Officiating sports for the vast majority of us is an avocation, a hobby, a distraction, a chance to exercise and to help. Officiating can be a valuable and rewarding experience in most cases. It is a very necessary part of sports.

But there’s another side to officiating that is rarely discussed. Officiating for some can become an addiction. Addictions are negative, destructive compulsions that can rule and ruin lives. Activities and behavior that result in chemical changes in the brain that lead to pleasurable sensations can lead to addiction. Officiating can lead to episodes of euphoria and pleasure. Addictions impair the decision-making processes that involve rewards. Addicts are often helpless in breaking their habit.

Many of us officiate a lot and have never considered our behavior as addictive or harmful. But what are some of the signs of an official who may be addicted? What are some of the questions officials should ask themselves about their “avocation”? All of your answers to the following are subjective and relative, but if you can identify with many or most of these assertions, you may need to re-prioritize your life. Perhaps you should speak with your physician, spiritual adviser or a sports psychologist.

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  1. Do you spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about past or future assignments? Do you waste mental energy obsessing over your next contest?
  2. Do you have the ability to stop officiating? Do you take pain meds so you can take more assignments? Is your body suffering because of the heavy abuse?
  3. Do you take assignments to avoid negative events in your life? Are your assignments seen as opportunities to avoid your spouse, children or boss?
  4. Do you find yourself telling “little white lies” to your family or employer to officiate more? Such as, “I have to go home because I have a headache” but you actually have an early tip-off or kickoff.
  5. Do you argue with your family about conflicts between officiating and family functions? Are relationships suffering because you’re always at the gym or field?
  6. Are all of your friends officials? While officials may make great friends, what about friends at work, in your neighborhood, at your church?
  7. Do you have other hobbies or distractions? Have you given up fishing, going to the movies or taking vacations to officiate more? Traveling to an out-of-state tournament should not substitute for a vacation.
  8. Is your self-worth judged by your assignments? Do you consider yourself a better person if you get all the tough games? Do you see yourself as a success if you get assigned a championship (and a failure if you don’t)?
  9. Are all of your role models and protégés other officials?

If these questions are tough to answer objectively, ask your spouse or a friend to give you honest advice. If your self-discovery reveals that officiating has become an addiction, then seek help. No one can be an easier or tougher judge of an official’s behavior than that official. We must be as honest with our lives as we are with our contests.

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