“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.
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