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One of the most famous apologies in sports history occurred in June 2010 when MLB umpire Jim Joyce admitted he made an incorrect call that cost Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game. The ability to admit the occasional error is one key element in being a successful official. (Photo Credit: Jorge Lemus)

Perfect games are for athletes and they are rare. A bowler or pitcher may achieve perfection once in a while. But beyond that, athletes, like officials, aren’t flawless (think fumbles, errors and turnovers).

For players, coaches and officials, the fun part of sports comes in the with the adjusting, the adapting and rising to big moment. Doing what’s necessary to get the job done while trying to be perfect would ruin most of that fun. Still, in the age of instant replay, 24-hour sports news networks, everyone in the stands with a handheld recording device (and my personal favorite postgame internet trolls), the pressure on officials to be perfect is very real. So what can we do? It’s been said that perfection is not attainable, but those who chase perfection can catch excellence. If you can be successful in the following areas, you will be closer to the unattainable.

Be prepared

Control what you can control, such as your fitness, uniform, and rules and mechanics knowledge. Forget about that which is out of your hands, such as the weather, traffic and other people’s moods. Don’t sweat the small stuff; that will reduce the chances of errors.

Be a student

Every game is an opportunity for learning and improving. Don’t dwell on mistakes but use them as a means of motivating yourself to be better the next time out. You will find you’ve built a sort of database that you can mentally sift through when presented with game situations.

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Be contrite

A big in-game error that cannot be reversed is disappointing. When it happens, the best course is to own up to it. “I’m sorry, coach. I made a mistake but I can’t fix it.” In the moment, do not defend, justify or analyze your mistake. I have yet to meet a coach who has a comeback for, “I was wrong and I’m sorry.” Of course, that sort of apology only works once with each coach. And if you find yourself having to apologize on a regular or semiregular basis, it’s time to review the rules or mechanics.

Be resilient

Just like good goalies, relief pitchers and placekickers, you have to forget the most recent mistake so the rest of the game won’t suffer. Stay in the moment. The rest of the game needs the best that you have to offer. You can analyze your mistake with a microscope on the ride home.

Be productive

If your game is telecast or recorded, and you’re able to watch it later, turn the sound off. Listening to the analysis of someone without actual rules knowledge who has the benefit of watching from above, replay or frame-by-frame slow motion will not help you; it will likely only anger you. Similarly, going into online or other social media forums where anonymous internet trolls opine about bad officiating will not help you.

Talk to those you trust — your partners, your assigner or your mentor — about your game and discuss any concerns you may have. If you made a mistake, ask what could have been done to prevent it. Perhaps you had a bad experience with a player or coach. Ask those who know how it could have been managed better. That is where the real learning takes place.

It can be hard to have a goal that can never be achieved. Like hunting Sasquatch or unicorns, the pleasure in pursuing a perfect game has to come in the journey and the stories we share with each other about almost having the perfect game until …

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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.

This article is the copyright of ©Referee Enterprises, Inc., and may not be republished in whole or in part online, in print or in any capacity without expressed written permission from Referee. The article is made available for educational use by individuals.

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