All Sports – Dealing With Players

Whether they’re angry, confused or injured, players merit special attention from officials.

While officials have a fair amount of contact with coaches during a game, they are most often communicating with players. Here are some suggestions on how to keep those lines open.

  1. Discreetly praise outstanding efforts. “I’ll congratulate players on good plays and try to encourage sportsmanship,” said Walter Panek, a football, baseball and softball arbiter from Wharton, N.J. Talking to players is part of preventive officiating. Players will often seem surprised that an official is really watching them even when they are doing the right thing.
  2. Apply the Golden Rule, and think before you react. Do you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s an effective technique that often gains surprising cooperation from players and coaches. Think about it. Are you more comfortable with a boss who tells you to “shut your trap” or with one who is considerate of your feelings?

I try to treat them like I would want to be treated if I were in their shoes,” said Hahn. “I answer any questions they might have, even if I think the questions are foolish. I always let them think that their questions are reasonable.

Being polite and treating others with respect usually is returned by the involved parties,” added Michael Rolfes, a four-sport official from Cincinnati. The issues of courtesy and respect were mentioned frequently by those whose opinions are included in this story: “Yes sir,” “No sir,” “Yes, young man,” etc.

Let (the players) know that as long as they are civil, they can come to you,” suggested Jim Lapetina, from Bloomingdale, Ill. “Give respect and you’ll get respect. It goes both ways.

Retired official Jerry Grunska said officials should “avoid patronizing” coaches and players. “Never talk down to (them) and at the same time show (them) the utmost respect.” He added, “If a coach is pleading and cajoling, he should be listened to and a reply should be even-toned, logical and brief; no sarcasm, no put-downs.

Noted Richard Stein, a four-sport official from Fairport, N.Y.: “Explaining to a player why I called a foul makes him understand what he did wrong.” But Stein draws a distinct line between players and coaches. “The less I talk to (coaches) the better. A coach is one animal before the game and another animal during a game.

NFL line judge Bruce Maurer lives in Dublin, Ohio. Maurer shared his personal six-step program for enhancing relationships with players and coaches. Here are the six techniques that Maurer said he “thinks, practices and applies.”

  • You are there to defuse rather than incite;
    • address team members and coaches as ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir’;
    • talk low and slow;
    • let your mind digest what your ears have heard;
    • be a good listener;
    • communicate, communicate, communicate.
  1. Enjoy the experience, look interested and work hard. Former Illinois High School Association leader Don Robinson is convinced that officials, particularly those at the high school level, need to lighten up a shade or two. “They have to stop taking themselves all that seriously,” said Robinson. “I think we have to take the activity we’re doing seriously because it’s important to the coaches and the kids. But some officials need to back off a little bit and realize that it can be lots of fun. We’re not talking about life or death. For crying out loud, just relax and enjoy the experience. … I think that the official who takes the game seriously, but not himself seriously, will be more likely to survive.

Players and coaches tend to respond favorably to officials who appear to be enjoying the experience, who show by their words and deeds that they are genuinely glad to be there and who do not try to steal the spotlight from the athletes.

I do the best job I can to show a sense of an ‘I’m here for them, they are not here for me’ attitude,” related Gary Frieders, an official from Santa Rosa, Calif.

Looking as if you belong in athletics also helps you sell yourself to players and coaches. It makes them feel as if they have more in common with you. “I made sure that I developed a strong (physical) appearance,” said Crystal Nichols, a basketball referee from Los Angeles. “I look healthy and have a strong, athletic build.

  1. Honesty is the only policy. Under no circumstances should you try to fib your way out of a dilemma. “Be totally honest in everything you do on and off the field,” implored Jim Gilbert, an official from Lindon, Utah. Others generally will appreciate your honesty — and go easier on you — if you willingly admit when you commit an error.
  2. Use captains to help solve problems. Most team captains are chosen for that honor because of their leadership skills and because they are admired or respected by their teammates. Often, captains realize their leadership role includes a degree of responsibility for controlling, even disciplining their teammates.

A savvy official understands those dynamics and can take advantage of them if need be. Basketball referee Ron Martel, from Bellingham, Mass., works hard to get the captains’ help, asking them to step in early if a confrontational situation seems to be developing. Players will often listen to their captains when officials’ comments are falling on deaf ears, he noted.

One key to getting along with players and coaches is breaking down any perception of an adversarial relationship with officials.

Like it or not, advised Grunska, the people in the dugout or on the bench often believe they must compete against the officials as well as the other team. “We can’t dismiss that from our minds,” he warned.

Combating that perception is no easy task. But if you carefully follow the suggestions offered in this article, you will be taking several giant steps in the right direction. Experience shows that if players and coaches believe you are at least an “OK” person, they are also more likely to see you as an acceptable official. It’s simply human nature.

Think of your officiating career as a bank account. Every time you work, you make various “deposits” and “withdrawals.” Your goal should be to have a lucrative account. That will help give you added security (acceptance) and provide opportunities for new investments (advancement up the officiating ladder). The more goodwill you create and foster by getting along with players and coaches, the “wealthier” you become. You can take that advice to the bank. Guaranteed.

Referee Magazine(This column originally appeared in the 1/01 issue of It’s Official. Material has not been updated.)

All Sports – Six Points to Remember

Here are six tips to always keep in mind when you’re thinking officiating.

Six-Points-to-Remember

You will make mistakes. Sometimes they are dreadful mistakes, but we must accept them as an environmental hazard in an avocation that calls for us to make a multitude of split-second decisions under very stressful conditions. To expect perfection is too heavy a burden for any person to carry and ultimately will take the joy out of officiating for even the best official.

Know your role.
You are part of a bigger package. Don’t showboat. When you need to sell a call, it’s OK to give an emphatic signal. But actions designed to draw attention away from the players and onto officials are unprofessional and unacceptable. Use the standard mechanics and signals for the level of play at which you’re working.

You don’t care who wins. One of the many sports myths accepted as fact is that the officials are predisposed to favor the home team. But an official should never use calls to favor either team for any reason. Impartiality is the foundation on which the officiating house is built. Officials must be blind to factors that have nothing to do with the game, including who wins or loses.

For all but a few of us, officiating is an avocation, not our profession. Recognizing that will help keep your life in better balance. It takes time, hard work and study to become a successful official. But an official must not put officiating ahead of what’s really important: family and work. Devote more time and energy to your family and your job than you do to officiating.

Officiating builds skills for a lifetime. The qualities that make a great official are also the qualities that make a person a good employee, spouse, parent and friend. Teamwork, loyalty, sacrifice, study, decision-making, fair mindedness, accountability and honesty are just a few of the positive skills and qualities that can be learned, developed and implemented through officiating.

You referee who you are. Your officiating personality is driven by your everyday personality. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But remember that extremes are often detrimental in officiating. For example, if your job involves supervising people, remember that you can’t treat fellow officials, players and coaches the same as you do your employees. If you’re in sales, you may have to tone down your personality on the field.

(Excerpted from the Referee book, 101 Tips for Better Officiating.)

All Sports – Football vs. Baseball

A classic comedy bit compares two of my favorite sports to officiate.

Football-Vs-Baseball

By Jeffrey Stern

Before his wife’s death turned him into a bitter, angry man, George Carlin was one of the funniest men on the planet. Sure, his language was often coarse and his most famous bit was an examination of the seven words that couldn’t be said on television (several of which can now be heard even on network TV). But the man was darn funny.

As a football official and baseball umpire, one of my favorites is Carlin’s bit called “The Differences Between Football and Baseball.” You can find it on YouTube, but here are some of my favorite parts the segments that apply to my officiating.

“Baseball has no time limit. We don’t know how long it’s gonna last. We might have extra innings. Football is rigidly timed and it will end even if we have to go to sudden death.” Neither high school nor college football has sudden death overtime. But that’s picking nits.

He’s right about no time limits in (most) baseball games. I should know. I’ve worked my share of 11-10 games that seem to last six hours. I’ve had only one super-long extra inning games. I believe it was 16 innings. I once worked a three-overtime football game. And one year, I had three overtime games in a row.

“In football, you get a penalty. In baseball, you make an error.” Again, if you choose to be particular, a penalty and an error are vastly different. A penalty affects the game. An error affects the statistics.

Because people often confuse a foul with a penalty, I’m often reminded of the analogy used by CFO National Coordinator of Football Officiating Rogers Redding. Redding has said the foul is the crime and the penalty is punishment. Much like double parking is the no-no and the fine is the price you pay.

Of course, if an official makes an error, it’s a big deal. And the penalty may be loss of a game, a playoff assignment or worse.

“Only in baseball does the manager or coach have to wear the same uniform the players do. Can you picture Bill Parcells in his New York Giants uniform?” We all know budgets are tight at the high school level. Still, baseball coaches are required to wear the team uniform if they occupy the coaching boxes. If the players aren’t wearing shorts (remember those horrible Chicago White Sox uniforms in the 1970s?), the coaches can’t wear shorts. Sweatpants are also a no-no as are blue jeans.

I can’t imagine the same rule applying to football coaches. Would we have to ensure they had legal equipment?

“Baseball begins in the spring — the season of new life. Football begins in the fall when everything is dying.” I happen to like the fall. It’s my favorite season. Spring in these parts is usually slow to arrive. It teases us with nice days followed by chilly ones. It’s hard to know how to dress. It can be 40 when you leave home and 70 at the end of the workday.

Whether it’s what passes for spring around here or late fall, I always thank heaven for the modern undergarments we wear. For me, at least, the cold isn’t as onerous as it was when I started officiating. In those days, I wore so many layers I looked like the Michelin Man. Not a pretty picture.

“Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, sleet, snow, hail, mud, can’t read the numbers on the field, can’t read the yard markers, can’t see the players’ numbers. The struggle will continue. In baseball, if it rains, we don’t come out to play.”

Thanks to artificial turf, football in the rain isn’t as miserable as it is on grass fields. We’ve seen more turf fields spring up in our state in the recent past. When our schedules come out, in addition to looking at the matchups, I look to see which is the home team and whether they have turf or grass. If turf is dominant, I’m a happier camper.

Referee Magazine(Jeffrey Stern is Referee’s senior editor. This column originally appeared in the April 2014 MyReferee.)

All Sports – Sell the Tough Call

It was a 50-50 call and you know you got it right. How do you convince half the people you did?

Sell-the-Tough-Call

By Doug Russell

What do a ninth-inning call at home plate, a crucial roughing penalty late in the fourth quarter or a block/charge call all have in common? Conflict, controversy and a coach who is going to be very upset.

All officials have experienced conflict with a coach. Confrontations can have positive outcomes if the official follows the basic principles of conflict resolution management.

Being in the proper position to make the call and knowing the applicable rule are prerequisites to successfully selling the tough call. What if the head coach doesn’t notice or care? Fight or flight may seem like good options, but neither works. A better alternative is to apply conflict resolution management.

By practicing three easy steps, the outcomes of those confrontations can be quickly and successfully resolved.

Step one.

Listen to the nature of the complaint. Let the coach disclose his or her feelings or vent frustration with your call. Do not interrupt while the coach is voicing an opinion about your call.

Nonverbal communication skills, including body language, can dramatically help sell the call. Make eye contact with the coach while he or she is talking. Keep your arms behind your back or at your sides, never crossed in front of your chest since that suggests you are guarded. Do not roll your eyes. Nodding, with one hand up to your chin, shows you value and acknowledge the coach’s opinion with a willingness to listen to his or her point of view.

Step two.

Acknowledge that you understand and empathize with his or her position. Let the coach know you understand the nature of the complaint while responding to concerns. Answer questions and identify or analyze unclear issues. Speak in a tone that is conversational. Enunciate and articulate so the coach will understand that you are in control of the situation.

Hand gestures may be used, but never point your finger at or physically touch the coach. Use some of the coach’s words when responding to show that you have been listening.

Step three.

Resolve the conflict by initiating a course of action that is both timely and fair. You cannot allow the coach’s complaint to impede the progress of the game or undermine your control of the situation.

You may thank the coach for voicing a concern, then emphasize that it is time to get back to playing the game. Use a positive, upbeat tone of voice with proper voice inflection and voice quality. Your voice energy should demonstrate enthusiasm, your rate of speech should be fast enough so the coach knows you are ready to move on, and your pitch should be direct, smooth and pleasant. As long as there are athletic contests between competitive teams, coached by competitive people and officiated by human beings, there will be opportunities for conflict.

By following the three-step approach, your tough calls will still be tough, but you will have the tools to successfully overcome your next coach’s challenge. Selling the tough call becomes almost as important as making the tough call. Using both verbal and nonverbal skills will dramatically improve your success rate.

Referee Magazine(Written by Doug Russell. An instructor of marketing at Northwest Missouri State University, he is a high school football official and lives in Maryville, Mo. This column originally appeared in the 12/08 issue of Referee Magazine.)

All Sports – How to NOT Argue

Tips for avoiding the nose-to-nose arguments and disagreements that show up on TV highlight shows.

How-to-NOT-Argue

By Dr. Peter Sacco

It takes a minimum of two people to have an argument. If one person chooses not to participate, that leaves the second party blustering in the wind.

It’s not an easy thing to not argue. In fact, it takes more mental toughness, emotional control and good old-fashioned restraint than it does to go on the offensive and fire when fired upon. But if you can train yourself to remain above the fray when a player or coach desperately wants to go nose-to-nose with you, you’ll be a better, more confident and more respected official.

Before we get into how to not argue, let’s make it perfectly clear that nothing said or recommended from this point forward is intended as a substitute for dealing with a problem head-on and using any and all tools in your arsenal to manage that problem. When a participant clearly steps over the line when trying to goad you into an argument, that’s another animal and you should deal with that appropriately.

To sidestep an oncoming argument, you should deal with the aggressor in a positive, assertive manner. Letting people know they are valued, respected and that their opinions matter sets up a situation for positive conflict resolution. Here are some suggestions for taking control of a conflict before it turns into an argument:

1. Let the other person talk – and don’t interrupt.

In other words, have the courtesy to listen before you say anything. You may have made up your mind and there’s no way you’re changing anything, but by fully listening to what the coach or player has to say, you can at least empathize with the other person’s viewpoint.

2. Using your own words, repeat the problem back to the coach or player.

That lets the aggressor know you heard him or her and that you understood the message. It also gives that person a moment to calm down. In some cases it might help players or coaches see how ridiculous their points are. For example, saying, “Coach, what I hear you saying is that even though you and I both saw number seven clothesline his opponent, I should ignore it because we’ve already blown the whistle on you four times and we haven’t called a foul on the other team yet. Is that right?”

3. Don’t debate judgments.

You should always remain objective and not try to justify judgment calls once you have made up your mind.

4. Limit discussion only to the most recent call.

When the coach or player brings up a play from earlier in the game, it’s time to shut down the conversation. Make it clear that you’re only willing to consider the current conflict; the past is history.

5. Remain assertive and decisive.

Avoid being wishy-washy with agreements. You’re free to change your mind about a call, but it should never appear that you were talked into that change. And if you do change your mind, do it in a strong, decisive manner. The worst thing you can do is look like you’re going back and forth with your decisions.

6. If you can help it, don’t engage in any discussion when you’re very angry.

Officials are human and you may see or hear something that really sets you off for whatever reason. You make your call and now the coach wants to “discuss” it with you. If possible, walk away until you’ve regained your composure.

You’ve probably seen a game or heard stories in which a player gets ejected, followed shortly by the head coach, then an assistant, maybe a couple of other bench personnel follow. It’s easy to see how a person’s tolerance level would get shorter and shorter with each successive verbal assault. Situations like that call for an alert partner to step in, giving you a moment to cool your jets and let the adrenaline drain.

7. When discussing problems, focus on solutions.

For officials, that doesn’t mean changing your call, but you might acquiesce to a coach’s request to consult a crewmate or you might say something like, “It was a good no-call, Coach, but I understand your frustration and I’ll keep an eye out for the sort of contact you’re talking about.”

Referee Magazine(Dr. Peter Sacco is a psychologist and author living in Niagara Falls, Ontario. This column originally appeared in the 6/10 issue of Referee Magazine..)

105 Websites and Apps Worth Checking Out

Education  GENERAL EDUCATION

| Referee.com

3 | NASO.org

4 | SportsOfficiatingSummit.com

5 | NFHS.org

6 | Sportsofficials.ca

7 | Forum.officiating.com

Social  SOCIAL MEDIA

8 | Twitter: @RefereeMag

9 | Facebook.com/RefereeMagazine

10 | Facebook.com/NASOofficiating

Tools  TOOLS

11 | Mhsaa.com/Officials.aspx

12 | Hudl.com

13 | Vokkero.com

14 | Eartec.com

15 | Vizualofficial.com

16 | TheTyros.com

17 | Officiallyfit.net

18 | APP: ReplayBooth – iPad  |  Android

Basketball  BASKETBALL

19 | ncaambb.arbitersports.com

20 | ncaawbb.arbitersports.com

21 | Ref60.com

22 | ihoops.com/training-room/officials

23 | IAABO.org

24 | NBRA.net

25 | Whistleshare.com

26 | Statsheet.com/mcb/referees

27 | Bbstate.com/officials

28 | APP: NCAA Basketball – iPhone / iPad  |  Android

29 | APP: iPlayBook for Basketball – iPhone / iPad  |  Android

30 | APP: IAABO

Volleyball  VOLLEYBALL

31 | PAVO.org

32 | Volleyballreftraining.com

33 | APP: NCAA Volleyball Rules – iPhone / iPad  |  Android

Softball  SOFTBALL

34 | Sup.arbitersports.com

35 | Cactusumpires.com

36 | ASAsoftball.com Umpire Page

Football  FOOTBALL

37 | cfo.arbitersports.com

38 | NFLofficiating.com

39 | Profootballreferee.com

40 | Football-refs.com

41 | Footballzebras.com

42 | Romgilbert.us

43|  Mentorref.com

44 | Ruletool.info

45 | Refstripes.com/forum

46 | Foxsports.com/nfl/page/Mike-Pereira-FOX-NFL-Rules-Analyst

47 | APP: NCAA Football Rules – iPhone / iPad  |  Android

Football  BASEBALL

48 | ncaabaseball.arbitersports.com

49 | StevetheUmp.com

50 | MLB.com Umpires Page

51 | MILB.com Umpires Page

52 | UmpsCare.com

53 | Majorleagueumpires.com

54 | Umpire.org

55 | Umpireteacher.com

56 | Umpire-empire.com

57 | Stocktonumpires.com

58 | Umphub.com

59 | Retrosheet.org

Football  OTHER SPORTS

60 | HockeyRefs.com

61 | NHLOfficials.com

62 | APP: NCAA Ice Hockey Rules – iPhone / iPad  |  Android

63 | USLacrosse.org Officials Section

64 | Wrestlingref.com

65 | Rugbyrefs.com

66 | Umpirehockey.com

Football  SOCCER

67 | Pete.uri.edu/archives/socref-l.html

68 | AsktheRef.com

69 | BigSoccer.com Referee Forum

70 | Askasoccerreferee.com

71 | Ussoccer.com/Referees/Referees-Home.aspx

72 | Fifa.com Refereeing Page

73 | RefTesting.com

74 | Soccerrefereeusa.com

75 | Refereeassociation.net

76 | ProReferees.com

77 | NISOA.com

78 | USrefereeconnection.com

79 | Gameofficials.net

80 | APP: NCAA Soccer Rules – iPhone / iPad  |  Android

uniforms  UNIFORMS & GEAR

81 | CliffKeen.com

82 | DalcoAthletic.com

83 | Fox40world.com

84 | Honigs.com

85 | Purchaseofficials.com

86 | Ump-attire.com

87 | OfficialSports.com

88 | GerryDavis.com

89 | Refereescall.com

90 | Smittyofficialsapparel.com

91 | 1stopsportsshop.com

92 | Refshop.com

93 | Stripesplus.com

94 | Sportsrefs.com

95 | Heyrefstore.com

96 | Lestersupstatesports.com

97 | Officialsgearoutlet.com

groups  OFFICIALS GROUPS

98 | NASO-ON.org

99 | RefLaw.com

100 | Donaldcollins.org

101 | Digitalcritic.ca

102 | Refnation.com

assigning  ASSIGNING & PAYMENTS

103 | ArbiterSports.com

104 | Refpay.com

105 | APP: ArbiterSports

 

How to Give Accurate Evaluations

You’ve been asked to evaluate a fellow official and have been given an evaluator’s checklist. In many instances checklists offer only a limited perspective on how officials perform. The trouble is that listed characteristics are often too general and don’t reveal specific officiating actions in a contest. There are specific things you can do to improve your evaluating.

Use descriptions. An evaluation or observation report must describe, and doing that requires more than a traditional number system, which can be rather vague. Descriptions should be done in neutral phrasing, using non-opinionated terminology and avoiding critical remarks as much as possible. When officiating judgments are part of the picture, the description should be couched in tentative terms, such as, “You appeared to call strikes on pitches that may have been high in the strike zones of shorter hitters.” (Using you means that the evaluation report will be produced for the official as well as an administrative entity.)

Keep score. An observer can itemize behavior by making a tally of the way an official operated. If you’re in a good position to evaluate strike calls, say directly behind home plate, you can “keep score” by tracking pitches that either seem accurately called or else seem off the mark. Charting would also reveal patterns of an umpire’s judgment: missing low pitches, expanding the strike zone beyond the outside corner and so on.

Charting can be done in other sports as well. Keep track of how many times a football wing official adopted a progress spot on running plays by moving downfield parallel to the play and pivoting at a 90-degree angle to identify a dead-ball spot. In basketball, record how often a referee got caught trailing a fast break by several yards. Signals can also be described.

If isolated behavior needs recording, that can be done in narrative language: “With two minutes left in the first quarter, the referee and umpire conferred for 38 seconds before administering a penalty for holding.”

Give positive reinforcement. At upper levels of officiating, observers often try to record many more positive behaviors than negative ones. Part of objective evaluating is to reinforce correct officiating. With narrative descriptions, you can explain how an official appears to adopt the correct positioning before play, how he or she moves according to action and if the official seems to be looking in the proper places to execute judgments.

Share it. Should you share an evaluation with the person being observed? If you don’t, there’s little hope for improvement. Plus, a secret evaluation will likely be resented. Sharing a summary of patterns allows the official to reflect on the observations, moving the recipient to counter the perceptions or accept the evaluation as a positive stimulus for change.

Written by Jerry Grunska, a retired educator who lives in Evergreen, Colo. He officiated football for more than 40 years. This column originally appeared in the 11/04 issue of Referee.

Copyright© Referee Enterprises, Inc.
This article is copyrighted by Referee Enterprises, Inc. (REI), and may not be republished in whole or in part online, in print or in any capacity without expressed written permission from REI. It is available online as an educational tool for individuals. Visit us at www.referee.com.

There’s No ‘I’ in Crew

“Perception is reality.” When it comes to officiating team sports, that’s often the absolute truth. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re officiating, crew cohesion is a must if your crew is to be perceived positively. Another absolute truth is that when everyone isn’t on the same page, it doesn’t take players, coaches and fans long to recognize that “tonight’s officials are struggling.”

The best officiating crews take the field or floor as one official. They know that the only philosophy that matters is the crew’s philosophy. They’ve invested time together away from the sport. They know each other, respect each other’s judgment and approach the game with confidence. Because there is no room for “the individual,” they’ve worked hard to create a team approach.

No crew establishes a quality reputation quickly. It takes time. Only after working many games together, suffering through mistakes and sharing the highs and lows of several seasons, can a crew establish itself as one that can be counted upon to work the big games consistently.

We’ve all seen the football crews that have one official who throws many more flags than his partners. His definition of fouls is different from the other officials’. Then there’s the basketball ref who calls a close game while her partners “let them play.” The perception those officials are sending is that not only are they not on the same page, they haven’t even entered the library together. It’s a recipe for disaster.

If you’re not in that situation and never have been, don’t get cocky because it’s only a replacement official away! As you work toward cohesion, thorough pregame sessions are essential. But even with plenty of game preparation and years of experience, every crew and official eventually runs into a situation in which there is disagreement. It’s how the team handles it that makes the difference. If you disagree with a call a crewmember makes during the game, discuss it at halftime or after the game. Let each member of the crew weigh in.

Confrontation leads to expression and allows officials to develop a closer understanding of each other’s priorities – get a better idea of what makes each other tick. Knowing how and why your fellow officials may react to situations allows you to relate to each other instinctively. Any psychiatrist will tell you that understanding others is key to effective communication! Even if you don’t build a campfire and sing Kumbaya together, those situations can serve as defining moments in the development of your crew’s ability to relate to one another more effectively.

It’s important to know that the other officials on the field or court are with you in every sense of the word. It’s not enough to just wear the same clothes, you’ve got to take the time and make sure everything fits! Your performance and your crew’s reputation will benefit from the extra effort.

Written by John Jay Stone, a high school football official from Swanton, Ohio.

Copyright© Referee Enterprises, Inc.
This article is copyrighted by Referee Enterprises, Inc. (REI), and may not be republished in whole or in part online, in print or in any capacity without expressed written permission from REI. It is available online as an educational tool for individuals. Visit us at www.referee.com.

Practice Proper Preparation

Your game assignment actually begins well in advance of game day. Here is a list of important things to do as the assignment approaches:

Verify the assignment. At the very least, call the school within a week or so of the game. Talk to the person (usually the athletic director) who catches the heat if the officials don’t show. Don’t just leave a voice mail that says you’re coming because you can’t be sure what a lack of response means.

Confirm the time and location of the game and any special conditions that will exist. If you can, exchange cell phone numbers with the game manager, so you can inform each other of any last-minute problems all the way up to game time.

Firm up your travel arrangements. My football crew makes up a spreadsheet that includes the driver, the meeting point, who will provide the snacks and so on. Then I confirm each week’s plan as one of the last things we do before we part company after the previous game. The good crew chief also insists that the whole crew has each other’s cell phone numbers.

Check your equipment. Never trust anyone else to pack your gear for you. Check everything in your bag well ahead of time in case something needs mending or cleaning. A good approach, if somebody besides you washes your uniform, is to have the person return it fresh from the dryer so you can check, fold and account for it going into your bag yourself.

Do some homework. Opinions vary on how much you should find out about the teams before the game. You owe it to them and yourself to have at least some idea of how competitive and skillful it will be, plus what’s on the line for each team. Conversely, you don’t want to have so thick a book on the teams that you anticipate things that don’t actually occur.

Check the weather on game day. If a monsoon or blizzard is in the forecast, consider padding your travel plans. Remember that one person’s short sleeve weather is another person’s visit to the South Pole. Get to the crew ahead of time to agree on dress and an updated travel plan well in advance.

Physically prepare. Each person has his or her own standard for sleep and food intake before a game. The best plan is to stick to it. Don’t experiment the night before the championship game, especially when you travel to a place where the water or menu is likely to be different from what you’re used to.

Adjust your workout routine and preparation as the season progresses. Watch for the signs of feeling stiffer and less flexible that come when you’re working too much. Allow yourself more recovery time. It’s easier to stay in shape than get back in shape with each passing year.

In all your preparations for an assignment, bear in mind a sure way to ruin a reputation is to miss an assignment in a way that was avoidable. Never assume details. Look after yourself and you’ll be a long way toward being the type of official who keeps getting invited back.

Tim Sloan, Bettendorf, Iowa, is a former football and soccer college official who now works high school football, basketball and volleyball.

Copyright© Referee Enterprises, Inc.
This article is copyrighted by Referee Enterprises, Inc. (REI), and may not be republished in whole or in part online, in print or in any capacity without expressed written permission from REI. It is available online as an educational tool for individuals. Visit us at www.referee.com.

Who’s Worth Watching?

Officials, like anyone else, are never too old or experienced to learn. And sometimes the best way to do that is through observing others. Not only can you get better by watching other officials, it often gives you the chance to help other officials to improve.

Watch newer officials. Go to a game prior to your own varsity game. Get there early enough to watch a quarter or a few innings. Watch other officials work with their partners, players, coaches and even fans. Seeing how they respond to situations or calls may help you either give them suggestions or come up with ways to handle similar situations yourself.

After the game, if you’re familiar with the officials and they are able to spend a few minutes with you, give them some feedback. By caring enough to confront a fellow official, make suggestions and give pats on the back, it will help that official and you as well.

Watch experienced crews at your level. Don’t only watch the younger officials. Get out and watch experienced crews. Last football season, I helped out with a crew that included several younger officials along with an official being groomed to be a referee. After the game, we recapped what went well and what needed improvement. When those officials left, I observed the varsity crew for a half. It was not much of a game, but I picked up some things to work on. Then I drove to where a crew that worked the state finals was working. I watched them for their second half and talked with them following the game.

In each case, I was able to pick up things from the officials I observed to incorporate into my mechanics and philosophy of officiating.

Watch officials in other sports. You can learn from all officials, even if you don’t work the sport they work. If you’re a basketball official, for example, watch baseball umpires handle confrontations with players or coaches. You may be able to use their game management techniques.

Watch how officials in other sports handle out-of-the-ordinary situations. Do they get together and talk about it? Do you see them discuss it and then give an explanation to not only the coaches, but to the players as well? Good communication skills are important and can help to calm potential problems. Officials in other sports may be able to help you improve yours.

Watch higher-level officials on TV. Watching how professional officials work, whether it be in person or on television, can help you advance in your officiating. They are working at that level for a reason. See where they position themselves, how they use different mechanics and how they work together. Incorporate some of their techniques into your own officiating.

Be aware of what you are doing as well as what others on the field or court are doing. Go that extra mile or stay to watch that experienced crew. When you’re done observing, make adjustments and changes for the better

By Michael Babicz (A high school basketball and football official for more than 25 years. He lives in Gurnee, Ill.)

Copyright© Referee Enterprises, Inc.
This article is copyrighted by Referee Enterprises, Inc. (REI), and may not be republished in whole or in part online, in print or in any capacity without expressed written permission from REI. It is available online via REI’s archive and/or its MyReferee web portal as an educational tool for individuals. Visit us at www.referee.com.
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