Photo Credit: Dale Garvey

M ost experienced officials have worked with a teammate who has been completely disengaged or distracted during the pregame meeting. We’ve all seen it; the officials that keep checking their cell phones or fumbling through their bags, won’t make eye contact with the rest of the crew, or make eye contact but with shoulders slumped over and an expression of complete disinterest on their faces.

This may seem like trivial behavior that does not affect the decisions on the field. Nothing could be further from the truth. The actions of one crew member in choosing not to participate in the pregame meeting and game preparation could destroy the ability of the entire team to work together. Trust is immediately lost between team members when it becomes obvious that officials do not care enough about their teammates or the game they are about to officiate to stop what they are doing and give complete attention to the conversation at hand. The crew is often left questioning how they can possibly trust each other once they are on the field together if they cannot rely on each other to have a focused conversation before the game.

And even though many officials have observed this behavior, it can be a challenge to change it. If something is said, will that person feel bounds were overstepped and get upset? Because the crew still needs each of its members in order to make the best decisions on the field and in an effort to keep the group cohesive, many choose to try to ignore the distraction. But pretending the distraction doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away.

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Stepping onto the field with other officials in whom you do not have trust feels lonely. When a big decision has to be made, an official can then feel stuck on an isolated island because there is no confidence the others on the crew will come through with assistance at the most critical time. Officiating is already challenging enough, but doing it all alone can feel like a losing endeavor.

Every single official must show up to every single game prepared to do his or her part to make the game go as well as possible. And this all starts by building teamwork and trust during the pregame meeting. Don’t make another official walk the fine line of being forced to decide whether to ignore the distraction you are causing or to say something about it. Follow the example of this crew and put the cell phones away, stop rummaging through bags, make eye contact with the other members of the crew and use body language that sends the message that you have the energy and enthusiasm to help the crew find success on the game.

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