Sometimes you can just feel a downgrade coming. You’ve just completed your game. You’re headed home for the evening but you can’t seem to get that one call out of your head. Everyone in the stands seemed to think you were more wrong than usual, but you felt and still feel it was the right call.
In the locker room after the game you polled your partners for their input, but the call was out of their area, so they can’t offer an educated opinion. You spend a sleepless night hoping for the best.
The next day your worst fears are realized. The assigner sends an email or calls you. That call you felt good about has been deemed an incorrect call. Your rating is going to take a major hit and you may even be suspended for a game or two.
After you see the play on video, you still think you got it right. What do you do? Fight it and possibly irritate the assigner even more? Take your medicine without comment? Here are some suggestions.
Know your assigner
Knowing your assigner will help you determine if it’s worth the battle. If it’s an assigner that you have a good relationship with, it’s time for honest conversation. If it’s an assigner you are less familiar with, feel out the situation. You’ll be able to tell quickly by asking a few questions whether he or she is up for the conversation. Have the awareness to know when your assigner doesn’t want to have a conversation and take the downgrade.
Whether it’s responding to an email or making a phone call, rapid response is key. Certainly, there may be more important things with family or work you need to deal with before you respond to an inquiry from an assigner. Understand that urgency shows that you are engaged with what is going on. If you have the means, have the play(s) available for viewing while you’re talking with your assigner. While you may not agree with the assigner, your active participation in the discussion is important. Be prepared to answer and ask tough questions.
Don’t be defensive
Make sure to ask exactly what the assigner saw on film or heard about the situation. Chances are, you’ll be offered an opportunity to share your perspective. What you saw and what they saw may be two entirely different things, but stay open to feedback. If it was a rule that the assigner feels you misapplied, be sure to understand the rule as it relates to your specific scenario. If it was a judgment call, be sure to understand your assigner’s philosophy and keep it in mind moving forward.
Be aware that how you handle this one scenario can have a lasting impact on your relationship with your assigner. Consider the penalty and determine if it’s worth the battle. Most assigners will want to hear what you have to say. Honesty is the best policy. Don’t make excuses.
A downgrade is not ideal, but it may provide feedback that can save you from situations that could possibly be more detrimental to your career. Just because your assigner feels you got the call wrong doesn’t mean your initial thought process on the play won’t work on a similar play in the future.
Remember that your punishment is usually the result of a specific play. Don’t slip into the mindset of calling all plays that are remotely similar to the one that got you in trouble the exact same way. Part of becoming a better official is knowing how to differentiate one play from the next and calling accordingly.
So you’ve had the conversation and the result is still the same. You’re down a game. The worst you can do is hang your head. A negative attitude will without a doubt affect the way you perform on the field or court. It can also be poisonous to your partners. You’re allowed to be frustrated, but you have to move on for the good of your game. How you react to a downgrade doesn’t go unnoticed by your assigner. Take the opportunity for what it is — a learning experience
Share your experience
Outside of the officiating community, there is the expectation that officials are to be perfect. Everything from demeanor to the way a uniform is worn gets scrutinized.
We learn from sharing experiences with others in hopes that they don’t have to go through the frustrating process of losing a game for the same thing. If there is anyone who can empathize with you, it’s fellow officials. Share with them.
Losing an assignment or taking a ratings hit can be humbling, but it is also a great opportunity for growth. Think of it as a necessary evil for your development as an official. You can let a downgrade eat at you or you can learn from it, share your experience with others and move on.
Handle the situation in a positive manner and you may even get the benefit of the doubt the next time.
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