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The smile on the face of Jennifer McIntosh of Seattle lets you know she’s happy to be working the match. Having a positive attitude is one of the ways officials can leave a positive legacy. (Photo Credit: Dale Garvey)working the match. Having a positive attitude is one of the ways officials can leave a positive legacy. Photo Credit: Dale Garvey

The average American can expect to live about 79 years. That’s roughly 28,835 days to leave your mark on the people you know and the places you go. That mark — your legacy — is less about what you do and more about how you go about doing it.

One of my first mentors, who had a respectable career as a high school baseball and basketball official, wrote this to me in an email when I first began officiating: “The only regret I have up to this point is not having been a pro umpire. I would have started out in the minor leagues. The travel would have been an adventure, though not always pleasant. But the games. All the crazy plays and magnificent calls. All the different players, ball diamond characters and the nutso fans. All the different parks and towns on all those nights … ohhh my! That would have been great. That opportunity is gone for me. Don’t let yours go by.”

I’m not a baseball umpire, but I understood his sentiment. Every official has the potential to be great no matter what level he or she works or desires to work. What you do with that potential can impact the game in a positive way if you let it. What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

Legacy of trust

Trust is the cornerstone in every good relationship. In officiating it is paramount for success. Assigners need to know they can depend on you to show up when you say you will. Partners need to know you have their back. Coaches need to know you will keep the game under control and do everything in your power to keep their players safe.

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How can you be trusted? Don’t just pretend to know the rules; really know them. That knowledge can help you through difficult situations and show true professionalism. You can build trust by showing you have confidence in your partners. Don’t undermine them to coaches or sell them out to assigners. Be a team player.

Be an honest evaluator of your own performance. That honesty opens the door for others to share honest self-evaluations. Then you can learn from each other’s experiences together. Your trustworthiness begins with your everyday life. Are you honest with your family, friends and co-workers? If you are living out trust in your day to day, it becomes a lot easier to carry it over into officiating.

Legacy of influence

Change doesn’t always have to come in the form of rule changes, although submitting rule change ideas is one way to go about influence. You can also change the culture of officiating. Is your association stuck in the Stone Age when it comes to technology? Volunteer to put a presentation together with educational video clips for your sport. Do the veterans in your group treat new officials with a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality? Take a new official under your wing by showing him or her the right way to go about becoming a better official.

Being an initiator of change doesn’t mean there has to be some grandiose movement. It’s the little things that can have the biggest impact. Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” She dedicated her life to changing the way people look at and treat one another. She did that through her own small acts of kindness.

There are many things that are out of your control, but how you act is not one of them. You will be amazed at how contagious a positive attitude can be! Show enthusiasm for the game. The more people that look to you for guidance, the more positive influence you can provide.

Legacy of excellence

Vince Lombardi said, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” Lombardi epitomized excellence and expected the same from his players.

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There is a deep satisfaction that comes with pursuing and attaining excellence. It requires sacrifice and hard work. It goes beyond going to a camp during the offseason just to meet a requirement. It’s applying what you learn. It’s knowing how to take criticism and using it to better yourself. It’s taking care of your body. It’s having an extensive knowledge, understanding and ability to apply the rules and philosophies of your sport. It’s the constant pursuit to be better.

Perhaps a combination of all those things would make for the ultimate legacy. Decide what kind of legacy you want to leave and start acting on it today. You have one shot to make a positive impact and change your game for the better. Don’t let yours go by!

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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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