All Sports – You’re Your Own Agent

How to Be Attractive to an Assigner

By Michael Menard

At a referee development camp that I attended last summer, the camp director began with a single question: “Who is your agent?”

After a period of silence that seemed to last forever, he answered his own question with one word: “You.”

As odd as it may seem, you are your own agent. You are not like a professional basketball player whose agent makes or negotiates many of his decisions for him. It is your responsibility to create your own schedule, be in demand and prove that you can do the job. You are responsible for the number and level of games you work. In fact, if you want to become successful as an official, it is crucial to understand that you are responsible for almost everything that happens to you.

However, as the late philosopher Jim Rohn once said, “When you’re playing the game, it’s hard to think of everything.” You need some help. Maybe you need a mentor, or maybe you just need someone in your corner to get your foot in the door. That is where the assigner comes into play.

Two roles. One of the interesting things about sports officials is that we have the dual role of athlete and agent. On one hand, we are responsible for performing at our very best each and every game we work. On the other hand, we must also make sure that we have games to work in the first place. Having a solid relationship with your assigner is perhaps one of the best things you can do to advance your officiating career. It can ensure that you are always in demand.

The main reason for having a great official-assigner relationship is simple and obvious: You want to work bigger, better games — and more of them. It won’t happen overnight. But with diligence, patience and hard work, you can get there.

Officials are considered to be “free agents.” You can only eat what you kill. In the entrepreneurial world, we say that increasing your rewards — in the case of officiating, that is your game count — starts with increasing your value. The more valuable you become as an official, the more games you work, the better games you work and the more satisfied you will be knowing that you are very good at what you do.

So what are some ways you can make yourself more valuable to your assigner?

Hard, hard work. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. Hard work will get you noticed not only by assigners, but by coaches and other officials. You make yourself desirable as someone other officials want to work with and that assigners want to hire. Simply put, if you are not seen as a hard worker, it will be harder for you to convince your assigner that you are willing to work bigger and better games.

Assigners are not in the business of gambling. Their jobs depend on the quality of officials they send to games. They want to know that the crew they put out on the court or field will get the job done.

Coaches do take notice of hard-working officials, and they may actually tell assigners what a good job you did. That will definitely separate you from the officials who get little to no positive feedback at all.

Work with the rookie. Assigners are always looking for more experienced officials to work with new officials. You can make your assigner’s job so much easier — and enhance your schedule — by offering to work games with a rookie or a less experienced official. Veteran officials are accustomed to working with other veterans. We all like working with people we already know. But if you work with someone new to you, you may find you’ve found another official you trust and with whom you feel comfortable working.

Take the game nobody wants. That might mean doing the Sunday morning game, the game on what was supposed to be on your night off, or the one between cellar-dwellers that won’t show up on the 10 o’clock news.

Our local association has the “Fireman Award” for the official who accepts the most last-minute game turnbacks. Making your assigner’s job easier will increase your value as an official tremendously.

Keep up your availability. Keep your schedule up to date on a regular basis. Turn in all your paperwork on time. When you accept a game, keep it. One of the easiest ways to annoy your assigner is to constantly decline games they offer you because you fail to block your schedule. If you are constantly wondering why you aren’t getting games, that may be the reason why.

One of the logistics coordinators for our development program loves to use the term “low maintenance.” That means keeping things simple: Review your schedule regularly, accept games that are offered and move on. Be low maintenance, and the rest will seem to take care of itself.

Network at local meetings. Introduce yourself to the assigners. Talk to the officials who work at the level you want to work. Demonstrate to them that you are willing to work hard and are open to learning from each game you officiate. Don’t be pushy with them, but show them you are ambitious and ready for whatever game you accept.

And finally, remember that the bridge between you and your games is your assigner. Treat him or her with the same courtesy you would treat your family members. According to Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People, 85 percent of success or failure in any field comes from communication and dealing with other people.

Understanding that one principle will propel you forward more than you can imagine, no matter what you do in life — because you are your own agent in officiating and in life.

Michael Menard lives in Hamburg, N.Y. He is a veteran ice hockey official at the youth, high school, adult, college club, junior and collegiate levels.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 03/16 issue of Referee Magazine.)

All Sports – Eight Ways to Ruin Your Reputation

As an official all you have is your reputation. Screw it up and say goodbye to assignments and your career. Here are eight sure-fire ways to ruin what you worked so hard for.


By Tom Schreck

1. Be high maintenance. The men and women who assign you to games and evaluate your performance have jobs to do, deadlines to meet and their own series of constituents to answer to. Do you realize that every time you make their lives harder, their days more frustrating and their hours filled with tedium, they’re remembering the source of their anguish?

“Supervisors and assigners are looking for people who are low maintenance. Everyone wants someone they can trust, someone who will be on time and someone who will get the job done,” Randy Wetzel, an NCAA Division I college umpire, says.

Making your supervisors’ lives easier fortifies your reputation while doing things that they find annoying works against it. Get your reports in on time, be punctual, return phone calls and do what needs to be done even when you find it a pain in the neck.

2. Talk too much. Opinions are a lot like backsides — we all have one. Do your best to keep yours to yourself, especially when you’re out in public. Criticizing someone else’s work is tacky and it reveals more about you than it does the subject of your conversation. Officials, athletic directors (ADs) and coaches all travel in the same tight circles so when you let a “Between me and you …” go, know that it is the furthest thing from being just among friends. Follow what your mom said and don’t say anything — especially about another official — if you can’t say something nice.

3. Create problems off-the-field. Remember you’ve chosen to be an official, so don’t pretend you’re not in a visible profession. Yes, your free time is your own but don’t be so naïve as to believe that what you do away from your assignments won’t impact your reputation.

“Like it or not we have great visibility,” Wetzel says. “People know who you are and when you’re out and about how you act will get back to the coaches, ADs and supervisors.”

Those keg stand photos on Facebook, the tweets about making it rain at the dance club and that arrest for public lewdness will affect how people see you between the lines.

4. Fraternize. Hey, we’re all human and we all crave interaction. Our assignments involve a lot of alone time on the road and the conversation with the Marriott clerk just doesn’t always cut it. It is natural to want to chat up folks that you see on a semi-regular basis but remember your responsibility is to oversee a contest in an unbiased fashion.

“We teach that when you enter a gym, survey the area,” says Steve Smith, a high school basketball and soccer referee from Colonie, N.Y. “Note where the coaches are sitting and find another spot. Be careful not to give the appearance of fraternizing.”

High fives and fist bumps with coaches and ADs get noticed and as innocent as they can be, they get interpreted.

5. Look terrible. Certainly by now you know to keep your uniform in such a way as to communicate your professionalism. It extends off the field and court too, you know. Showing up to your assignment with your ripped concert T shirt and flip flops may make you feel hip, but don’t expect folks not to gossip about your sartorial statement.

“We tell our guys when they walk into a venue to look professional and once you put stripes on you are in charge so it is important to not look like an unmade bed,” Smith says.

Everything you do communicates something. Make sure it’s communicating professionalism.

6. Don’t treat people right. Whether it’s the ballboy showing you to the broom closest that will double as your dressing room, the waitress at the restaurant where you’re getting your pregame meal or the new official working his or her first assignment, no one appreciates mistreatment. Using “Please,” “Thank you” and “Excuse me” goes a long way and their absence goes even further in people’s memories.

“If you’re a jerk to people onsite, that’ll get back to people. You know sometimes at the D-III level, you’re changing in a bathroom and it’s not the ideal environment, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to be rude to people,” Rick Mansur, a Division I basketball referee from Marlboro, Mass., says.

The golden rule is accepted universally and not using it will get you remembered for all the wrong reasons.

7. Be all about the money. Every official somewhere along their career got short-changed on mileage, a hotel room or a fair night’s pay because of the unlucky dealing of some cards. We all have to write the checks for clinics and associations every year and we all know the realities of today’s economy. We’re all in the same boat and very few of us are getting rich officiating. Cherry picking assignments or complaining about paying dues is classless and it will cost you more than the amount you write on your check.

8. Be arrogant and unapproachable. The games aren’t about us; they’re about the players, coaches and institutions involved. Emotions run hot and high and sometimes people need to vent about what’s going on. Let them.

“When I came up, it used to be the less you talked the better. Today they want officials who are approachable and coach friendly,” Mansur says. “More and more communication has become crucial and being standoffish is unacceptable.”

Doing the Mount Rushmore act when someone wants to talk something over is just arrogant. Hear them out, be flesh and blood and be about building relationships, not about being the one who was right.

Tom Schreck is a writer and a professional boxing judge with the World Boxing Association and the New York State Athletic Commission from Albany, N.Y.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 02/13 issue of Referee Magazine.)

All Sports – Whatcha Talkin’ About?

Interaction With Players Can Be Productive


By Dave Simon

Questions officials face in contests include: How and when do you interact with players? Do you nip brewing bad behavior in the bud? Do you warn the player who is lingering in the lane? Do you say nothing when the guard grabs the jersey of the onrushing defensive tackle? If you let fouls or violations go the first time, what do you do the second or third time it happens?

Conversely, is it a good idea to praise a good play or positive behavior?

The issue of when to teach, prevent, warn or praise a player may seem more relevant to the contact sports like soccer, football and basketball. But there are certainly situations in baseball, volleyball, softball or others as well.

Early in my basketball officiating career, I had an interesting situation in the Washington, D.C., area. I had the ninth grade boys’ championship game for the Catholic League, some high level basketball for that age group. I was in my second or third year, and my partner, though he had officiated in Wisconsin before moving to D.C., had a similar level of experience. We were skating on our own.

As the game progressed, whining from the players increased to a crescendo. I didn’t know what to do, having never faced that situation. My partner was in the same boat and was deferring to my seniority.

Whether I did the right thing is something to be debated. I wouldn’t recommend it. But here is what we did, and how it affected the game.Early on, when kids complained about calls, I’d talk to them and let them know we’d keep an eye on the plays that bothered them. It was a physical game and we were consistent in letting them play, but it appeared they wanted to whine more than play. By the middle of the third quarter, I’d had enough.

I brought both captains and my partner to mid-court, then read the captains the riot act at the top of my voice, so the coaches (who were also complaining) and parents (ditto) could hear every word in the suddenly silent gym.

My rant went something like this: “We’ve listened enough. Next peep is a technical, regardless of who we hear it from. You got it?” The captains nodded. “Now go tell all your teammates and your coach.” They did. Several parents applauded. I remember parents yelling to their kids, “You listen to that referee and just play ball.”

I don’t advocate that method, but it was an eye-opening experience and speaks to the role we play on the court or field. The result of my extremely loud lecture was that we didn’t hear a word the rest of the game and the kids played at the highest level possible. The last 10-12 minutes was some of the best basketball I ever experienced officiating the sport, and I went on to work 12 years at the collegiate level.

What’s the takeaway? First, there is no golden rule when to send a message to a player. You can take a moment to speak to someone during a timeout, between innings or as they’re heading back to the huddle. What you must do is get their attention. A good rule of thumb is talk to them earlier rather than later. It’s just like parenting: Let them (verbally) know the parameters, then enforce.

At younger-age levels, a warning might not be appropriate. There are more teachable moments working 10-year-olds than there are with 14-year-olds. It’s up to you and your partner to decide when to send a teaching message to a player rather than meting out rulebook-sanctioned discipline, and a lot depends on the level and age of play.

I happened to bump into the home high school athletic director (AD) near the end of a bitter rivalry game while living in Columbus, Neb. It was a spectacular game, played intensely. During a timeout near the end of the game, I quickly told the AD what a joy it was to officiate.

On Monday, I got a call from the opposing AD (who lost), accusing me of having the home AD as a good buddy (I barely knew his name), and threatening to blackball me. I gave him the state supervisor’s information and told him to go ahead and let him know, but the takeaway is that someone is always watching, so watch who you talk to, and how you come across.

Praising falls into a similar category. There’s nothing wrong with praising a nine-year-old who just hit a home run. Do that in a high school game and when the opposing coach hears about it, you’re in trouble. You’ll never hear the end of it.

Don’t confuse that with complimenting players for doing something positive like helping to quiet down a noisy teammate, helping an opponent off the ground or retrieving an errant game ball. That sort of communication is encouraged and is often reciprocated.

Even with the older kids, there are times to praise and teach. You just need to be more subtle. Sometimes it’s best to let everyone in on it: “This is a heckuva game, let’s keep it up, guys.”

Teach and praise with the younger kids. Warn and prevent with the older ones. Where you choose to make that line of demarcation is key.

Feel out each game. Know the participants and environment. Is it recreation ball or for the middle school championship? You can teach and praise more in a seventh grade recreational league game than in the game for the conference championship.

Know the difference and choose your words carefully.

Dave Simon, Grapevine, Texas, is a freelance writer and former high school and college basketball official.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 4/13 issue of Referee Magazine.)

All Sports – No Hurry, No Worry

Let the Whole Play Happen Before You Call It


By Todd Korth

Sports officials must understand the game they are working or they’re in for a heap of headaches, right? An official must know everything possible about the rules involved, the tendencies of both teams and his or her partner’s capabilities in order to do the best job possible, right?

That’s all true, but that’s not all. With each play it is important for you to know what may likely happen, use the accepted mechanics and always try to be in the best position for the best angle and wait for the play or action to end. And then make the call.

That may seem like a lengthy process, but it happens in a flash. To be ready is to mentally prepare or anticipate an action before making a final decision — call or no-call, foul or no foul, violation or no violation.

Anticipating the play before making the call is one of the best officiating mind-sets to remember. If you can “feel” what’s coming and adjust your position or your visual focus to the right area, you’ll see the play better and have a great opportunity to make the right call. If you decide what you’re going to see before you see it happen, you will get burned.

Good baseball and softball umpires quickly recognize when a team is in a bunt or steal situation. Football officials can sense a running or passing play for a first down or touchdown. Top basketball referees know when a team will probably use full-court pressure or change defenses to attack an opponent. Alert soccer officials know who will likely receive the ball on a corner kick when a player runs from the other end of field into the mixer, and they can anticipate screening and pushing from the opponent. All of that helps officials to anticipate the play, not the call. In that process, apply timing, one attribute that separates average officials from very good ones, and withhold your call until the play is over or the time is right.

In baseball or softball, a runner will be no more or less out or safe if you wait until all action is over. If the shortstop throws the ball to the first baseman, who catches it long before the batter-runner arrives at the base, wait a fraction of a second. There is always a chance that the first baseman will drop the ball or pull his or her foot off of the bag, which may be just enough time for the batter-runner to be safe. In basketball, observe a player attempting a shot and the defender attempting to block the shot before calling a foul. Quick whistles by officials have often negated some great blocked shots, only to ignite players, coaches and fans with anger and frustration. Stay with the play until it’s over and get it right.

Former players turned officials often have an advantage in anticipating a play. As long as you have a feel for what play is coming and adjust your positioning accordingly, you will see the play better. As a result, you’ll get it right more often.

One area of anticipation that can prevent a game from disintegrating fast is when something unsportsmanlike has happened that might lead to retaliation by the offended team. For example, if a player hits a home run and taunts the opposing team while running the bases, be aware of that team retaliating in some way. That could be a knockdown pitch at the next batter or intentionally throwing at the player who taunted them the next time he or she is up to bat.

In some other sports, if a player is fouled hard, he or she may retaliate quickly with a hard foul out of frustration.

By anticipating any type of retaliation, an official can sometimes nip an ugly situation in the bud by warning the other team or player not to engage in that kind of behavior, if there is time. If that doesn’t forestall the expected retaliation, at least you will be in a state of mind to issue warnings immediately in an attempt to calm down what, unchecked, could become an ugly situation.

Whether it’s anticipating a play or situation or just knowing a team’s tendencies, the game will slow down for you that much more. In turn, that kind of officiating mind-set will improve your ability to be in position at the right time and ready to make the right call.

Todd Korth is a Referee associate editor and multi-sport high school and college official.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 5/13 issue of Referee Magazine.)

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.


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.


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?


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.


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



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