Officiating mimics life. Do it long enough and you’re sure to experience the full gamut of emotions. There are times when you’ll experience incredible satisfaction and moments of pure joy. Conversely, there are times when the officiating gig will break your heart. Officials across the country put a lot of time and effort into their avocation (and for some, their profession). Sooner or later, things won’t go your way. When you get knocked down, the important thing to remember is to accept the news for what it is and try your best to move forward.
After spending 10 years in professional baseball and recognizing that the end of the road had come, I had to transition to “life after baseball.” It was not easy. Yes, I was disappointed. I was mad. I was hurt. You name it, I felt it.
I had to recognize what the experience was and, over time, I came to an important realization. I realized that it was an incredible decade that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The pluses greatly outweighed the minuses. It wasn’t even close.
Bad news can come in a variety of forms for officials. It might be not getting the state finals assignment that you’ve been working for your whole career. Maybe you’ve been going to camps and clinics for years but still can’t break into the college scene. It could even be the breakup of a crew that has spent years working together. Whatever it is, you’re going to go through a few different emotional phases as you deal with the disappointment.
Setting goals means there’s a chance they won’t be met. If your goal is to get the regional assignment this year and you get shut out for the fifth consecutive year when everyone around you seems to be advancing, you’re not going to be a happy camper. Yell, curse, go hit the punching bag for an hour, do whatever it is that you do in those situations. Contrary to public opinion, we are human beings. We have emotions. It’s OK to be angry and frustrated. That means you care and that officiating is important to you.
After the initial pain has passed, accept what happened (or didn’t happen) and try to learn from it. That timeframe might differ for each individual. For some, severe disappointment could lead to leaving officiating altogether. If so, step back and think about why you started officiating in the first place. Did you do it solely to reach the next level or check the next accomplishment off the list? Or did you do it because there is no other place you’d rather be on a Friday night? You might realize a few things that you’ve forgotten along the way. I know I did.
After the initial mourning period and taking some time to reflect, the only thing left to do is move on. Maybe you decide to keep working toward the goal that you want so badly. If you’ve been jealous and badmouthing those officials that have caught some breaks, you should realize that engaging in that behavior doesn’t accomplish anything. Focusing your efforts on seizing future opportunities instead of rehashing the past might be what you need. It’s a cheesy line, but other doors do open when one closes. Commit yourself to becoming physically fit before next season so that you can look the part to the best of your ability. Whatever course of action you decide to take, do it with an open mind. You can’t control the actions of others, but you can control your mind-set and outlook.
Disappointment is inevitable. Dealing with it effectively and in a healthy way is a huge hurdle to overcome. When we all retire and reflect on our careers, I bet the good times will outnumber the bad. It might not be easy at the time, but we don’t officiate because it’s easy. We’re a tough and relentless breed. After all, we’re officials.
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