We All Make Mistakes

By Lawrence Tomei

Officials are human, and therefore prone to making mistakes. We spend hours learning the rules and years honing our mechanics on the court, the diamond or the field. But even with all of that work, mistakes are unavoidable. How we handle those gaffes is what separates the novice from the professional. It is often said that we only grow and improve when we learn from those mistakes.

Below is a checklist for managing mistakes. You can use it to review your calls after games or use it in a chapter training session to discuss the proper ways to handle errors. It will help you think about the critical components and how best to turn any mistake into a valuable learning experience.

  • Make sure you understand the nature of the mistake that was made. Do you know what went wrong?
  • Work to understand exactly why the error happened. Was it bad judgment, an inadvertent call, or a mistake of omission or collaboration?
  • Identify associated factors that contributed to the mistake, not just the mistake itself. Were you out of position, blocked from view or physically impaired?
  • Review how you responded both to the slip-up and its resolution. Did you make matters worse defending your mistake with players or coaches?
  • Identify long-term areas for improvement. Could attendance at rules interpretation meetings or mechanics sessions reduce the chances of the mistake re-occurring?
  • Identify new or additional information that reduces the chances for the mistake in the future. Are there extra resources (books, films, etc.) that address the mistake?
  • Consider your behavior before, during and after the error. How do you think your behavior might change in a similar situation?
  • Don’t compensate — in officiating, two wrongs never make a right. Do not search for a violation on the other team to square a previous blunder.
  • Know which (and when) decisions are subject to correction and which calls are not open for debate. Is the mistake correctable before the game continues? Is the mistake reviewable? Can you ask for help on the call from a fellow official?
  • Study the rules, mechanics or applications necessary to avoid the mistake in the future. Practice the situation so that you are less prone to repeat the mistake.
  • Correctly apply the rules (penalties, enforcement spots, identification of players, etc.). Do not compound the mistake by a further misapplication of the rules.
  • Accept responsibility. Can you admit you messed up — at least to yourself? How about to your colleagues? Share your lessons learned.
  • Learn from your mistake. Regardless of circumstances, can you make every misstep into a chance to further your knowledge, skills or aptitude as an official? Good officials admit their mistakes and move on. Great officials admit mistakes, learn from them and seldom make the same one again. Are you a good official or a great official?

Written by Dr. Lawrence Tomei, EdD, the dean of academic services and associate professor of education for Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania. He is a 10-year official with the West Penn Football Officials Association and has officiated football in several states over the last 21 years.


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.


  1. Dennis Duffy says:

    I am looking for the evaluation form created by NASO. How can I get a copy??? Thanks

    • Dennis,
      You can go to http://www.naso.org to find the form. It is under the resources dropdown menu in the main navigation. You will find a pdf of the NASO Evaluation form to download.

      • Take a peek at the Raiders vs. Bills Game on Sept 18th. 2 big one’s I think you’ll have trouble reinitssg. 1st, a Bills fumble caused by Branch is recovered by the Raiders. What is the officials call? Incomplete pass and Helmet tackle. Bull and bull, watch the slow motion. Three steps with control of the football before the fumble is caused by a shoulder hit to the chest by Branch. 2nd big one, supposed touchdown that was challenged by Hue Jackson. He was given a penalty for the challenge however I think he did so because the booth had obviously not bothered to review the play. Video replay shows no touchdown! Many of today’s flags were good calls against a tired Raiders defense, however the game-changing calls (or lack there of by the booth) were pretty blatant. The interesting part of all of this is that the Raiders looked polished during the first half and gave the refs little opportunity to throw any yellow rags in their direction. However, during the second half it looks as if the refs were given a pep talk about their lack of action. I know some of the calls were good but why is it that they were all game changers, none were verified on replay and many of the ones I could see were obviously bad? Frankly I don’t think the Bills needed the help they got on this one.

  2. I don’t blame the refs for the loss to CHI at Soldier earlier this year. They did not do enoguh to overcome thier mistakes (penalties) I’m not worried about the refs changing the game because if you are a good team you can overcome adversity. Matt, you call it cheating because you are a Jaded Bears fan but I’m pretty sure that the Packers didn’t plan on commiting those penalties. Green Bay did however play impressively enoguh to win on the road with so many penalties to slow them down. Unfortunatly James Jones couldn’t conceal the ball well enoguh and fumbled due to an athletic play by Urlacher. Good luck to you guy’s, I’m looking forward to this game, it will be historic and I’m glad that the Pack and Bears get to duke it out as the best remaining teams in the NFC. Peace!

Speak Your Mind


Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Career Opportunities | Contact Us