessary, you have to make the decision. Maybe it means that for the short time you will be an asshole and everybody will hate you.
If you want love, you shouldn’t look for it on the court anyway.
Be patient. Hatred will turn into respect. If your integrity is without question, and you are consistent, it’s only a matter of time and they will trust you. Some things will also help. We will deal with it on the course.
6. Your concentration
It’s very easy. If you find yourself out of focus because of somebody who is complaining all the time, or if somebody wants to ruin your game, tell them you won’t be hesitant, and T them. In fact, it’s a great excuse for making a friendly warning to anyone. I might say for example:
“Sorry, but you take my concentration away, and if I can’t concentrate, I don’t know what will happen…”
Most of the times they will stop, but if they go on, pierce your palm right away.
7. Your own distorted feelings
I had a couple of games in my career when I was full of emotions on the court. I must admit, I was out of control, and I felt a lot of different things I’m not proud of.
It’s ok to have feelings. It’s also ok to express them. Don’t hold back, it makes you sick. But be very careful in the selection of how you express your feelings.
First thing is to be aware. Next is to deal with it. And the solution always lies in communication.
You need to have more personalities
You want to have a scale from an understanding and empathic self to a tough guy who stands by his game. You need to use different self in different situations. You need to be flexible. Adapt to the game.
If you have an escalated conflict with anyone, maybe you need to sit down and think why you got into a situation where your personality causes people to be angry. And how to get out of it. Communication always helps.
You need to know that it’s almost never against you. It is always about the game!
You can, of course, blame others. The problem with it is that you cannot change them. You can only change yourself and learn how to manage conflicts, and maybe they will change because they face a different person.