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The best way for you to judge the effectiveness of a clinic or camp is to count the number of habits or procedures that have later been changed in your personal approach. In other words, the question should be, are you renewed or are you dejected? After all, one solid definition of learning is that it involves a change in behavior.

For the “delivery person,” the clinician or director, the success ratio should be measured the same way: Did attendees walk away from the experience with new insights and advanced techniques? Another way to phrase it would be to conclude that the clinic generated more fresh air than hot air.

In view of such preferred outcomes, both attendees and presenters have an obligation to expect something new and to seek it aggressively. That is, if a presenter is relying basically on a recapitulation of the manual, then spectators should raise questions about angles of approach that are not treated in the manual. The audience must assume part of the obligation for acquiring special knowledge. What is the best way to deal with animosity between opponents, for example, both players and coaches? What are some techniques for covering unusual plays such as two runners caught between bases, a kickoff return with wild passes across the gridiron to teammates, persistent fouling of a star soccer player or length-of-court passes at the close of a tight basketball game?

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Participants at officiating seminars should also take advantage of opportunities to probe the experts for philosophical attitudes during off times, such as at lunch or during a break in the sessions. To make that dimension truly beneficial an official would do well to jot down a few key questions in advance. That is, if an official listed a half-dozen areas in which doubt existed, it could be a basis for genuine inquiry, either during formal instructional operations or at times when respected individuals (not only the clinic speakers) were free to be interviewed.

Some of the most fruitful exchanges often take place in bull sessions with those whom participants admire.

Another idea to carry to a clinic: If you’ve invented and been successful with a special technique, share it with the group (or ask an expert about it if you’re not sure about its usefulness).

But what is the best way for officiating seminars themselves to operate? That question boils down to, how do people learn? Professional educators usually make the learning process sound very complex. That is not necessarily the case. Just recall how you gained any skill such as hitting a golf ball or driving a car. First came the “image” of what the act required, including an explanation, a visual depiction, a demonstration, and then slow-motion participation. All phases also require careful thinking, combining physical behavior with analytic processing. You can’t improve onfield or oncourt functioning unless you have tried special mechanics in person, just as you can’t learn to drive an auto without squeezing behind the wheel.

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Therefore, the ideal clinic will provide a judicious combination of those elements. Class work is best accompanied by overhead slides, walk-through simulations, and videos. The videos should show appropriate and productive techniques, not just officiating misdemeanors. If the classroom sessions can encompass discussions, so much the better. Idea exchanges are another fine opportunity to garner new techniques.

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Not every camp can feature live action for attendees’ participation, of course, with accompanying critiques by experts. But that is the ideal. It doesn’t have to be a real game or intense scrimmages. For example, clinic volunteers can move from base to base on a diamond while umpires shift to appropriate coverage after someone hits a ball. Football plays can take place in walk-through fashion while officials practice following keys. Live action followed by on-site and video assessments are excellent, but simulations can break down phases of the game too in useful ways.

The receptive official should be determined to extract as much as possible from presenters, but for such a result the experience has to be approached with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Presenters, look for those recipients of wisdom, people eager to partake and just as eager to try something stimulating. If you go to a clinic out of a sense of obligation or simply to see and be seen, as some people do, you are letting yourself down.

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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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