To achieve maximum personal success and productivity as a basketball official, one has to be highly motivated and have a positive attitude. Furthermore, to reach and maintain top officiating performance, officials must not only endure the familiar physical and mental demands associated with the sport, but they must also embrace and never lose sight of all the benefits of officiating.

The positives are plentiful but easy to lose sight of, and even forget, occasionally. Fortunately, such lapses can be minimized, if not avoided altogether, by remembering that … you are already there.

Where exactly is there? Knowing the answer and understanding that question will make you a more productive official and, more than anything, inspire self-motivation and foster a positive attitude — season after season.

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Where is there?

There is not a destination; rather, it is a point in time when officials can fondly reflect on their unique officiating journey. To avoid any possible confusion to that analogy, it is important to be able to distinguish between “there” and a professional goal. There is not the accomplishment of a personal goal such as officiating a postseason assignment or any number of assignments, earning membership to a particular association or conference staff, making a set amount of earnings or accomplishing any other achievable milestone that can easily be replaced by another. Those certainly are important from a personal perspective, but they alone do not measure the success of a basketball official. As it should be, the true measure of success for any official will always be assessed by the official.

If and when an official meets a goal, that goal is replaced (usually) by another or a series of others — and a course is mapped to accomplish them. There are too many occurrences in which officials are blinded by personal successes as having more value than where they are and how they got there. “There” is the aura surrounding the activity itself.

“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”
— Yogi Berra

A key to successful officiating, again, is to remain motivated. Many a misguided official has toiled long and hard thinking that he or she has “arrived,” only to realize that, upon arrival, “there” is not the utopia the official had mistakenly envisioned. That is true whether one has achieved or failed to achieve a goal. Too often, disenchantment ensues, which detracts from the official maintaining or reaching top performance. That clearly should not happen. Officials should protect themselves against falling into that common trap by reminding themselves of how and why they are there — that special place where they have been all along.

What is so important about there?

What happens when an official fails to meet a personal goal year after year? How does the disappointment affect an official’s attitude and performance? Some officials react in a less-than-positive way by not accepting that periodic setbacks are inevitable during the course of their officiating careers. Being there is a privilege that supersedes any and all personal goals. How officials react to the ebb and flow of officiating impacts how they mature professionally. Not every official will always get a schedule or postseason assignment he or she desires. But working on a Friday night in half-filled gymnasium is no less important.

“It’s so important to know where you are.”
— Jim Valvano

A taste of the action.

For many, having a “taste of the action” and enjoying successes early and often fuels the passion to strive for more. Too many officials become disoriented on that unpredictable path and lose sight of what persuaded them to officiate. Some officials become frustrated by dwelling (at times incessantly) on why they have not “arrived.”

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Invariably, such frustration can often negatively affect an official’s optimal focus. Focus on areas you can control — play-calling, fitness, game command — and less on the areas you have no control over — bad-mouthing, name-calling and laziness.

Proof that you have been there all along.

After pondering each of the following, officials should more clearly realize that they are there, and have been all along. Can you recall where you were last year, the year before or even 10 years ago? Recall your emotions, the people, the year and other details surrounding:

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  • Your first basketball officiating assignment.
  • Working with a revered veteran basketball official.
  • Being selected for a choice assignment.
  • The wildest game you ever officiated.
  • Your most embarrassing officiating-related moment.
  • Your first ejection or technical foul.
  • An inspirational assignment (Special Olympics, charity event, e.g.).
  • Your association with a special person who made a significant impact on your
    officiating career.
  • Biggest travel snafu.
  • Your biggest on-court screw-up (and surviving it).
  • Your closest friends associated with officiating.

“Getting there isn’t half the fun, it’s all the fun.”
— Robert Townsend

When you reflect on your officiating career as such it should become more apparent that you are firmly planted in being there. For sure, there have been less memorable episodes as well, but would you trade it all to not have endured those priceless experiences? It should be clear that it is the journey, not the destination that is the ultimate reward to officiating.

It is your choice to officiate, so make the most of that priceless experience by appreciating your many blessings and exuding a positive attitude. Be thankful that you have the physical ability and mental capacity to contribute to a demanding sport. You should be able to find joy in every game — even those in which you could not wait to get out of there! If you can reflect on every game you officiate and feel that it was a day or evening well spent, then rest assured that you were there.

“And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”
— Confucius

You were there all along — from the game’s first jump ball to the final horn. Make the most of what you do as an official. Quite simply, the key to your success and personal satisfaction in officiating can be found by understanding that … you are already there.

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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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