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We don’t like it when we mess up. Yet, in trying to eliminate errors, most of our focus is on rules and mechanics. The other elements of officiating — specifically communication and comportment— are equally important. Here are some additional items to think about as you analyze your performance.

You’re making an officiating error if:

You Don’t Have Fun

It can be tough to enjoy yourself when all hell is breaking loose around you, but if officiating is your vocation or avocation you’d better find a way to do exactly that — enjoy yourself.

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OK, it’s a stretch to expect you to have fun as you walk over to deal with an angry coach. But that’s the job you’ve signed on to do. The good officials get through a tough situation; the great ones find the right thing to say to the coach to get him to smile.

There’s no magic formula, but if you don’t live for the gut-wrenching game situations, if you don’t want the big call, you need to evaluate your officiating career goals.

You Don’t Keep and Accurate Schedule Record

Have you missed a game recently? Arrived late when everyone else was on time? Gone to the wrong school, field or stadium? Chances are, it’s because you don’t keep an accurate schedule.

When we here schedule, most of us think immediately about getting to the right place on the right day at the right time — and that’s a lot of what keeping an officiating schedule is all about, but not all.

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Your schedule record should also tell you which teams played which games, what position you worked on a certain date, which team won, who your partners were and whether there were any unusual game situations or serious injuries. Many times liability suits can come months or years after an incident and being able to quickly give accurate details about a past game can benefit you greatly.

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An accurate personal officiating schedule will also prevent double-booking. Many officials get assignments through multiple assigning services and receive some assignments over the phone as well. An accurate schedule will make it much easier to make sure you’re payed correctly, and you should also keep track of expenses and tax deductions in your record to make tax time easier.

An accurate long-term record will give you a fighting chance to reestablish your officiating schedule promptly in case you ever move to a different city. There’s no guarantee, but wouldn’t you feel more comfortable offering your new assignor a detailed list of the games you’ve worked each of the last five years instead of just telling him you’ve had a full varsity schedule since the turn of the century?

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You Don’t Take Care of Business

What’s the typical turnaround time between when you receive a voice message, text or email and when you return it?

How many days does it take you to accept or decline game assignments you’ve received through ArbiterSports or other assigning services?

If your full-time job will prevent you from working a game next month, will you tell your assignor today, tomorrow or next week?

There’s rarely a good reason to wait more than 24 hours to react to any of those things.

You Don’t Start Each Game Fresh

We give a lot of lip service to the concept that “every game is a new beginning.”

You can’t carry anger or frustrations of past games into new, unrelated contests. If you have a particularly taxing game that you’re still carrying with you, actively try to find a way to release that tension before you work again. Talking to partners or mentors about the situation is a great tactic for dissolving strain. Many officials also find that a good workout helps or taking time for a relaxing pastime that takes your mind off any stress you’re dealing with.

Additionally, even the appearance of punishing a coach or player in “this” game for something that happened in the past will taint your reputation.

Here’s a hypothetical situation: Joe Jones announced his retirement as he worked his final basketball season. As was often the case, he received a coveted postseason assignment during a second or third round of the state basketball tournament.

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One of the coaches was infamous for being obnoxious on the sidelines. He pushed the sportsmanship envelope every night. During the first quarter of Joe’s last game, Joe hit the coach with back-to-back technical fouls and ejected him from the game.

Did the coach deserve the technical fouls? That doesn’t matter. Primarily because the ejection happened so fast and so early in the game, it appeared to some observers that Joe took advantage of his last officiating assignment to “even the score” with a long-time antagonist by chasing him from the sideline during the state playoffs.

Whether the ejection was warranted or not, people make their own assumptions in cases like that and they rarely change their minds. Before penalizing a player or coach in any situation, ask yourself the hard question: “Does my reaction stem from a past incident?” If so, reevaluate the situation and determine if the perceived infraction warrants a penalty. When history plays a part in your decision-making, work hard at finding another way to deal with the problem. You and the game will be better for it.

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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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