Michael Lechnar, Mukilteo, Wash., worked hard to get to the Little League tournament level. A continuation of that effort could lead to bigger and better things in his officiating career. (Photo Credit: Stewart West)

A mountain is such a commonly used metaphor because it provides beautiful imagery to our goals and the challenges we face to reach them. Every official’s metaphorical mountain looks a little bit different. Some have reached the top and have begun their descent. Some have the peak in sight and just need a few more experiences to get to where they want to be. Others look like a series of mountains where they have experienced highs and lows all leading to the top but on a less direct path. And still others see where they want to go but know they have a long way to get there.

John C. Maxwell is a motivational speaker and author with a focus in leadership. He recently shared a thought on his Facebook page regarding preparation and it struck a chord. He said, “Preparedness is a state of readiness. My mentor, John Wooden, used to say that when opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare. … The main point is that we need to be intentional each day about being prepared so when the opportunity comes our way we can immediately seize the chance.”

No matter where you are in your officiating career, you want to be ready when the call comes for you to take one step (small or big) toward your goal. Whether it’s getting a call to work a big game or filling in on a game because of another official’s turnback, the success of your performance lies in the hands of one thing: preparation.

Here are five ways to prepare.

1. Know your learning style.

Learning is an important part of your development as an official. Reading the rulebook does you no good if you can’t understand it enough to enforce the rule properly. Often the way we learn requires us to go beyond just the words in order to gain a better understanding.

I am a visual learner. When I read a caseplay or a rule, I process it by putting it into action. That could mean looking at a pregame board of some type or using the people in the room to walk through the scenario. Some may learn best by reading a bunch of literature on a given rule topic, while others may learn best in a group or meeting setting. Whatever it may be, figure out how you best like to learn because understanding how you learn makes the process more efficient. It allows you to process the information that is being given to you in a manner that makes sense in your head.

2. Collaborate.

Every official wants to be that well-rounded official who is fit, has extensive rules knowledge, strong leadership skills and is an all-around great communicator. In reality, we can all use work in one or more of those areas. If your communication skills are particularly strong, find someone who has a good grasp on the rulebook. Find out how they have become so strong in that area. By surrounding yourself with others who can help in specific areas, you open yourself up to becoming that all-around solid official.

3. Manage sleep deprivation.

Alison Levine is another author who has used her experiences to teach leadership skills. She shared her experiences climbing Mount Everest in her book, On the Edge. The book is about the preparation and execution of her climbs. One of the preparation techniques that she writes about is managing sleep deprivation.

She notes, “Don’t let the fact that you haven’t slept … create unnecessary anxiety. Just push through it. It’s a short-term thing.”

That holds especially true for an official in the midst of the season when it gets to be a grind and all the travel starts catching up to you. Nights away from home become a little more difficult and you’re just plain gassed. Allow yourself to be tired. Don’t fixate on the fact that you are worn out. Make wise decisions about building natural breaks into your schedule to be sure you are always bringing your best.

4. Visualize.

Anticipating difficult situations and figuring out how you will handle them can work wonders in how effective you are as an official.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson talked with ESPN reporter Terry Blount prior to the 2015 NFC Championship game. He shared with Blount the scenarios that he goes through in his head so when they happen, he’s ready. He said, “I’m a person that visualizes all the time. I anticipate those situations before they happen. That allows me to make quick decisions. I think it also gives me that sense of poise and grace under pressure.”

Poise and grace under pressure — those are things every official could use. Visualization can be a very important tool for officials. It allows you to walk though potential problems that may arise in your game and address them before they even happen. That can be an especially helpful tactic during your pregame with your partner(s).

5. Be ready for change.

Change is inevitable. It’s a necessary evil for growth. Officiating is ever evolving with the game. Video is readily available now more than ever. There’s new competition. The pressure officials face from coaches, supervisors and themselves to be at their best has reached a new high. Know this: Your assigners desire to make the game better. In order to do that, things won’t always be done in the same manner they were 20 years ago. Sure, the fundamentals such as integrity, rules knowledge and solid mechanics will remain important. But philosophies and even rules will change. Some changes you’ll like; others, not so much. Either way, be ready. Change is coming your way. Drink the Kool-Aid.

Every official at one point in his or her career has experienced the discomfort of being in a situation he or she didn’t quite feel ready to face. How quickly we learn! There is a great amount of confidence that comes from being prepared. It’s the type of confidence that your partners desire and your supervisors can’t ignore. Not all your experiences will move you in the direction you want to go. But nevertheless, they are steps in the preparation process. All your efforts on and off the court or field are equipping you to be at your best when the opportunity arises.

What's Your Call? Leave a Comment: