Photo Credit: Bob Messina

One type of person all businesses want is a problem solver. The same can be said for any type of athletic event. They want officials who can make problems disappear when they occur.

The best officials are those who can properly handle routine situations with skill and speed. The ability to handle those types of situations comes with experience, it can’t always be taught.

In the absence of a strong mentor or experienced partner to point out how to acquire some of the finer skills, here’s a short list of some of the things you can do to make sure you are rounding out your experience every time you work.

  • Study the rulebook. Have you ever met a good official that didn’t know the rules? Great officials have read through the rules enough that recall is second nature and that only comes with repetition.
  • Look at the officials manual. The easiest way to get more calls right is to improve your mechanics. Seems simple right? You’d be surprised how often missed calls are strictly the fault of poor positioning.
  • Show up for your assignments. Working games is the most basic requirement of getting more. Experience can’t be gained any other way.
  • Have a pregame meeting. Talk about the stuff that’s likely to happen, before it happens. Every game has a unique set of circumstances and if you identify potential situations you’ll be prepared if they come up.
  • Observe the pregame warmups. You might observe something that will help you do a better job.
  • Have a pregame meeting with captains and coaches. A short and to-the-point pregame will show participants you’re on top of things, and let them know you won’t tolerate them causing problems.
  • Move to improve. Don’t get straight lined or blocked out. If you need to move, do it without hesitation because the gameplay certainly won’t wait for you.
  • Stay out of the stands. It’s not beneficial to get into anything with fans before, during or after a game you’re working.
  • Hustle. Even if you can’t quite get into position on every call, the fact that you’re clearly trying your best will be noticed by everyone in attendance.
  • Communicate with coaches. If they ask you a reasonable question in a sportsmanlike manner, acknowledge them. They will appreciate it even if you don’t have an answer, and it teaches them the right way to address officials if they want a response.
  • Concentrate on your primary coverage area. We all have a job to do out there, even if you’re responsible for something that isn’t especially interesting that game. If your partner(s) are watching what they’re supposed to, it’s vital you maintain your focus.
  • Watch away from the play. You might catch something nobody else is looking at and, the kind of heads up calls that show people you know what you’re doing.
  • See the entire play. Taking in everything going on during a specific play will help you make judgment calls when you only have a split second to decide. Every movement of the participants involved can give you information you can use.
  • Learn to Count. Make counting participants a reflex so you never miss an extra player.
  • Use preventive officiating techniques. The best way to avoid situations that will interrupt the flow of the game is to nip them in the bud before they even get started.
  • Have a postgame review. When the game is fresh in your mind is the absolute best time to identify what you did right, and more importantly, what you did wrong. Our minds tend to blur the negative in hindsight and that doesn’t help you get better.

Those are only a few of the more obvious ways to make sure you’re on the right path. The key here, regardless of sport or level, is to keep searching for things you don’t know. Whether you find something that helps you through basic observation, or you get guidance from those who’ve been there and done that, being an official that can solve problems is a lifelong endeavor.

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