Who’s Worth Watching?

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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Comments

  1. Jeff Henrichs says:

    Great advice! I suggest all officials go out and observe other guys working! A little advice though, if you’re not at the level of the guys you’re watching, I wouldn’t go in to give advice! I’m a big believer in finding different ways to talk/ask officials about plays. My suggestion would be, “I saw this, why did you do it this way?” Then after you get a answer, don’t say, ” Here’s what I would do!”
    My start to go to umpire school was watching Larry Young, Tim Welke and and their crew chief was Kevin Walton! I learned a lot!!!

  2. Michael Teague says:

    Our football officials association usually hosts a tail gate party at the Division 1 Section Championship Game and then everyone goes in and watches the game. Most guys are watching the officials chosen to work the game. Makes for a great end of season party and you might just learn something.

  3. Christopher says:

    I was told early on, if a veteran official is watching your game & then comes over to you with a laundry list of suggestions for you, chances are they are a blow hard & you should ignore them, however if you see a veteran official watching you or if you call with him/her, go up to them & ask “what did you see?” They will be able to give you quality improvement tips.

  4. Tommy Loera says:

    I enjoy watching newer officials work. I’m very active in the training and development of officials for National Junior Basketball here in Southern CA. It’s amazing the caliber of officials we get. We have season vets all the way down to 16yr old high school students wanting to learn the game. It’s fun to see how a new official takes the feedback and applies immediately. Even though the game may not go as smooth as we like at times, but as long as an official is making an effort to improve and being receptive, it’s worth the time.

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