By now, as a referee, coach, player or even spectator, you have probably all met ‘that spectator’. That one person who is as ‘yelly’ as my mum when I didn’t do my chores, and as oblivious to the law as a 5 year old reading the road code… In your brain you call them an asshole, seriously stupid or just plain annoying (or more explicit terms that I can’t teach you). If you’re lucky you’ll be so zoned in on the game that you won’t hear them, you’re a little less lucky if they decide to yell just as all is silent (pretty rare occurrence really, rugby players talk as much as gossiping gran’s at afternoon-tea group). So, what do you do about this inconsiderate member of society? Do you yell back (please don’t!), do you ignore them (sometimes the best idea), or do you confront them about their average behaviour as a human being?
Well, let me let you know what I do about these people. Firstly, when I’m in a game I try and block them out if they are present, because nobody needs that kind of negativity in their life. This allows me to focus on what is most important, the players and their game, as their game isn’t about me (and my issues) as I am only there as a plus one to oversee and mediate (making it about you is a terrible idea). Ignoring people can be really hard, but back as a teenager I learnt how to do it pretty well (or so my mum probably thinks!). Their opinion on your game doesn’t accurately reflect the good positions you are in, the good calls you have made or the awesome management you have upheld throughout the game, so don’t let them be the judge.
Secondly, there is the option (but pick your battles), to stand up for yourself and single that person out, making them feel as stink as I feel about being yelled out for volunteering. To put something to rest first though, we are volunteers and I know you know that, but for some reason everyone has this crazy idea that we get paid for what we do, we really don’t (some mileage money here and there for petrol cost if going the distance, but no cash just for being the people who put up their hands). Anyway, back to it. So what I have learnt to do is ‘the glare’. It’s a fantastic piece of equipment I created, it’s that glare you give your mum as she walks away after forcing you to clean your pig sty (so put that glare to work!). It singles out that person and often they realise that their mouth has been running off without them realising and that I have heard them. People hate getting caught in the act and this is exactly what ‘the glare’ does, and it should shut their mouth until further notice.
Lastly, if none of the above work, and you still find that they think you’re the biggest pain in the ass since un-sliced bread then don’t let them walk all over you. I have had to do this many times (however use this method with the right person/place or you just look like a total knob-jocky). Often this is because I’m a girl and a lot of people believe that my ability is somehow lesser than a new male referee even after my 5 years of experience. So, I walk up to them, let them know that although I know that they are passionate about the game (which they totally relate to and love hearing by the way), but I really don’t appreciate being yelled at as it isn’t productive for the players or the game. They usually stand down and my side-line then becomes so much more positive for the players (as often their negativity is reflected in the player’s attitudes).
So what is your method going to be in dealing with these crazy people? I can’t help you with that as it all depends on your personality (and I’m quite often outspoken and don’t like to take shit). If the abuse is too much to handle, hold your horses and write an incident report on it as it is not ok. Or, there is the option of telling them to bugger off (in a professional manner), this usually requires the cards in your pocket and some paperwork too, but if you need this tool for your safety and for the game, then use it. It really sucks having people yell at you, believe me I know it just as much as the last guy (but don’t let it get to you, you’re stronger than these people who may not know firm ground boot from a soft ground boot). My last tip is to never offer up your whistle to shut them up, because what are you going to do if they actually take it?!
At the end of the day, rugby and the players are supposed to be the winners.