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.)
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