Assigners need to maintain a professional approach when it comes to assigning games. Perception can be reality for some members. Longtime assigners will obviously develop friendships with officials, but it is of vital importance to make sure assignments are made through a transparent system, so members don’t suggest the “good old boys” approach is in place.
A professional approach between board members and members of the association is absolutely necessary. No board position is potentially more volatile than that of assigner. If you can’t maintain an honest approach with a highlight on your integrity, you won’t be able to do your best work, and you might not be in that position for very long.
The position of assigner in any officiating association has the spotlight on it at all times, so don’t do anything that you’re not going to want to see again in the light of day. Mistakes have a life all their own, and you’re going to make them. The focus should be to minimize the damage of a mistake and don’t do it again. It’s a topic I’m very passionate about, as I’m in the eighth year as assigner of our association. I’ve served as member at large, rules interpreter and vice president. No other position has the ongoing headaches that come with the assigner position. Let’s outline some things to work on, and some things to avoid.
1. Be transparent.
To do a stellar job as an assigner, everyone in your association has to feel that he or she is being treated fairly and consistently. When you are questioned by members as to why their schedule isn’t what they think it should be, sometimes tact and diplomacy work. Sometimes brutal honesty works better, as long as you remember to deal in facts, not opinions. Don’t let a personality clash turn into an all-out war. Let them know where they stand, and what they need to improve on to get higher level games.
2. Work hard to deal patiently with changes from officials and leagues.
They will happen and more often than you care for. Be understanding, especially if it’s an official that is usually dependable. If you’re patient when they make a mistake, hopefully they’ll be patient when you make a mistake, because those will happen too. If you have an official who has a bad habit of being late or not showing up, give them a week or two to think about it with no assignments, and see if they get the point.
3. Reward your “go-to” people with more and better games.
If you think that contradicts point 1, it doesn’t. Again, you have to be honest and transparent with those that haven’t achieved that level yet. I don’t mind pointing out to officials that availability and dependability go hand in hand when it comes to getting games. Those officials that are willing to fill in on a last-minute basis because someone else bailed on you deserve to be rewarded. If I have a veteran varsity official who fills in for me on a C or JV game during a hectic week of changes, I make sure I keep track and get them on a good varsity assignment.
4. Be visible.
Get out and view your officials working. Give them positive feedback on what you’d like to see them improve, and also include what you think they’re doing well. If it’s a newer official, give them small bites. If it’s a veteran, give them “polish” points to make their game sharper and improve perception of them as an official.
1. Hold grudges.
Allow members to apologize, and reward them if they are honestly trying to improve your perception of them. Everyone makes mistakes. If the member sees the error of his or her way, allow the member some leeway to make it right.
2. Don’t talk about members to other members.
Sometimes in board meetings, assessments and observations about officials come up. Leave those discussions in the board meeting. This is one of those landmines that you want to avoid. Be professional. Be very careful when you’re out in public. You never know who might be watching. People in your town know who you are, so they’ll want to ask questions about what this official said or did and what do you think about it. If it’s an official request from a league administrator, activities principal or a coach, ask for specifics about any rules that they perceived were incorrect, and for game film if it’s available. Don’t get into a discussion about judgment calls. That’s a “no win” situation. Talk to the official about the issue and get their side of the story.
Our assigning system allows for postgame reports. We require those in any odd rules situation, and also if a coach or player receives a technical foul or is ejected. Those reports go to our president, vice-president and assigner. Officials should give administrators a little “heads-up” hopefully before the phone calls start.
Assigning is much like raising kids. Many days it’s a lot of work with little reward. On other days, it’s very rewarding. You have to take the bad with the good, and work hard to “raise your children” so they are doing their best work for your association and for themselves. Again, as with raising your kids, a lot of patience is required to get them from the “baby” stage, through “adolescence” and hopefully to the “mature adult” stage. Most assigners are getting paid to do the job, but if it’s not a labor of love also, you’ll give up before you see positive results. You’ll definitely have a “parent’s pride” when they succeed, and receive higher level recognition.
Be honest and transparent, and be patient and passionate about your officials and the sports you assign. Finally, work hard. As with many good things, if it was easy, anyone could do it.
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