Know Your Rules

By John Miskelly

Some officials associations and states do not require testing on a given sport prior to registration or in order to register. Those associations leave it up to the officials to know what they’re doing.

Other associations give tests that require a certain number of correct answers in order to pass and for the official to participate. If an official fails, he or she must take the test again. The official only gets a limited number of chances, however, and then the official is on the outside looking in.

Whether or not a test is administered to officials should not affect officials individually or as an organization. The type of test shouldn’t make a difference in your rules preparation for officiating, either. If the association you’re in, regardless of sport, leaves it up to you to know the rules, then know the rules. Otherwise, you will face personal embarrassment and the same goes for your group.

Many leagues will supply practice tests. Use them. Do them throughout a season to stay sharp. If a practice test doesn’t exist, make one up. The time it takes is well spent when you consider the problems an official could have by not knowing a rule.

Study, study and study some more. Every official needs to study his or her rulebook and companion study aids. It’s imperative. And it’s as important to know what’s not in your rulebook as it is what is written there.

During a game this past season one of my partners made a call that surprised me. He enforced a rule that no one challenged, though I thought it was a stretch.

About two weeks later a similar situation occurred and the call was different. Why? Well, it was pointed out during a stoppage in play that the play in question was clearly not covered in our rulebook, thus the call was to do nothing about what had occurred.

When I brought up what had happened two weeks prior, I was simply told that the previous call was wrong. If it isn’t covered, there’s nothing to enforce.

Keep your levels straight. Each league and its rulebooks differ. That makes the job of a multi-level official even more difficult. Obviously, it is necessary to not only know the differences between the leagues you officiate, via the rulebook, but also to keep track of which rules apply when.

That includes oddities such as when I coached high school baseball and the Catholic league we were in used a 3-2 balls-and-strike rule. That’s why every scheduled league date was a doubleheader. Public school versus Catholic school games were called as 4-3 balls-and-strike baseball. You don’t want to make a mistake between the two.

It is also important to recognize the procedures regarding discipline and expulsions and how they’re implemented and handled following the game. The only way to really know is to seek out the information. Know what your specific league and assigner expect of you and meet those expectations.

Always check your rulebooks and don’t be embarrassed if you need to refer back to them. Few officials possess a photographic memory.

Written by John Miskelly, a freelance writer and official who lives in Royal Oak, Mich


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