How To Give Feedback

As referees, you always have to give feedback to the team. I also encourage others to give feedback to me. It doesn’t matter how old or experienced the person is, I ask the question: “how was my game?” It’s partly because I’m curious about how others see what I do. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own opinion on the game I officiate, it’s just the feeling of an outsider that holds a valuable information.

NFL referees meeting

The crew chief gives feedback on NFL referees’ meeting

Let me tell you a personal story. I had a game back around 2002-2003 when I was still a rookie in the first league. We used 2-man mechanics back then, and my partner was undoubtedly one of the best referees in Hungary. He tossed the ball, I ran to the baseline. Suddenly, one foul – gone, second foul – gone, third foul – my partner called it from the trail just in front of me.

I wasn’t focused. Maybe I was still thinking about the nice girls in the gym.

I couldn’t make it back in the game. I experienced every kind of drawbacks in my head, and without strategy, I couldn’t put myself back in the zone.

When we blew the final whistle, I felt ashamed. I went to the coaches saying sorry about my poor performance. My total surprise was that nobody wanted to push me. I’m grateful for my partner for refereeing the game perfectly, alone. I am thankful also for his feedback after the game. I was in a poor form when an inappropriate feedback could have lowered my self-esteem profoundly. All I got was that it happens from time to time, and that I should be more concentrated to avoid this in the future.

Again, I’m extremely grateful for my partner and the teams for giving me the right feedback. Though, I think good feedback is rare as hen’s teeth.

So, how to give feedback? One common method is the Feedback Sandwich.

Feedback Sandwich

Feedback Sandwich Method (

  1. Give praise. Tell them positive feedback. Compliment about how the person or the team did good in certain situations.
  2. Tell them about the aspects to be improved in their officiating. This is the criticism, or negative feedback part.
  3. Close with a praise in the end.

I consider this a fair approach, but there when people know the trick, they are waiting for the criticism and they easily forget about the praise. And, still, there is a negative comment in the middle that may make the referee think that he is incompetent, though, reality is totally different.

NLP adds some very important tips to improve this. You are learning. Forever. It doesn’t matter that you are already a top referee, you still learn something every day. When it comes to learning, I share the opinion becoming more and more popular: you should experience positive states. In the feedback sandwich, the meat is negative, let alone when they forget about the bread and you get only negative feedback. It ruins much more than it builds. Of course, the message still has to delivered, and it does matter how!

Here is my method, to let the team experience only positive states, and still have them change something.

You can use it as a feedback to your team, or as an observer, and you can also use it as a tool for managing conflicts. You can easily calm down coaches and players with this short approach.

  1. Praise. Let them know what they did well on the game.
  2. Make a suggestion. Give 2 reasons why you think it is good to follow this suggestion. One reason should states what the suggestion should accomplish (toward motivation), and the other reason states what problem the suggestion would prevent or solve (away from motivation).
  3. Make an overall positive comment about the person and his abilities in officiating.

There is no criticism. You can use a suggestion instead, and your message goes through with reasoning. We stimulate both the “toward” and “away from” because most people are motivated by both and we never know which one is more effective. It depends on the person you give the feedback to.

Care for the others’ feelings and self-esteem. Always talk about yourself, your feelings and observations in an assertive way.

This post was about giving feedback. Most of the times, you will get criticism, but there is a way how to receive feedback, and direct the conversation to get the most out of it. Check it out in my book: The Essential Referee Mindset.

Feel free to practice it by giving me a feedback on this site (or any of my games, of course) here. Feel free to comment about your approach.

About Peter

Peter Papp is an enthusiastic supporter of open-minded referees, international basketball referee (FIBA) and NLP Master Practitioner. Peter is the founder of


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