Saturday, June 02, 2007

Advice to referees -- and managers?

Speaking of sports, let's now turn away from cheese racing and back to the beautiful game, where I want to present a different twist on the girls soccer topic.

Several years ago, my friend and fellow referee Grant led me to the following email, written by Dr. Cindy Moore at the University of Washington. She has graciously allowed me to reprint it here. Sure, it is about soccer, but I would ask you to consider any ramifications for management of teams in an organization.

Here's Grant's introduction from January 2003:

What follows is a long but very interesting email describing the results of a survey done by Cindy Moore describing how women vs. men respond to game situations, mainly soccer. VERY interesting read, most of it rings true. There are lots of things that I have observed over the years, but not really been able to process as clearly as Dr. Moore.

Not all human behavior falls into neat columns and works every time for everybody. I polled a statistically large number of males and females as coaches, players, and officials (female officials not so large a number here) on a survey that I entitled "Perceptions of the Female Game" a few years ago for my Ph.D. thesis. I hold various psychology/anthropology degrees and work at a large university. I researched many psych/educational studies, plus interviews, survey, and observed games both live/taped to see if I could draw comparisons between the two genders in a soccer game from a behavior statistical difference point of view.

(Males/female respondents were for the most part, white, and recreational/district older players or youth players at all competitive levels. Officials whom responded were a from very diverse population both age/regionally/experience level.)

Some points to ponder: Females will delay their retaliation for a number of reasons:

1) They are socially oriented. Most retaliation will NOT be done by the one involved in the cheap shot but rather by a team-mate who will take out the offending player. Why? Females are socially, not individually, organized as males usually are. Having a team-mate retaliate for you strengthens the bond of the team/group. When you commit a cheap foul against one, it is against all.

But ALWAYS be aware of the social clique on any female team you officiate. You should be able to identify the main clique, who is on the "outs", who is new. You may have a player always in the open -- never will anybody pass her the ball -- it won't be happening because more than likely on a female team they haven't bonded (trust) or she has offended somebody and the possible win won't override the social organization of the group. Winning isn't the first priority of the team (lot of variables here depending on age, etc) but the socialization, bonding of the team is always an overriding factor on any female team. The best player, if she has does something to offend a higher female in the group, won't see the ball passed her way.

2) Females choose their time for retaliation because they do not want to be caught doing so for the most part. If they can execute the perfect "payback" without getting caught, so much the better. They do not like public criticism. (Anybody ever yelled at their wife/partner in public or tried to correct them publicly in some manner?) School studies show that teachers correct and call upon males at a much much higher percentage rate than females. From a very early age males are used to speaking out, being corrected, trying for any attention either positive or negative interaction. Males will raise their hand to respond for the interaction/attention -- never mind the "right" answer -- to be respected as intelligent. Females usually only raise their hands when they are very positive about being correct, looking good in front of their peers and the authority figure-teacher.

As a referee: what does this mean?

1) Identify the social leaders of the team.

2) Try quiet words to the player and make them specific words. Females key off of specific feedback. "Number 11, hands off her shirt," "Watch the hip check," etc. Females process intrinsic information; males are extrinsic. You can yell across the field to the males to knock it off, and they will grin and get the picture. If you do that with a female, she will elaborately look around, like whom is he addressing, it can't me, or begin a discussion of what are you talking about -- "What am I doing?" -- and then engage you all game long in what did you call, why, what did you see, that wasn't right, it was this, etc. Females have a very fine sense of justice and what is "fair." Be consistent and apply laws/calls/fouls consistently throughout the game. Or be prepared to hear/discuss your games and perceived unfairness as you call 34 to 1 foul ratio, catch that hip check but not this one -- "Are you blind?"

3) Next step in player management is to talk just a bit louder to include her immediate peer group of teammates.

4) Use the team leader (not always the captain -- watch for the social structure) or her best friend on the team -- notice who helps her up -- her friend will cross the field to help her up or check her well-being. (Guys it will be the nearest one handy on their way for positions.) Make your discipline as quiet as possible as long as the person allows it to happen this way. Once you have made it public, forget about putting that player into your pocket anytime soon in the near future. Once a problem now, always a problem. She won't let it go until she has spent some deep processing time on it. Do not waste any more effort on recapturing friendly relations -- stay professional and just know no warm and fuzzy feelings are likely.

Ever fight with a girlfriend, wife, partner? Where do most of you resolve these issues? Females pick their battleground carefully. Most of these "discussions" will take place in one of three places: 1) bedroom; 2) car; 3) kitchen -- when territory has been declared and likely interruption free. Females like a captive audience with their undivided attention. In the above areas, most males will not easily escape the discussion, and the females will pick the time of discussion to have the fewest interruptions.

There are chemical reactions in the fear/flight response (higher blood pressure, increased respiratory, acute sensory perceptions, etc). To decrease these reactions, males require one of two things -- action or time. So if you see a potential harmful retaliation coming, put on the speed and get there ASAP and provide a distraction to buy some time to let things chill out. Know either you are going to be effective in first few seconds or you will have lost it, but the results will be quickly known and usually the equalizer will be done within 10-15 minutes.

Females require one of two things -- time or verbalization! Ever had a female partner talk, go over and over and over the same upsetting scenario time/again? Recognize this increases coping ability, decreases the response syndrome. Expect words to be flying or voice used in some mannerism in a tense situation -- the females will talk, mutter, talk, mutter, talk to others all game long about the situation and into the locker room afterwards. This forms the oral history and why 10 years later two females will remember, recognize, and have a score to settle up. In a female game, OFTEN the game you think you see before you will have hidden agendas. Females will carry the baggage looking for exactly the right moment to execute retaliation so pay-back won't be forgotten, maximize effect and allow them to avoid go-to-jail card. I have had lots of stories about females games -- you know -- not a darn thing was happening, play was going well, when strike, bam, boom, etc. Ref didn't see it coming . . . and couldn't from the play on the field before him. What he missed was the female body language signs of impending war -- whispers on the wind, cold shoulders, stiffening body movements passing the enemy and the 'look'.

With males, in contrast, retaliation is upfront, personal and usually involves "in your face" immediately or within next 10-15 minutes retaliation. More than likely, once given, the score is evened, payback given, accepted, then the game can proceed. They may even pat each other on the butt, arm, give a thumbs or help each other up, later in the game. Watch for the pairing.

Males when tense usually clench jaw, make fists, scowl, lengthen stride, puff up and they do NOT communicate well. They STOP talking and are poised for action. They may storm into a tense situation and that intimidates females players to where they feel personally threatened. So make a point when you are upset in the female game to communicate verbally (quietly, directly, and specific language to the player) and watch your body language -- especially the fists as you run, jaws clenched, etc. Learn to smile wide, and it doesn't hurt to indulge in some light social chitchat. Females seem to appreciate more also that a referee checks when they are injured and how they are doing after a hard foul or tackle.

An interesting side note to my survey that I'd like to share. Female players are very perceptive about male officials. They noted smell (!), hair combed, uniform professionalism. Body language drew a huge response when asked their perceptions of male officials. I was expecting mechanics, whistle, etc, but what I received was very critical body/dress/socialization skills/interaction comments!

Obviously I have a lot more material and again, please, not all of it will apply across the board to every male/female. These are statistical averages and not all the time does it happen this way. Also, the comparisons do not necessarily hold true anymore in the competitive upper division female games. Times are changing, and both female and males are drawing closer in some types of behavior. For example, the red and yellow card count here has led me to think that females are becoming more outspoken about language, and certain kinds of violent conduct are on an increase in the female game.


Anonymous said...

Now I know why refs miss so much - they are sociology grad students! This is filled with amusing observations about men and women but I truly hope nobody would apply this to real girls. Even if this were all true, we are supposed to call young people to the highest standards, aren't we? And not just to accommodate juveline habits ad infinitum?

Anonymous said...

Please, Ref, WATCH THE GAME. Quit taking Cosmo quizzes.

Anonymous said...

As always, an interesting and thought provoking post. I guess I’ll have to dust off my old Sigmund Freud, Erik Erickson, Carl Jung, and Carl Rogers texts from my early graduate school days (before I sold out and joined the world of high finance) for a quick review before this morning’s game. Hopefully I can leave B.F. Skinner in the box in the basement though I sometimes think that many of the referees (me included) are closet behaviorialists.

Anonymous said...

To anon 7:53 and anon 7:54,

Feel free to make fun, but experienced refs will tell you that the best refs are those who understand the players they are officiating and are able to empathize with what they are feeling.

Yes, and also make the right calls.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and also, the same goes for the best managers in business situations.

Anonymous said...

this was borderline sexist and not even that interesting. i think you might want to draw the line between what you personally find interesting (soccer, officiating) and what your "audience" finds stimulating. given your position this type of post might not go over so well with the large number of women you employ. seems to me you've given cause for any "wrongful termination" lawsuit that ever occurs under your watch.

Anonymous said...

Odd that you find it sexist, by which you suggest that it denigrates women in some way. I don't see it that way at all. This researcher simply suggests that women can be observed to behave differently in a team situation from men. The characteristics the excerpt ascribes to women are, in fact, quite positive in many ways.

As for what my audience finds stimulating, pleae don't jump to conclusions. This post has been receiving tons of traffic. Many people have been telling me (i.e., in person and by email) that they find it VERY interesting.

Finally, if you don't see any relationship between coaching a sports team and managing an organization, you are missing something important.

Finally, as Ronald Reagan once said, "this is my microphone". I am sure you mean it in the most helpful way, but please don't provide me advice on leaving out things on this blog that I find personally interesting.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I received your note. Not right for this post. Will return to it later.

Anonymous said...

More for anon 11:38. Lots has been written on this subject. I just did a 30 second scan following a Google search:

Understanding the Differences Between How Women and Men Communicate, Canadian Journal for Women in Coaching,

Gender and Competition: How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently, by Kathleen Deboer.

Anonymous said...

There is a long and well-researched body of solid research on male-female differences, which some posters here apparently are not familiar with. Though I'm not much of a fan of excessively long blog posts like this one (hint: consider posting as links and brief summaries here as I'd wager that most people haven't read the whole thing carefully, including, perhaps, those dismissing it), I think this one very important.

When I started my accidental consulting career many moons ago, I was almost always the only woman in the room. As clients, almost to a person men, advanced up the ladder, so did I. Last year, last year, I was giving a small seminar and for the first time, the first time in 30 yrs, there was a majority of women in the room.

So like many of my female peers, I have hungered for "data" confirming that we experience life--whether consulting to high-powered guys or kicking a ball down the field with a man screaming from the sidelines--differently from the way "the books" tell us it should be. Just like the stunning cardiac research that says women present heart attack symptoms "differently." Differently from what?!?

Though I've never played any team sport, I found myself nodding as I read this. As an "external" in many big orgs over the yrs, I've had numerous young women come to me for advice in situations that mimic these -- being yelled at in front of other people or its insidious inverse, being praised publically and ridiculed in private, being reprimanded for running, figuratively, to someone else's defense, etc.

Understanding differences, almost a cliche at this point, is, I believe, critical to healthy organizations and, if I can be so arch, planetary survival. Male-female differences are universal while also being culturally dependent. I could go on and on thus making this post as long as yours, Paul, but, for the record, while I was writing this, I received a call from one of those high-powered execs I've consulted to, a man, of course, who just sang "Happy Birthday" to me in Swedish. Clearly some guys like you get it.

Anonymous said...

sounds real timely, they got a movie
about it? GRACIE,,dont know if the coaches/refs get much time?

Anonymous said...

"please don't provide me advice on leaving out things on this blog that I find personally interesting."


No need to react so strongly to anon 11:38. No need to get defensive. Just let it go..

Anonymous said...

Defensive? Moi?


Anonymous said...

No question you were defensive in your post reply to me. I think that that is a truism the point someone finishes their last two paragraphs with the word "finally". No one's questioning who has final authority on your blog, Mr. Levy. If you found my post to be offensive you might have employed the tact you used in responding to your homophobic colleague rather than demonstrating some of your more dictator-like skills.

In terms of your specific statements:
"Odd that you find it sexist, by which you suggest that it denigrates women in some way." I agree with you, I should have started by saying that it could be interpreted that way and thus puts you at risk of being misinterpreted.

"As for what my audience finds stimulating, please don't jump to conclusions. This post has been receiving tons of traffic, etc." Are you really so insecure as to have to include this statement? I thought not. But if it feels good to hear it, Mr. Levy, I think you're smart and interesting.

"Finally, if you don't see any relationship between coaching a sports team and managing an organization, you are missing something important." I never suggested that this was not the case; you inferred incorrectly I was saying that.

"Finally, as Ronald Reagan once said, 'this is my microphone'." Based on your response, I see more in common between you and President Reagan that might have otherwise first met the eye. Thanks for making it a bit more obvious.

I shall refrain from posting on your site again given your obvious disdain for a truly open forum. Godspeed, Mr. Levy. And remember, you're really, really important and we all think you're just dandy.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to see that I got you so boiled up that you had to use Google as well; I missed that prior to sending my prior (and as it would appear, second to last) post. Your Google search doesn't prove anything. I am not suggesting that there is no difference between men and women. I was merely trying to point out at the end that it may have ramifications with regards to how it is interpreted and therefore pose a risk to you and your organization. Please do the rest of your readers the service of letting them know if it ever gets mentioned if one of your female employees is passed up for a promotion. I shan't be bothering with your megalomania again: like you have not-so-subtly let me (us) know who the boss of this little piece of cyberspace is, you are, quite thankfully, not the boss of me.

Anonymous said...

Golly, I guess he was really upset.

I never knew I had dictator-like skills! And meglomania, too! I knew a blog was inherently narcissistic, but I guess I missed my transition to meglomania.

Anyway, Anon 11:48 was quite correct. I guess I'll have to be more careful about being baited.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have been waiting for the "battle of the sexes" to erupt over this post. Anon 11:48, sorry you didn't see its humorous aspects, whether or not you agree with its assertions. (How did I intuit that this hostility had something to do with the gay pride post? Must be because I'm female. (:)

I actually think there is a fair degree of stereotyping in Dr. Moore's email, but it does contain some important lessons for the workplace. Example: as a lady doc working primarily with (male)surgeons, I was always told that they preferred working with me rather than the other female partner in our pathology group, apparently because I was more straightforward in my communications with them. (even matching their decibel level on occasion.) Conversely, I once inadvertantly insulted a female general surgeon by advising she get a tertiary consult on a difficult soft tissue tumor, totally unaware she had done a fellowship in the surgery of soft tissue tumors. Rather than correcting me on the spot, or making any comment at all, she went back to her male partner and had HIM call the (male) chief of pathology and complain about me. Although I immediately called her and apologized, I remained mystified as to why she never approached me directly. This post has helped me understand it - thanks! Guess I'd been working with the men too long, though, and become like them.
Just like with any cultural difference, one must be sensitive and proceed with caution.

Vertical Man said...

You weren't being baited. Anonymous Man was simply practicing an age-old tactic of advancing a flawed argument, watching it get demolished and then claiming you either (a) misunderstood his argument and how deeply intelligent he is, or (b) understood his argument but demolished it TOO completely, in which case (he thinks) you're not very nice. It's not your problem either way and, as the father of 4 daughters, I found the post pretty insightful.

And if it worries you at all, AM is not going anyplace. He'll continue to lurk...

Anonymous said...


Inevitably, a blog owner, sometimes unknowingly, imprints his personality on his/her blog, and you have done so on yours, as have others I read.
Those readers who do not respond to the owner's personality will stop reading the blog, so be it.
As for me, it's part of what I find interesting about your blog, so keep up with the repartee!

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for the insights.

Unknown said...

As a competitive female soccer player of over 20 years I appreciate the noted differences in not only play-related tactics on a team, but social differences that come into play. As a referee, I've been priviledged to observe these dynamics from the outside, and it's given me some insight on how I've behaved and what roles I've played. I'm now a hospital manager, and the same truisms are at work. The better you understand those you work with (and for) the better colleague you can be. The fact that women and men tend to approach things in a different way simply means that we all have a bit more work to do in understanding the differences between us. The same applies to different cultures and different ages, does it not? I'm glad to see that once again, you've brought some insight of value here to your blog.