(Photo Credit: Dale Garvey)

Most people think two teams are required for athletic competition. Officials know better. It takes three — the teams scheduled to take the field or court, plus the team of officials. Anything else is just practice.

Just as the athletes must work as a team to win, the officiating crew must exhibit teamwork in order to execute at the highest level. But being assigned to a crew does not ensure teamwork. So how well do our crews perform?

Grade your team on these 9 items and see how you fare.

1. Is everyone on the crew there for the same reason? Common mission and values drive team success. The pressure to “move up” or earn postseason assignments is a powerful one. The desire to make more money doing other sports can be a draw as well. Is there enough focus by individual crew-members on the game at hand?

2. Does the crew take personal responsibility for game preparation? Is the crew ready? Many associations require weekly caseplay reviews and regular study. But even when that’s not the case, it’s the individual’s responsibility to maintain a solid understanding of the fouls, penalties, rules, and specifics of the position. Does the crew arrive at the pregame prepared? Do the members hold one another accountable?

3. What is the nature of the pregame meeting? Is it business or bickering? Overly convivial? Are the pregame meetings coordinated and geared to discussing points events? Does the atmosphere encourage questions and learning? Or are they sessions mired in complaints about game fees, the quality of the competing teams or the assignments of other officials?

4. How does the crew view the crew chief or lead official? The head of the crew wields significant influence not only on the field or court but off. During a game does he or she create an environment of, “Let’s just get the call right,” or one of, “Don’t embarrass me”? Are crewmembers more concerned with the lead official’s influence on subsequent playoff assignments?

5. How is conflict handled? Officials are notoriously confident — they have to be in order to make split-second decisions. In pressure-filled situations that confidence can manifest itself in the form of closed minds and an unwillingness to discuss other viewpoints. Is your crew able to constructively and quickly handle conflict among crewmembers?

6. Does the crew focus only on the negative? Clearly missed calls draw the most attention and they need to be addressed at the appropriate time. However, positive feedback validates good performance and builds a constructive and upbeat atmosphere.

7. Are crewmembers empowered? Empowerment is a word often overused and seldom understood. Empowered team members enjoy an environment of trust that fuels assured decision-making. They are vested in the success of the crew.

8. Are the roles of each crewmember clear? That is usually a case of mechanics, but it’s one worth revisiting on a regular basis. Who has the ball? Who has the action around the play? Those processes often change as crews grow and offseason rules are enactedDoes the crew communicate? Every sport requires communication among crew-members. That isn’t limited to the pregame meeting. Rather, adopt sound in-game mechanics that allow effective communication among crew members before and after the play.

9. Does the crew follow through? Teamwork among officiating crews need not end when time expires, or the final out is recorded. Effective teams use postgame discussions to reinforce positive aspects of their performance and identify areas that need attention. The officiating crew may not be the team the crowd pays to see, but they need to function as a team is just as important. Use the above questions as a guideline to see where your crew stands.

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