Your referee program may get better with a little bit of luck and chance. But if you want to ensure progress, you must be willing to solicit, welcome and embrace feedback.
Feedback from different people, who point out a consistent message, will provide you with a snapshot of what is happening in your referee program. You can use feedback to make changes that will improve your referee program. And yes, often feedback related to referees’ performance is given out of frustration on the part of coaches, parents and even other referees. It is important to differentiate between the delivery and the content of the feedback message. Even more importantly, focus on the content and not so much on the delivery. Here are some tips on how to effectively use feedback from your members.
• Thank the people who are providing the feedback. This will encourage them to continue providing feedback which is a valuable resource for administrators.
• Share the feedback with your administrative team and a few others to confirm which part of the feedback is based on incidents with more than just one occurrence. For example, if several people tell you that Joe Smith is a referee who constantly disrespects the coaches, you should consider evaluating Joe’s performance at his next couple of games.
• Working with your referee program team, identify the items that you can address, the ones which you can forward to other people in your Region for resolution and the ones which are totally out of your control.
• Develop a plan to address the items within your control that need attention. For example: you may choose to mentor a couple of referees; or set up a continuing education two-hour session to review and discuss foul recognition because there are several complaints stating that your referees don’t call fouls; etc.
• The key is to have a plan that uses a positive approach to address the issues provided within the feedback. Things like mentoring, additional training, sharing information over your website, etc. - things that will be well received by the referees.
• Be sure to share information related to the specific issue – example: “Poor wall management”; provide examples that demonstrate the risks associated with the issue; point out the benefits of making changes; and ask the participants to help develop the plan of action.
• While it’s important to address issues with the specific referees experiencing them, try to provide a general reminder to all referees. This will benefit all your referees and it will be better received by the ones with the issues.
• Follow through with the person(s) who provided the feedback without mentioning names, and share the overall plan.
• Set up check points so that you and your team of instructors, mentors and assessors can confirm that things are improving and thank your referees for their efforts.
• Set up a cycle of actions that allows you to identify issues whether you receive feedback or not. A simple list of actions includes:
- Ask membership (referees, instructors, assessors, mentors, coaches, others) how things are with the refereeing of games.
- Include direct questions at the fields and a possible simple survey.
- Identify common issues and prioritize them for resolution.
- Share the responsibility to change things with others (instructors, assessors, etc.) as appropriate.
Having a constant self-evaluation process for your referee program will reduce the feedback that comes with a negative delivery and increase feedback with a positive flavor. And more importantly, it will allow you to keep your program in top shape! Thank you for everything you do for AYSO.