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By Tim Pierson, USWOA Board of Directors, 03/30/16, 10:30AM MDT


Are you a good communicator as a mat official ?????


Wouldn’t it be nice if we could talk to each other during a bout?  That sure would simplify things.  Of course, we all know that’s just not going to happen.

Many times during a bout, a referee must communicate with the wrestlers, judge and chairman.  Communication is a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs or behavior.  Effective communication takes place only when the listener (wrestler, judge, or chairman) clearly understands the message that you (the referee) intended to send.  Conversely, talking is the expression or exchange of ideas by means of spoken words.  Unfortunately, we can’t stop a bout in order to “talk” every time a situation occurs on the mat.  So when we find ourselves in this situation; and we will, how do we overcome this barrier? 

Effective communication is based on two pillars, verbal and visual. The effective application of both pillars during a bout will enable us to successfully communicate with the wrestlers and referee team without disrupting the flow of the bout.   

The first pillar is Verbal Communication.  When verbally communicating, we must use proper UWW vocabulary, be very clear, and strong.    UWW vocabulary is the basic language all referees, regardless of country of origin, must use and understand.

There are two reasons we utilize verbal communication during a bout.  First, communicating with the wrestlers for activity.  Effective verbal communication allows the wrestlers to understand our guidance and direction during the bout.  When communicating with the wrestlers, we must understand there is a difference between “commanding” and “nagging” the wrestlers.  When verbally communicating with the wrestlers, spread out your commands.  Allow time for the wrestlers to react and adjust our commands.  Nagging the wrestlers is nonstop chatter that does not give the wrestlers time to adjust to your commands.  When we “nag” the wrestlers, they tune us out.  This can cause frustration not only for the wrestlers and coaches, but also the referee team.  Give the wrestler time to adjust. 

Next is verbally communicating through the wrestlers to the referee team in order to set up a call.   The same principles discussed in the previous section, also apply here.  In the previous section, all our commands were directed toward the wrestlers.  Now, we are communicating through the wrestlers to the referee team.  It’s the application of the vocabulary that makes this different.  When you communicate with a wrestler, “Red Open”, “Red Open”, you’re telling Red he/she needs to open up.  You can also be communicating with the referee team, “Heads up guys, Red is closed up and I’m getting ready to call Red for Passivity.”  What is your intended message?  What is your desired outcome?  Effective verbal communication is an art that requires proper timing of your calls for the desired effect.  It’s the application and timing of your calls that make it either effective or ineffective. 

The second pillar of communication is Visual Communication.  Visual communication is an art form unto itself and complements verbal communication.  During a bout, not everyone will be able to hear your commands, but everyone should be able to see your hand gestures.   When communicating with a wrestler, use the applicable colored wrist. “Red Open”, point towards red with your red wrist.  When an action goes into the protection area and the defensive wrestler’s head is on the mat, you blow the whistle stopping the action.  Use your hands to indicate why you blew the whistle.  Touch your head and point to the protection area.  This let’s everyone know the defensive wrestler’s head is out and the bout continues.   One of the most frustrating occurrences during a bout, for everyone, is when a call is made and no one knows why or what communication has occurred to cause this action.  An example of this frustration is when a referee is speaking to a wrestler.  No one hears what the referee is saying or sees any visual hand gestures.  The coaches, judge, chairman, and fans believe the bout is going smoothly.  The referee blows the whistle and offers fleeing the hold.  Wait, what?  What just happened?  Where did that call come from? Why did the referee just make that call?  I didn’t see any type of set up to the call.  Frustration and controversy have just been unnecessarily introduced into the bout.  This situation could have been avoided and frustration eliminated by the application of visual communication.  This complimentary form of communication provides visual reinforcement to the verbal communication.   Viewers of the bout may not know what you are saying, but, by using your visual communication skills, they will know you are communicating.