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Photo Credit: Jim White

Think about the last 10 officials with whom you’ve worked. How many of them brought passion to their game? What was your initial reaction when you learned you would be working with them? Were they excited about the contest? Did they look like they wanted to be out there, or were they just going through the motions waiting for the game to end?

Most officials think about that often when they see who their partners will be for a given game. We all prefer to work with partners that look forward to the game and can’t wait to hit the court or field. Many officials have been working for a long time, and with longevity can come complacency. For some, the excitement and enthusiasm that once defined those excellent officials have now leveled off.

Don’t let that happen to you. If you think you might be slipping into that unwelcome frame of mind, put up a stop sign to yourself and set a goal to return to that extraordinary official you used to be. You remember that person — the one constantly studying the rules and picking up extra training materials. The one always sticking around to observe other officials. With only a few small adjustments in your thinking and your approach, you can restore that gusto you once had and again be champing at the bit to officiate your games.

Like so many things in life, it begins with attitude. What kind of attitude do you have in your everyday life? Are you a positive person? Do your friends see you as someone who is outgoing and optimistic — someone they like to be around? Remember, the attitude you wake up with each day will carry over onto the field or court and begin to become obvious to those around you.

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How is your approach to the game? Are you bursting with energy for the game to get started? If not, then you may need a little tweak or a slight attitude adjustment. A great place to resurrect your attitude is an offseason camp. Those are a must for all officials and are a great time to re-energize your level of anticipation for the upcoming season. Along with classroom presentations, some camps offer live officiating and video of your work. That is an invaluable tool that gives you a real look at yourself in action. Are you standing up straight? Do you have a friendly, approachable look on your face? How are your mechanics? Remember, the players are playing hard, many for a spot on next year’s varsity team. The coaches are coaching as best they can, trying to instill a winner’s environment into their team.

Your demeanor should reflect your desire to be working that game to the best of your ability. Remind yourself why you became an official in the first place. Many people officiate to stay involved in the game, or to earn a few extra dollars. But along with that often comes a love of the game. If it is something you truly love and are very passionate about, nothing short of your best effort is required for each game to which you are assigned.

As someone your assigners know they can count on, you will from time to time be partnered with officials who are just starting or early in their careers.

Among your many responsibilities, there are few greater than your role as a mentor to young or less-experienced officials. The early years for a referee or umpire are very impressionable. The newcomers work extremely hard to soak in all the experience and knowledge that is out there. The sweat on their brow is as much from nerves as the pace of the game. Your conduct on the court and the enthusiasm you display in your game will have a lasting impression on your protégé. He or she will be watching your every move, wanting to emulate the veterans as the official begins to earn respect from coaches and fellow officials.

What better way to invigorate yourself and make a formidable impression than to show this next wave of officials exactly what it takes to be among the elite? Demonstrate to them the thrill and pure joy you feel from calling a strong game and the confidence you possess by instinctively enforcing the rules as they are written.

There is no excuse today not to incorporate exercise and a healthy lifestyle into your everyday life. Today’s games are played at an intense pace, with players getting bigger, stronger, smarter and faster each year. It behooves you to be in the best shape you can to keep up with the speed of the game. Your partners will be grateful, the coaches and players will appreciate your efforts and you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment when that exceptional call you made is a result of your keeping up with the action and being in perfect position to see the whole play.

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The late Zig Ziglar was widely regarded as one of the most inspiring motivational speakers of our time. He spoke to millions of people all over the world and many times I’ve read his best-selling book on reaching goals and having a positive attitude. I remember a line from his book and his lectures: “We all need a daily checkup from the neck up to avoid stinkin’ thinkin’, which ultimately leads to a hardening of the attitudes.”

Do you perform a daily checkup? Are you able to avoid stinkin’ thinkin’? How’s your attitude these days? If you wake up with an outstanding attitude each day and bring that to the court or field for each game, you’ll be a better official and no matter who your partners are, they’ll be excited to work with you anytime.

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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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