Although officiating is an avocation for most of us, it is one that must be treated as a business. Officiating should be fun, but not at the expense of professionalism. In that vein, the court or field is like a workplace and the officials are like managers. There are a number of rules that are equally applicable to the workplace and the field.

The following are examples of office rules that have parallels in officiating.

Arrive on time or inform the office of your whereabouts

Just as you would never arrive very late for work without calling the office, arriving late for an officiating assignment is a cardinal sin. It causes worry for the game manager and disrupts the pregame routine of coaches and participants.

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Whenever possible, you should leave for the assignment early enough that a minor delay doesn’t force you to rush to the game. If an unforeseen emergency, such as a flat tire, causes you to be unavoidably detained, try to call the game manager or another official who may have a cell phone and let them know you’re on your way. Maintain a record of phone numbers and take it with you to every assignment.

Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself

There is nothing wrong with laughing about something that happens on the field, within reason. If you take a tumble on a slippery field and the fall doesn’t cause you to miss a play or become injured, you might as well chuckle because chances are others will. A friendly expression lets coaches and players know you are approachable and conveys an appearance of self-confidence.

Never laugh over an injury or a team’s misfortune. Off-color jokes regarding race, religion, sexual orientation or other politically incorrect topics should not be shared on the field or court or in the workplace.

Don’t act superior

The longer you officiate, the more you will work with officials who are less experienced or less competent than yourself. In the workplace and in officiating, the job goes more smoothly if people work together.

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An experienced official should never overrule a less-seasoned partner, but the veteran can help the crewmate correct an obvious error. The helping official can ask the calling official, “Did you get a good look at the play?” That initiates a quick conversation about what happened. The helping official then tells the calling official what the helping official saw. The calling official makes the decision on how to handle it. If the calling official changes the call, only the calling official makes the new signal.

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That technique should be used sparingly or coaches and players won’t respect the decisions of the inexperienced official. It may also shatter the official’s confidence.

Clear up petty problems when they occur

In a work setting, minor misunderstandings or poor communication can turn mole hills into mountains. If a player is in a talkative mood or is playing in a manner that is bordering on roughness but is not worthy of a penalty, a quiet but firm word may be in order. Use your voice to let players know their actions are being observed.

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If the player persists, inform the captain or the coach. Something as simple as “Coach, your number 24 is giving me some problems. I’d appreciate it if you’d calm him down” lets the coach know you’re trying to defuse the situation without a penalty.

Practice good hygiene

Appearance counts in the workplace and in officiating. In the course of your officiating duties, your hair may become tousled and you may work up a sweat. But before the game, your hair should be neatly combed and deodorant should be applied, if necessary.

If your lunch included garlic, onions or something else that causes bad breath, consider chewing gum, gargling or brushing your teeth before the game. Male officials should shave or manicure facial hair the day of the game.

(those with heavier beards may choose to shave in the locker room before the contest).

Thou shalt not steal

Most employers don’t allow employees to help themselves to office supplies or work products. Likewise, under no circumstances should an official help himself to equipment or anything else that doesn’t belong to him. Game balls should be returned to the home coach or game manager, not taken home for Junior. Towels provided by the host school should be placed in the proper receptacle, not in your equipment bag.

Leave the office at the office

If you’ve had a tough day at the office, it’s not fair to take out your emotions on family and friends. Similarly, when you step on the field or court, the teams deserve officials who exert mental and physical energy. If you’re worried about the stack of work on your desk, your attention won’t be on the officiating task at hand. Likewise, if you quarreled with your boss or a co-worker before you left work, it’s unfair to take out your anger on the players, coaches and other officials.

Think of the games as a respite from your problems and your entire outlook may improve.

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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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