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.

Don’t Do It

By Dave Sabaini

It seems no matter how long a person has been officiating, and regardless of the sports they work, any official can fall into situations in which his or her judgment or ability is questioned.

Often those situations are a direct result of officiating “errors” that are all too common, and can certainly be avoided under most circumstances with just a little bit of preparation. Look at the following errors, see if you are prone to any of them and then check their solutions to help you improve.

Error: Anticipating the play too much. You’re working your umpteenth game of the year, when a seemingly routine play develops. You’ve seen the play dozens of times, so you turn your head or orient your body away from the action for a moment, to get a jump on where you know the ball is going. The trouble is, the ball never arrives, and you have no clue what happened. Solution: Never anticipate a play to the degree that you turn your attention away from the action. Especially at lower levels, nothing can be assumed.

Error: Anticipating the call. The bad cousin of the previous error, anticipating the call never seems to work. Thinking, “Oh, the shortstop got to that ball in plenty of time, the batter is a dead duck at first,” will cause you to blow more calls than a blind man. Solution: Never anticipate the outcome of a play. Let the players determine what the call is to be.

Error: Being out of position. Most coaches can handle a call that happens to go against their team if the official was hustling and in position to make the call. But if you’re getting tired and a little lazy, or worse yet, careless, and miss a call, expect to get roasted. Solution: Hustle. You’re being paid for a full game, so give it. You’ve heard it a hundred times: The game you’re working is the most important game in the country that day to the participants. Treat it that way by hustling from start to finish.

Error: Letting your concentration wander. You kicked a call, you fought with your spouse, your mother-in-law is coming over, or who is that gorgeous person in the third row? Next thing you know, you’ve missed a play or a call. Nothing will cause a bad game more often than a simple lack of concentration. Solution: Every play, every pitch, every moment, keep your mind on your business. The players and coaches deserve your attention during the contest, so give it to them. If you’re having trouble, get with your partner and ask him to “check” on you.

Error: Being a “hard guy.” Those are the officials who always seem to have a chip on their shoulders. Nothing they do can be questioned. Any comments are met with a hand so firm you could hammer nails with it. Those officials are tough to work with and tougher to play under. Solution: If you are a hard guy, lighten up! True control of a game comes with respect of and from all involved. Respect is earned from being fair, approachable and competent. If you’re having trouble controlling games, work on those things.

Error: Not knowing the rules thoroughly. There isn’t anything much worse than officials who don’t know the rules the way they should. Credibility begins and ends there. Solution: Make rules study a part of your regular routine both in and out of season. Get with some friends and quiz each other, or discuss scenarios. Develop the muscle between your ears, and you’ll be able to carry a game with it more often than not.

There are other errors you’ll make, but those are the killers. Work on your “game behind the game,” and rediscover why you became an official.

Written by Dave Sabaini, a freelance writer and official who lives in Terre Haute, Ind.

 

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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