Case Study: Composed Player Management

In refereeing circles, we often discuss the importance of “player management”: influencing player behavior through verbal and non-verbal interaction, as well as the usual tools of foul selection and misconduct appropriation.

The referees in the Barclays Premier League are especially accomplished at this art; they need to be, given the egos of the multi-millionaire players whom they referee.

FIFA referee Mark Clattenburg provided (another) fine example of this in a recent match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

After whistling for an obvious foul – and possible misconduct – Clattenburg summoned the offending player over for a chat.  Clattenburg successfully employed facial expressions, verbal communication and gestures, all while remaining calm and composed.

Note that Clattenburg makes strong eye contact with the player, but his body language is not threatening or demeaning.  I would describe it as firm and professional.

I’m not a great lip reader to begin with, but add in a Geordie accent and I’m completely lost.  So, I can’t tell you every word Clattenburg says, but I’m fairly certain he begins the conversation with “That’s your first foul” and ends it with “I’m not having it”.  It’s pretty clear from the gestures that the middle part of the conversation is about making challenges when the ball is already gone.

Although there is a time and place for it, players generally don’t like being yelled at or treated with disrespect, even when they may deserve it.

Model the behavior you expect from players and good results will usually follow.  If your model is constantly telling off, using a raised voice, yelling, etc, you shouldn’t be at all surprised when players respond in-kind.


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