Photo Credit: Dale Garvey

How you enter the arena, stadium, field or other facility says a lot about you. Do you casually stroll in? Are you laughing, confident, smiling, scowling, serious? What’s your demeanor?

First impressions occur every time you jog onto the court or field to officiate. Fans, coaches and players watch you and judge. Body language experts say with that first seven seconds people have formed an opinion about you.

You may think those first impressions don’t start until you introduce yourself to the coaches and shake their hands. That’s important, no question. But people watch you and your style even earlier than that.

When you emerge from the tunnel or sprint onto the court or field — that’s really the first time folks have the opportunity to examine you as an official. Don’t wait until you actually get on the court or field to put on your officiating face. Prepare in the locker room, and when you come out, know that others will be watching.

What do they see?

Your style.

How do you carry yourself? Are you slouching? Do you come onto the field with purpose in your stride? Do you hold your shoulders up?


How do your shoes look? In need of a shine or polished to a high gloss? Is your jacket zipped properly and well-cleaned? Do your pants fit well? Are they too long? Too short? It goes without saying that you want your uniform clean and without wrinkles. We often overlook how our uniform appears to others. Have someone critique you. You may need an update.


The way you walk or jog onto the court or playing field demonstrates energy and interest. If you’re lollygagging your way in, viewers will see a lack of engagement. Show them you care about what you’re doing by establishing a brisk pace.

Facial expressions.

Do you smile or scowl? Does your face look serious? Your facial expression tells others if you are prepared, open to others or in a bad mood. Make sure you regulate it, and display openness by looking people in the eye, listening intently and smiling appropriately.

Interaction with partners.

That is often overlooked. The interplay between you and your officiating partners shows others how you get along. Remember, you’re the third team out there. Demonstrate that as soon as you walk on the court or field. Enter together. Don’t isolate any of your partners.

How you stand.

Your posture says a lot about you. Stand up straight. Keep your shoulders back. Your stance should convey confidence without arrogance, not too rigid, and relaxed without being sloppy or disengaged. Do not stand with your hands in your pockets. If your hands feel uncomfortable, clasp them lightly together behind your back.

Personal Grooming.

Ah yes, your personal grooming. Funny how we don’t talk about that one much. Most male officials keep their hair fairly short and get their hair cut regularly. Men who follow that routine are fine. If you prefer to keep your hair longer, you can’t let it be uncombed or unruly. Some strong product may be needed to keep it in place or a quick visit to a stylist may be in order to get some tips on keeping it presentable while working. Men also need to either be recently shaven or keep well-manicured facial hair, no exceptions. If you are unsure what is acceptable, your assigner will most likely let you know the standards they expect you to follow.

Women will want to ensure their hair looks professional and stays out of their face. It may need to be tied back or put in a bun. Most importantly, it needs to be controlled so it doesn’t flop, look unprofessional or require constant attention while running and sweating.

When you boil it all down, as to what participants, coaches and fans want to see in officials when they enter the arena, it’s fairly simple: enthusiasm, energy and desire. Does this guy or gal want to be there?

I happened to see a basketball game this past season with a woman and two older men officiating as partners. It was clear the woman was there for the right reason. Her posture, how she assumed her position on the court and how she monitored the players stood out to me. She wasn’t the most experienced in the crew, but she demonstrated to those watching the game that she was an official for the right reason — she cared about being out on the court and doing her best.

When you enter the arena, keep in mind how you appear to others and your court or field presence will take a positive step.

What's Your Call? Leave a Comment: