Monday, June 8, 2009

Insubordination and Respect

Personal conduct during a bout is absolutely a two-way relationship. Respect begets respect. Of course it is a referee's duty to establish that level of respect and make sure that it stays at a high standard. Even then, a referee should expect a certain level of disrespectful behavior from skaters on occasion. Note that it is disrespectful behavior, not out-and-out disrespect. That is fine and something that one should be ready for. Some referees in the past, and still some today, believe that any sort of disrespectful behavior towards a referee, even just swearing, would undermine the referee's authority and legitimacy. That sort of attitude though is unrealistic. These skaters are deeply invested in the game, as we've already discussed, the game right now is the most important game ever, so it's reasonable that the skaters might be emotionally invested in what's happening, including the calls being made on them. Watch any sport and if a referee makes a call, it's reasonable to assume that some will agree with it and some will disagree. The question is in how that disagreement manifests itself outwardly. Swearing is something people do. You may not agree with it, but it's a fact of life. So to expect people full of adrenaline and fully invested emotionally and physically not to swear is probably asking too much. Consider other more obvious things, like physical actions. Physical actions are always more deliberate and intentional than are verbal outbursts. If the skater swears about a call, but still immediately heads to the penalty box, where is the disrespect or undermining of authority? She is demonstrating that she acknowledges your authority, despite not agreeing with the call. Conversely, if the skater were to flip you off or point at you the referee while expressing extreme displeasure it may warrant an action on your part as outlined in the rules. If it were to happen again in the same bout then, you might consider expelling her from the bout, but expulsion should not be the first action in anything but the most extreme situations.

Another tipping point may be the words surrounding the inflammatory language. It's often said that the most disrespectful word a player can use when addressing a referee is "you". That they can cuss up a storm might be fine, but as soon as they address it to us with the word "you" it crosses a line. For instance "F*ck!" might easily be ignored and not considered to be directed at anyone, whereas "You f*ck!" is clearly a whole other ballgame. It's not the word, it is the conscious choice to direct it at us that is objectionable and disrespectful.

So, you should expect and tolerate some inappropriate behavior from the skaters. And respect, as mentioned, is a two-way relationship. Does that mean that the skaters should reasonably expect and tolerate a certain level of abuse from the referees then? Absolutely not. We must remain confident and in control of ourselves if we're to remain in control of the bout. Do what you must to make sure that you can do that. Take time as you need during a bout to compose yourself. Other things that positively re-enforce themselves in your actions include using an open, non-confrontational and comfortable stance, and using a civil, even tone as discussed prior. You should never swear at a skater or fan, or at another referee. You should provide, at all times, an example of how you feel participants should act, even if they do not or already are not.