If you had inside access to the bookshelves of college and professional officials and officiating leaders, what books would you find? Sure, rulebooks are a given, but what else? Leadership books are probably another safe assumption. How about a favorite book from those individuals?

Referee contacted high-level officials from various sports and some officiating leaders and asked them the question: What is your favorite book? And why? The responses ranged from a children’s book to historical books to leadership titles. And some couldn’t just narrow it down to one. The reasons for the selections were just as varied. Author R.D. Cumming once said, “A good book has no ending.”Yes, a good book stays with you long after you turn that final page. It makes an impact on you and you don’t forget it. Find out which books resonated like that with selected officials and officiating leaders.

The Last Good Kiss

By James Crumbley

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“It is probably the best example of Crumbley’s ability to write about loss, the regret of being a choice maker in a world of gray, and a certain indescribable ache to the human condition of living a compromised life, and remains unmatched. As someone who has written an unpublished novel, I also have come to know I won’t ever be able to write anything as perfect as the opening lines of The Last Good Kiss, ‘When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.’ It only gets better as the novel goes on.”

Monty McCutchen, NBA official

Lee’s Lieutenants

By Douglas Southall Freeman

“As an avid Civil War reader, I have read and reread many books on the tactics, logistics and strategies used during the war. Of special interest to me are books that detail the combat leadership qualities (or lack of) by the military generals. I have found this three-volume book one of the best in that area. The qualities of good combat leadership, including the conduct, motivation, inspiration, discipline, morale, courage, fighting spirit, instinct, initiative, risk taking and in some cases good fortune, are a personal inspiration and applicable today in our personal and private lives. Following the examples in this book on the combat tactics in this setting provides valuable lessons and qualities that can be utilized in today’s world. The abilities of some of those generals to motivate soldiers in a sometimes close eye-to-eye age of war can include many lessons in leadership and success to inspire all of us.”

Gene McArtor, NCAA national coordinator for baseball umpires

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The Flip Side

By Flip Flippen

“It has to do with helping me break free of behaviors that hold me back from being a better parent, person, (referee) and coach.”

Misail Tsapos, MLS referee



The Winds of War

By Herman Wouk

“It is a wonderful historically accurate fictional account of the times and events leading up to WW II, an event that involved my parents’ generation and whose outcome largely shaped the world we live in today.”

John W. Adams, NCAA national coordinator of men’s basketball officiating

Assassination Vacation

By Sarah Vowell

“If I were a writer, I would write what she writes, and I would write how she writes. She has a love and appreciation of real history and a quirky way of exploring and discovering it. And I just love the way she tells the story. I thought I was alone in my compulsion to read historical markers, but I suspect she is obsessed as well.”

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Kathy Strahm, former NCAA national coordinator of softball umpires

Our Boys

By Joe Drape

“It is the story of the Smith Center High School football team, coaches and community. As I read the book it reminded me of some of the reasons why people become coaches, what the real value is for kids participating in sports, and renewed my focus upon those things — which sometimes gets sidelined when dealing with coaches and parents who are focused on different things. Values such as ‘community’ — not only the school and team but the ‘rallying round’ a school team and athletes by small rural communities — from which I came. Values such as ‘team’ — extending beyond the student-athletes but incorporating the students in the grade schools, the parents, the aunts and uncles, the family and friends who want to do what they can to support the team — involvement which is total and complete. Values such as pride in what you do and the traditions that you will carry on and add to. Values that are not focused just on ‘Ws’ and ‘Ls’ but on building good people who have values extending beyond the playing field. Values such as ‘hard’ work which is done not for pay or visible reward, but because that is what is expected of you and is the right thing to do.”

Rick Bowden, Kansas State High School Activities Association assistant executive director

Watership Down

By Richard Adams

“It is a tale that I was introduced to as a child through the movie. As an adult I read the book, as well as its follow-up novel, Tales from Watership Down. The book tells the story of a group of rabbits and their epic voyage. Along the way, they encounter many obstacles and hardships, but through their perseverance, they make it to Watership Down, where they are able to live safely and develop a new society.

“I like this book because it is a story that has been with me my entire life. The characters in the story are not happy with their present situation, so they decide to make a change. They know that there is something better, and they work hard to attain that better life. I believe that is a great lesson, and it is a lesson that I try to instill in my students. When things are not going well, we are able to change our situation. In most cases, it will take a lot of hard work. There are going to be some sacrifices and some hardships along the way. However, if we persist and persevere, we can make a better life for ourselves.”

Mark Geiger, MLS and FIFA referee

The Daily God Book, Words of Wisdom

By Neil S. Wilson and Livingstone

“I like to read anything by James Patterson and E. Lynn Harris. My sister got me a book for Christmas called The Daily God Book, Words of Wisdom. I like reading the passage for the day and getting my day started on a positive note.”

Denise Brooks, NCAA Division I women’s basketball and WNBA official


The Blind Side

By Michael Lewis

“That is the last book that I read and I enjoyed it because I was familiar with Memphis, Ole Miss and Briarcrest.”

Larry Thomas, associate director of the Mississippi High School Activities Association



The Once and Future King

By T.H. White

“I was captivated by King Arthur, the Round Table and the Camelot theme because my high school English teacher made it come alive for all of us! We all felt as if we were living in that period.”

Joan Powell, Professional Association of Volleyball Officials former president and NCAA volleyball official


Oh, The Places You’ll Go

By Dr. Seuss

“I remember reading this book as a child and dreaming about all the things I wanted to do ‘when I grew up.’ Now as an adult, every so often I pull it off the shelf and read through it again. And every time I do I find myself thinking about my hopes and dreams, the things that have been wonderful in my life, and the experiences that have been more difficult. It has never mattered how old I have been or what I have been experiencing, I have always been able to make connections between this book and my life. I have never ceased to be amazed that Dr. Seuss has managed to sum up a lifetime of experiences in a children’s book. I like to read this book when I have some free time to take in each of the pages and think about how it applies to my life. By the end of the book, I am always feeling inspired because after all: ‘And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.) … Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So … get on your way!’”

Margaret Domka, 2015 Women’s World Cup referee, former FIFA referee and Referee’s Education Director

Good to Great

By Jim Collins

Who Moved My Cheese

By Spencer Johnson, MD

“Besides the Bible, which is always current and never out of date conceptually, it would be those books. Good to Great defines, describes and in some ways prescribes how good organizations become great. Who Moved My Cheese talks about how people deal with change (or not). People make up organizations, so if I can understand organizations and people, then I can serve and contribute in a positive way.”

Ron Johnson, NBA senior vice president of referee operations

Foundation Trilogy

By Isaac Asimov

“My favorite is actually three books. I have a mathematics background and I was fascinated by the notion of using math to predict future events. I was also impressed by Asimov’s imagination, especially his inclusion in the story of how unanticipated events were dealt with in the master plan for the galaxy.”

Steve Hall, Rhode Island football official and member of the NFHS Football Rules Committee

Imperial Woman

By Pearl Buck

“It offered all the things that make a book unforgettable — a theme of enduring importance, it can speak to any time or age and it is written in prose that enriches the mind. The book is a fictionalized biographical novel based on history. The period is the mid-1800s through the turn of the century — a time I find fascinating because the world I grew up in was being formed, defined and discovered during that time and I lived, as a younger woman, through the fruits and effects of those times.

“So, the book is about a person and a time. Both can speak to me because ‘I am involved in mankind’ and the historical period is one I can grasp and that affords me appreciation of my own time.

“The plot captivated me with its intrigue, drama and a sort of sadness. I was able to connect, at some personal level with the main character, who was a woman. Her traits of prowess, competence, boldness, intellect and confidence, and even cunning, resonated within me and served as sort of a message to living.”

Emily Alexander, ASA Hall of Fame umpire and 2010 Gold Whistle Award recipient

The Endurance: Shackleton’s
Legendary Antarctic Expedition

By Caroline Alexander

My Old Man and the Sea

By David Hays-Daniel Hays

Death in Afternoon

By Ernest Hemmingway.

“Those are in no particular order. I have always been a non-fiction reader at heart. I’m always looking for new inspiration and stories of that demonstrate the dynamic human spirit.”

Justin Klemm, PBUC executive director


Cannery Row

By John Steinbeck

“I enjoyed the characters and how they interact during the Great Depression.”

Dan Spriestersbach, Pac-10 football official




The Bible

PRCA Official Rulebook

“They both teach you how to do more for others than yourself. It is about giving; that’s what separates great people from mediocre people.”

Tommy Keith, supervisor of officials for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association

Read to Succeed

In an online LockerRoom poll question, officials of various levels, were asked, “What is your favorite book?” Some of those responses are below along with reasons for the selections.

Death Be Not Proud by John Steinbeck. “I read this book many, many years ago as a student. It showed how much a loving father cared about his child. It has stuck with me ever since.”

— Michael Aquino, Albany, N.Y.

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by John Wooden. “Few great men have lives worth emulating. John Wooden is one of the few.”

— Manuel Vasquez, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Last Call by Jerry Markbreit. “I’ve read it several times cover-to-cover. Even though I know the results of his career, I always find myself rooting for him as he writes about moving through the high school and college ranks. When I read it, it fires me up about football officiating! It is the best official/umpire autobiography out there!”

— Mark Schultz, Savoy, Ill.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. “I have used the picture of the ‘old woman-young woman’ many times in training fellow officials about perception vs. reality. It’s also very good in the concept of ‘seek first to understand, then to be understood.’”

— Dave Gregory, Martinez, Calif.

Psychology of Officiating by Robert S. Weinberg and Peggy A. Richardson. “Very insightful and provides much needed information.”

— Lee McCain, Orlando, Fla.

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. “Because it shows that you can never judge someone by how they look, that you must get into someone’s character to make a judgment on them.”

— Chuck Maske, Trussville, Ala.

Verbal Judo by Dr. George Thompson. “My ratings are getting better.”

— Jack Miles, North Branch, Mich.

Whale Done! by Ken Blanchard. “It teaches you about positive re-enforcement. It’s a quick good read.”

— Peter Smith, South Plainfield, N.J.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. “It should be mandatory reading for every official.”

— Gary Van Zandt, Corcoran, Calif.

The Life and Times of Martin Luther King. “When officiating gets hectic and crazy, this book helps me remember what is really important in life: family, faith, friends.”

— Dwayne Finley, Santa Clarita, Calif.

Missing Links by Rick Reilly. “It is a great book that also provides a great life lesson.”

— Dwight Nichols, Topeka, Kan.

The Bible. “It is the best instruction manual available.”

— Mark Kelly, Dothan, Ala.

The One Minute Manager by Tom Osborne. “It gets me focused on the positive.”

— Don Yerks, Bayville, N.J.

Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. “At age 20 and a newbie to officiating, it allowed me to get my life in order and saved my life. I would not have the friends today without this book and officiating. I would not be submitting this, because I should be dead. I just celebrated 23 years of sober living — Feb. 2, 1987, my last drug because of this book.”

— Brian MacGregor, Northridge, Calif.

Beyond the Score by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. “It deals with a lot of different issues that can be important to anyone in life, not just sports.”

— Kevin Olson, Longmont, Colo.

The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley. “It says a lot about the inner person and how you see yourself in other’s eyes.”

— Tim Cashion, Washington, N.C.

First to Fight by Victor H. Krulak. “A brief history of the U.S. Marines. The Marines are a small force compared to armies of other countries, yet history has shown them to be an elite group ready to answer the nation’s call. Marines don’t seek the limelight or medals. We constantly train to be the best if the call should come. I see being an official in the same light. … Then there is the teamwork concept which is at the core; so too officials, sadly not always.”

— Anthony Garcia, Norwalk, Conn.



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