Thursday, May 14, 2009

Which Voice Do We Use When?

As a referee you should have two voices. One is your personal voice, the words, phrases and timing you use in everyday life. The other voice is your rules voice, which is reduced to the words, lingo and viewpoint or frame of reference of the rules documents It is a far more authoritative voice. Knowing when to use which voice can be crucial in communicating with skaters and other referees.

There are, of course, times when your personal voice is the best choice. For instance, when trying to calm a situation, the authoritative, absolute tone of the rules would be inappropriate and ineffective. However coming to the upset player or coach with your own voice brings you both to the same level, makes you more approachable and can make you appear more sympathetic to their complaint (even if in actuality nothing has changed). To repeat on past topics, it is also necessary that your personal voice never be a yell, shout or bark. Not only can these traits make your subject defensive, but they have an adverse effect on your point, making it seem as though you aren't sure you are right and so need to resort to shouting to win an argument.

So when do you want to use your rules voice? Once you've heard and acknowledged a complaint, you may want to explain a final ruling with a more authoritative voice. If you are asked to explain what you saw during a particular play you would want to use your definitive rules voice. The decision about which voice to use is ultimately up to you as a referee, and you have to use your best judgment as to how you should speak to the players, based on what it is you need to communicate.

Also, communication can help to eliminate a perception of bias towards one team or another, particularly when a team challenges a ruling. Explaining what you say, which rules are relevant and how things will ultimately be resolved grounds things in absolutes and clears the air of perceived indiscretions or accusations that a team got its way just because they complained. Simply saying, “Alright, we discussed it and yes, you'll get that jammer lap point” isn't as neutral as saying, for instance, “Alright, we've discussed it and your jammer referee didn't realize the other jammer had been sent out just before your jammer called it after breaking the pack, still on her scoring pass, she'll get that jammer lap point.” Finally, if a ref has made a mistake, owning up to it, when realized by the referee, enforces the fact that we really are doing everything we can out there to be fair and even, and not just helping our home team to win.


  1. During a bout you are having a problem with one particular rule from both teams. It seems they are either unaware of the rule or are ignoring it. Either way, you want to remind both teams of the rule to avoid further problems.

  2. During an important tournament bout one team has slowly been falling further and further behind, in front of their hometown crowd. They call a timeout and come in to express the concern that refs are seeing penalties by the other team but not calling them.

  3. In a tight bout going back and forth, one team's jammer cuts the foremost opposing blocker to escape the pack on her lead pass. Her referee sends her out and signals “not lead.” When she returns to play later in that same jam she cleanly passes all opposing blockers and leaves the pack as the other jammer calls the jam off. The jam ref signals zero points and her team objects, saying she is due four points. How do you explain why she is not?

  4. What if the jam referee had awarded points and the other team had objected?

  5. In an emotional match you have to eject a player for too many majors, when at least the last one was caused by her own teammate shoving her into an opponent's back. Assume that she's disagreeing with getting that penalty and the subsequent ejection.

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