I have had the distinct pleasure of teaching the Verbal Defense & Influence courses to different organizations throughout the United States, presenting to law enforcement agencies, corrections, and government agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration, Oregon Department of Agriculture, the United States military and the San Luis Obispo Transit Authority. The list of people and organizations continues to grow. The list also includes utility companies, realtors, health care and education organizations. Each organization faces the challenge of communicating with people that experience conflict.
My challenge in writing this book is to reach across all sports and be able to explain the concepts of proper verbalization relative to the sport you officiate. The good news is that these concepts apply to all sports. The universal factor is “conflict.” The terminology used in these different sports may vary. The words “game,” “ejection” and “foul” may mean different things in different sports. In making references and giving examples, I am going to simplify things by referring to an event as a “game.”
Have you been around people who complain about the coaches, parents, fans and even the players in youth sports (or any level of sport)? You may have been the one complaining. There are good officials that leave officiating because they become frustrated with the behavior of the people involved in the sport. I want to keep those people from leaving by giving them the tools to manage the conflict they experience while officiating.
When I speak to sports organizations, I reference a CNBC report from January 2014 that states that youth sports has become a 7 billion dollar industry in travel alone. People are spending their money in sports outside of school-related activities so their kids can develop in their sport of choice. Understanding what is at stake for the players, coaches and parents (fans) is the first step in learning how to manage the conflict. My wife and I have spent a lot of money for our two kids to participate in baseball, softball, soccer, football and basketball. We expect those people who officiate in those events to work as hard as our kids do during that game. We expect the officials to treat the players, coaches and fans with dignity by showing them respect. The officials can play a big part in the development of the people involved in these sports by modeling the proper behavior during the sporting event.
Regardless of what sport we want to officiate, or at what level we want to officiate, we have to become skilled at communicating with people in crisis while we are under pressure. If we don’t have this skill, it’s going to be a long game. What help can we give you? It’s called Verbal Defense & Influence (VDI) for Sports officials.
After retiring from my career as a captain for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office, I became a Training Consultant for Vistelar, which is a global speaking and training organization focused on addressing the entire spectrum of human conflict, from interpersonal discord, verbal abuse and bullying to crisis communications, assault and physical violence. Verbal defense & Influence (VDI) is a component within Vistelar. During my law enforcement career, I was heavily involved in training and VDI was one of the programs I taught and utilized. At that time, I also umpired high school and college baseball. The skills I used to communicate effectively as a deputy sheriff translated into officiating. I started to make the connection every time I walked in between the lines on the field (and even before and after the games).
After making the connection, I began teaching the concepts to new and experienced umpires which solidified the connection. As a training consultant, I then had the opportunity to speak and teach the VDI skills to soccer officials. This was my chance to apply the skills outside of the world of baseball umpiring. Those sessions solidified my belief that the conflicts occurring in sports crosses over from sport to sport, and the tactics and skills taught in VDI are applicable in sports (and other life situations) outside of baseball.
The goal of our VDI program is to help the sports official achieve the following:
- Enhance professionalism;
- Decrease complaints from stakeholders in the sport (coaches, players, fans, league commissioners, assigners);
- Lessen the stress involved in dealing with conflict;
- Teach you how to articulate your decisions which can assist in your evaluations by supervisors;
- Increase your morale — keep officiating fun.
The VDI program will teach you the skills needed to communicate effectively under stress. Therefore you will have a better chance of preventing conflict (between everyone) during the event. It also helps you reduce the chance of any emotional or physical violence that may occur. You will officiate effectively in the midst of stress. In the world of digital media, how you come across to others is tremendously important and can affect your career. The VDI program better prepares you to be ready at all times to handle people and situations more effectively. If someone YouTube’s your game or Snapchat’s, Tweets or Instagram’s an incident, you are demonstrating the best possible skills and appearance for other’s to see. That reflects well on you, your position as a sports official, your supervisor and the conference or league you work in. Our program enhances your ability to communicate calls and decisions. If social media is reporting your game, you are ready.
In understanding the reason people behave in a certain way during a game, the first thing officials need to understand is that there are “Four Great American” questions that people will ask those in positions of authority:
- Why (did you make that call)?
- Who are you (to tell me what to do)?
- Where do you get your authority (to make that call)?
- What’s in it for me (you cost me…)?
This is the first step in understanding why coaches, players and fans react emotionally. They want answers. The tactics taught in VDI assist the officials in providing the answers without interrupting the flow of game. The goal is to achieve compliance, cooperation or collaboration (3 C’s) during the game. We call these the 3 C’s.
The VDI program can be divided into ten concepts:
- Be Alert and Decisive/Respond, Don’t React to Conflict;
- The Five Maxims of Communications;
- The “Showtime” Mindset;
- The Universal Greeting;
- Beyond Active Listening;
- The Persuasion Sequence;
- Bystander Mobilization;
- When Words Alone Fail;
- Review and Reporting.
We will explain and break down each concept with examples of their applications in sports officiating.