Is your officials association doing what it should be doing?

If it’s not tackling the things on the following list, it’s probably falling short in serving you and the other members, and the schools and leagues to which it directly or indirectly provides officials.

Whether your association has less than 50 members or more than 500, there are certain things every association should be doing to protect the organization and its members from liability, ensure an environment in which members can better themselves and help guarantee the future of the organization.

Take a look at your group. Is it doing the things listed below? If not, perhaps it’s time to get more involved and help steer matters in the right direction.

Carry Proper Insurance

Ask your board what type of insurance the board is carrying and whether they continue to assess whether it’s adequate.

As an organization, your association should make sure it is protected. Your board members should have insurance, and if you’re leasing space, running training or otherwise meeting, your organization should make sure it’s carrying proper liability insurance. If any of the events the organization hosts involves serving alcohol, there are additional risks that need to be covered by insurance. Additional liquor liability insurance may be a wise idea for certain situations.

Educate Members

To help avoid liability, an association should ensure members are being properly trained. Do they know the rules regarding safe equipment? Concussion mechanics? The best associations also make sure their members have opportunities to expand their knowledge of the rules, mechanics and philosophy of the sport(s) they officiate. That can include training sessions, outside speakers and other educational offerings.

Follow Bylaws

Have them and follow them. Well written bylaws should serve as the basis for any actions the organization takes. If there is ever a lawsuit about the board’s activities, having followed your bylaws will help protect the organization. Besides outlining how the group will operate and how any discipline will be handled, bylaws should provide for adequate testing, training and evaluation of officials. They should link an officials’ testing, training, evaluations and overall ratings in a manner designed to place officials in situations that they can presumably control.


Eventually old members are going to retire. Most of us would like to stay in officiating until we’re old and gray. But rare is the official who can keep up and keep going deep into his or her retirement years. When the time comes for members to step off the field, court or pitch, there needs to be new people to fill the ranks and fill the games. If your association isn’t taking steps to draw in new members, it will eventually wither and die.


Far too often, there’s a focus on recruiting new officials. But equally important is making sure there are adequate efforts for retaining existing members. Recognitions, award banquets and other events make sure your members get a positive boost. Another part of retaining is grooming people for leadership positions within the organization — giving them a new reason to stay involved. Keep training opportunities interesting. Occasionally bring in an outside speaker — the NASO Speaker’s Bureau could be a place to turn. On the retention front, it’s also important that for any assigning, that the “good old boys” network gives way to merit-based assignments. Nothing is worse for an association’s morale and long-term future than when a small core in power consistently takes all the plum assignments. Transparency and openness in the assigning process can help.


This fits under the retention category. A good mentoring system goes incredibly far in helping officials overcome those early months and years where the challenges are often the greatest — and the risk of losing new officials is highest. The mentoring program should be well-specified and outlined, with the responsibilities of the mentor put in writing and the duties of the mentee outlined as well.


Silence just doesn’t cut it anymore. If a member is under attack in the media, the association should have a mechanism to evaluate the situation and formulate a proper response. “No comment” used to be the way to go in all cases; today, a lack of a response often looks worse. Also, encourage your association to have a report officer, someone who reviews all significant game reports to ensure officials are saying what needs to be said about an incident, but not straying into territory the report should not be going.


In a rare situation of a lawsuit judgment where insurance doesn’t suffice, the association could be liable, but generally individual board members’ assets can’t be touched when it incorporates.


The board — and an association’s members — should insist on an annual audit. It’s not because there’s no trust in the treasurer. Good treasurers will insist on an audit for their own protection. It should be standard operating procedure.

Use Technology

The future is now. Why not make full use of the tools available to better run the association? Video is a great tool for training purposes. A website can help promote your organization and facilitate communication with members. Social media can help in that area, too — and really shines in promoting the organization and boosting recruiting efforts. With social media, make sure the association has a policy of what’s appropriate and what’s not for posting.


A good officials association isn’t just concerned with the board and officer’s activities today, it’s thinking about the future. Giving thought to the time when key members step aside is wise. Many groups descend into chaos — or even collapse — when key leaders step aside and there hasn’t been advance thought on filling those ranks. Having some type of succession planning, and grooming people for future leadership roles, helps ensure the organization doesn’t fall apart the moment a few key members depart.

Stay active in your association, ask questions, get involved and help bring about the changes that will move the group to a better state of existence — one which will help the officials within the association and help the association serve the organizations for which its members serve.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.


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