If someone told you a they had a way to get better by next year, would you do it no matter what it was? It’s safe to assume that most of us want to improve and be great officials. But getting there always takes time and effort.
How much time you are willing to devote to improvement is totally up to you. We’re ready to share some great ideas we’ve collected — things that you can put into your long-term plan that will start to deliver results within a year and put you on the path to future success. You can also read back to our lists of ways to Get Better by Tomorrow, Get Better By Next Week and Get Better by Next Month.
Apply the following ideas and you’ll get better. Whether you are new to officiating or getting close to hanging it up, you can upgrade your game by putting these short-term or long-term plans into action.
Get Better By Next Year
Drop weight and get in shape
Your uniforms don’t fit as well as they used to? Buying new gear every year in a larger size to accommodate your girth? Not as light on your feet as you used to be? Adopt the mantra, “Eat Less, Do More” and you’ll go a long way toward solving those problems. Beyond the boost it will give your image, self-esteem and officiating performance, you’ll be doing yourself a service by avoiding major health issues like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. The weight won’t fly off. But if you execute your plan at the end of one season, you have a better chance of being trimmer for the next one.
Attend a camp
If you’ve never been to a camp, you’ve missed a golden opportunity. Beyond learning the latest rules, mechanics, techniques and philosophies, camps provide an opportunity to network with other officials and influential people in our industry. If you’re one who complains that the only people who move up are those who “know somebody,” camps are a chance to “meet somebody.”
Get a mentor
Ask any successful official for secrets to success and he or she will tell you they got a helping hand from someone along the way. Whether it was part of a formal mentoring program or just a grizzled veteran who was willing to help, few officials advance without tutoring of some sort. Find someone who is willing to watch you work, answer your questions and serve as a sounding board.
Serve as a mentor
By serving as a mentor, you can improve your own officiating. Over the course of the year, watching your mentee work, answering his or her questions by digging into the rulebook and casebook and serving as a sounding board will make you better.
Run for a board position in your association
Yes, yes. We all spend a lot of time on officiating already. Who needs more? Well, your association does. Good, loyal, hard-working volunteers to fill board positions are hard to find. Instead of sitting in the back of the meeting room complaining about the decisions made by the officers, put yourself in a position to help change things. Taking on a leadership role will also help you as an official and person. The fact your chapter benefits is the cherry on top of the sundae.
Volunteer for Special Olympics or a charity event
Coaches, players and fans are so focused on who wins and who loses that they lose sight of the fact that sports are supposed to be fun. All of the related pressure and scrutiny placed on officials can wear down your spirit. If you need to see athletes having a blast just playing the game, volunteer to officiate Special Olympics events. Some preparation is necessary, however. Be ready for an athlete to run up and give you a bear hug (before, during or after the contest) for no reason other than because you are there, and have a handkerchief ready. Volunteering for any event makes you feel good and appreciated.
Upgrade your equipment/uniform
The athletic equipment industry is very competitive. Everyone is trying to build a better mousetrap. The people who manufacture and sell officiating gear continue to come up with new and improved uniforms, protective equipment and more. Simply putting on a pair of ultra light plate shoes won’t improve your judgment of the strike zone, but they will give you more protection. That leads to fewer injuries, which results in more games you can work. Also, if your uniform and gear is old and worn, replace it. Others’ perception of you will improve dramatically just by you wearing a uniform that fits or doesn’t have holes in it.
Add another sport
There are thousands of officials who work one sport at one level. Nothing wrong with that. But adding a sport to your repertoire gives assigners one more person to count on to fill games and expands your officiating horizons. Repetitions of any officiating kind sharpen your judgment skills and ultimately lead to overall improvement.
Work lower-level games
No officiating assignment is to be taken lightly. But few would argue there is less pressure at the non-varsity level. Working youth, junior varsity or freshman games allows you to hone your judgment skills in games played at a slower speed than the varsity level.
Take a vacation
Sometimes we need to take a step back and get away from officiating for a while. Wait, what? Give up game days? Unthinkable! Well, think about it. Not only does taking a vacation help you recharge your officiating and non-officiating batteries, it helps you reconnect with loved ones who are left behind while you are out plying your avocation. Set aside some of the money you make from officiating to fund a getaway. A happier, less-stressed official is a better official.
Set long-term goals and reach them
We all need a carrot at the end of the stick, be it a move up the ladder, the big game or improved test scores. Give yourself something to shoot for and do whatever it takes to achieve the goal. Understand the goal should represent a challenge but not something so pie in the sky that you’ll become discouraged by not reaching it. Don’t feel like you’re in it alone. Seek assistance from other officials, assigners or coordinators if they can help by giving you more or better assignments, feedback or mentoring.
If you don’t have time to improve, make time. A few minutes here and long-term dedication there are possible, if that is what you want. Ready, set, go make a difference in your game.
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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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