Cutting off an association with a crewmate or partner may be the most difficult thing an official ever has to do. Even though diplomatic approaches may be employed, the likelihood that a friendship will be undone is a genuine danger.

If you feel a partner or crewmate is slipping up, keep track of the transgressions and alert the official when they occur. When the person in jeopardy forgets previous reminders and admonishments or, worse yet, declines to accept recommendations, a separation is likely the next step.

Problems To Be Addressed

Remember that dropping a partner or crewmate should be a last resort. Such a move shouldn’t be done if corrective measures haven’t been tried. Proper mechanics can be employed, decision-making can be refined, and hustle can be stimulated. But the offender must be made aware of the problem before correction can occur.

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Offering tips can be problematic, yet it must be done. Make it constructive, make it positive, but, by all means, make it emphatic.

More serious problems involve conflicts in personality or officiating philosophy. Perhaps the official in question is too belligerent, berates players or has a cavalier attitude about doing the job. Other issues can be unsavory personal habits such as smoking, excessive drinking, cursing, backbiting, refusing to follow a desired dress code, a sloppy uniform, habitual tardiness, a persistently negative attitude, a weight problem or squabbling with partners.

Not all of those behaviors may fall under the category of philosophical differences, but they certainly can be troublesome, and they may decidedly signal a need to escape from the offender.

What if it’s a relative rookie you have to get rid of, someone you thought had promise but who hasn’t lived up to expectations? You can temper the release by saying the person needs more experience. But you’ll be doing that individual a genuine service by pointing out areas in which improvement is essential. Those areas may be a trifle ambiguous, but if your own judgment is sharp, you should be able to specify areas in need of improvement.

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How To Do It

The process of termination should feature a frank face-to-face talk. The errors of performance and patterns of non-compliance should be outlined specifically. If you’re ending a relationship for cause, the dismissed party has a logical right to be apprised of deficiencies, and you have an ethical obligation to clarify all factors that led to your final judgment.

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You must take pains to articulate the critical items that influenced your decision. Anything less is an act of cowardice, and no official wants that tag. A statement such as, “There just hasn’t been sufficient improvement (or adjustment) on a consistent basis, despite our genuine efforts to effect change. We have to try adding an individual whose mechanics are stronger. I’m afraid we simply must have a parting of the ways,” is an honest yet firm way to deliver the bad news. You may lose a friend, but you won’t jeopardize your own integrity.

Of course, if you drop people on a whim, or because you’ve got a buddy who wants to join your group and you favor that person, then you can expect to be vilified.

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It may seem that a phone call would be the best method, but that is quite cruel and distant. A phone release might be judicious, though, if the person to be let go is likely to be surprised or may voice extreme anger. An explosion does no one any good.

A written directive is less desirable for several reasons. It is frightfully cold and impersonal. It may also serve as ammunition for retaliation. That is, if you wouldn’t feel comfortable having your letter flashed around defiantly, then don’t put your decision on paper. An e-mail would be just as dreary.

When To Pull The Trigger

It might be counterproductive to make a change in mid-season. It may not even be legal, if contracts have been signed. Obtaining a suitable replacement may pose an additional problem. The best way to end an officiating relationship is probably to conduct a performance review at the end of the season. That gives both parties a chance to regroup and secure an alternate connection, namely, finding a replacement and, for the outcast, getting a new arrangement with another person or crew.

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Note: This article is archival in nature. Rules, interpretations, mechanics, philosophies and other information may or may not be correct for the current year.

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