The following post was distributed to Colorado officials, by Dave Smith the basketball rules interpreter for the State of Colorado. Dave is also the Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officials for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

I think you will find this article to very helpful when thinking about your communication with coaches.

Guidelines for Effective Communication with Coaches

One of the most often heard concerns expressed by coaches is that officials will not communicate with them. Because effective communication is a critical component of successful officiating as well as any other of interactive endeavor, we cannot simply dismiss this concern. As officials we need to constantly work at being better communicators. To achieve effective communication we need to be able to define what it is and use certain tools and techniques that enable us to attain it.

What is effective communication?

Effective communication involves being a good listener, understanding the issue, responding appropriately, sending the right message and being correctly understood and knowing the difference between effectively communicating and over communicating.
How do we effectively communicate with coaches?

Acknowledgement: Acknowledgement can be accomplished as simply as making eye contact or a nod of the head. You must acknowledge them, initially do not ignore them. Initially ignoring or dismissing a coach makes effective communication difficult at best.

Be Approachable: Do not send the message of being unapproachable by appearing to be aloof. Portray confidence, not arrogance. Avoid assuming a defensive posture or body language. Be open to communication. In certain situations it might be better for the game to not go opposite after a foul call and stay table side to more effectively communicate with a coach. Let your partners know that you will be staying table side.

Answer Questions: Answer questions not statements. If a coach asks you what you saw or what a player did, answer the question. If a coach makes a statement such as, “the foul count is 7 -2”, acknowledge the statement but don’t try to answer it. If the question involves a ruling made by your partner called, never say, “It’s not my call.” Support your partner, keeping in mind you cannot answer for him or her and don’t try to.

Brevity: Keep it short. Effectively communicating with a coach does not mean a dissertation or ongoing dialogue.

Honesty: Be honest. Don’t try to justify or rationalize a mistake. If you missed a play – admit it. If you got it right, say so in an appropriate way (e.g. “Coach, I was in good position and had a really good look at the play.”). Honesty is the most effective way to diffuse a situation.

Choose Your Words Wisely: Listen first and then choose the appropriate words to communicate the message you want to send. Keep your tone unemotional and never use profanity or derogatory statements. If you don’t know what to say to convey the message you want to convey, don’t say anything, but don’t ignore the coach. Keep it professional, not personal.

Know when it is over: Once a coach has been acknowledged, appropriately responded to, it is time to move on. If coaches continue to press the issue or their point or they begin to repeat themselves, appropriately let them know that the issue has been addressed and it is time to move on.

These are just a few tools and principles we can use to help us become better in our communication with coaches. Keep in mind that effective communication is a learned skill that is improved through practice and experience.

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