Pass On Officiating Wisdom
Knowledge-sharing is crucial to the individual official and the industry as a whole. (Photo Credit: Dale Garvey)

Whether you’ve been officiating for some time or you simply have three more games under your belt than another official, you’re in a position to pass on your wisdom, teach, mentor and make other officials better.

Our egos (substantial they may be) often don’t match up with our innate abilities to convey information, although we enjoy the opportunity to do so. Many of us practically force our stories and instructions on our fellow officials, knowing in our hearts they need our hard-earned knowledge lest they fall off the officiating radar forever.

Ever been to an officiating camp? Watch the campers. Despite the fact each of them paid great amounts of money to be exposed to select instructors and famed assigners, they will spend hours in the corner instructing each other. Don’t kid yourself — everyone fancies himself or herself an able teacher. The sheer amount of misinformation spilled into waiting brain cells daily throughout the year is amazing.

Make certain the soil is fertile and ready to germinate the seeds of information. It doesn’t matter how awful the official is, or how badly he or she needs to learn. If the official has a closed mind, nothing you say will sway him or her.

Start by asking, “So, what level do you want to end up as an official?” If the official wishes to move up, you will next say, “I can help you get there. Here are a couple of tips that helped me.”

Information must come from a level of power. Represent the information or yourself as having some credibility that makes it important to the other person. If you’re the assigner or paid to evaluate, well, there you go. Otherwise, saying, “I just learned this at camp” adds cache to your tidbit, enough to make the listener more impressed and more than yearning to listen.

Every official has an ego, and the higher the level, the larger the ego. Sugarcoat the information, remembering you are there to help with improvement, not to condemn (unless you are there to fire the official, in which case, have a heart and leave the notes at home).

That doesn’t mean for you to just start with something positive, so you can move on to the negative. It means trying to meld every comment with a stir-fry of boost. “I wish every official in my association had your mechanics. If you could mix those mechanics with the ability to hold your whistle another second to see the play, you’d be unstoppable.”

As a younger official, you still have insights to share, even with the best. Ask the veteran, “Hey, I saw something in your game out there; can we talk about it? I want to know if I’m right.”

Officials often tend to become spillways of information, using any opportunity to give you tons of information at once.

There’s just so much any one brain can handle, and the younger the official, the less the official can introduce into his or her gray matter. Identify the issue at hand and break down the lesson to help with improvement. You can briefly mention the goal, but give the information to get there in increments, doable peaks for the official to climb.

“Hey, remember, it takes about five years to be a really great official, and you’re on your way for sure. But first you’ve gotta have that loud whistle and loud voice. Add that to a sharp signal and you’re set for the first year! Let’s hear your best whistle.”
It works for high-level officials as well with the luxury of being even more technical based on their experience.

“Don’t you think?” is a great line. Unless you’re the camp counselor or evaluator, show that you’re working with your fellow official to get him or her to improve. Ask follow-up questions and meet at the plane of discovery together. “Doesn’t that feel much better?” “See how holding the whistle allowed you to pass on that play?” “Man, you’re getting better at seeing the whole play when you referee the defender.”

Know Your Audience

Teachers in a classroom have to work generically in large groups, but can really shape their message when they get the individual student alone. That’s when instructors can use all their knowledge about the student to dig into their bag of teaching tricks.

Some people aren’t the keenest of learners. Some are visual learners, some must actually perform the task to get it, and some … well, some folks just have passed the point of learning altogether. That doesn’t mean you can’t offer them some hope.

There’s a special time, an eerie quiet that happens when you are speaking and everyone in the place is hanging on every word. It tells you that your tone has been perfect, your message taken, your advice crucial. Your goal is to get to that point in the locker room or in the corner of that court or field each time. It tells you perfectly how well you’re doing as an evaluator, that you have measured your advice and your students well, their eyes clear and solidly watching yours.

It tells you that you are right where you belong, and so are they. Most importantly, it tells you they will enact what you’re saying as soon as possible, and truly will take the next great step forward as officials.

That’s the ultimate praise for you as a mentor: to see the seeds you’ve planted grow and carry the stripes to the sky (or to the championship). Your role in their growth might be forgotten, but you’ll know what you did and why — enough to feed your ego for years to come.

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