Photo Credit: Dale Garvey

Whether this is your first year or 10th year as an official, there is great anticipation while you await your schedule. You can’t wait to get the season started. You hope you know some of the officials you will be working with and hope you’ll be traveling to places that you have never been.

Many officials scan the schedule not so much to see the teams playing but to see where the games are being played. Any overnighters? Any venues with personal or historical significance? Going to an arena or stadium for the first time?

At some point you will begin to plan your trips to assignments, especially the ones further away from where you live. If the games require you to leave work early, you’ll need to make arrangements with your employer. If you have kids, preparing your spouse ahead of time is advised, or you should be contacting a day care or babysitter well in advance to avoid scheduling issues.

Being a sports official is a demanding avocation, so not only do you need to be prepared for assignments, your family and your job need to be prepared, and last, but not least, your vehicle needs to be able to handle the trips. If you think about it, your car is your best friend on the road. The travel to and from your games places a lot of strain on your vehicle.

According to the U.S Census Bureau, in 2011 the average American drove 25.5 minutes (roughly 23 miles) to work. Depending on your schedule, driving to a contest could double, triple or quadruple your time on the road. That means your car must be in good shape.

Proper maintenance is key. Occasional contact with your mechanic will help you stay on top of the proper maintenance for your car.

Here are a few recommended things that you should have done before you leave for big trips:

  • Oil change.
  • Check tire pressure. Rotate tires if necessary.
  • Check all fluids (e.g. brake, radiator, windshield).
  • Make sure your spare tire has air in it. Also check to see if the jack is in working order.
  • Ensure the headlights (low and high beams) are in working order.
  • Check the wipers and wiper blades.
  • Test the heater or air conditioner to ensure a comfortable ride.

Once your car is set underneath the hood, here are a few suggestions for inside the vehicle.

  • GPS or travel app. Waze has real-time updates from others on the road. That can be helpful if construction or backups are an issue.
  • Printed directions as a back-up.
  • Blanket (winter).
  • Air pump or temporary tire repair product.
  • Cooler containing water, sports drinks and snacks.
  • Phone charger cords.
  • First aid kit.
  • Flashlight.
  • Phone numbers of crewmates and the host game manager or athletic director.
  • Change for tolls or an electronic toll-paying device with sufficient funds in the account.
  • Emergency gas can.

Most officials I know enjoy the camaraderie that comes with driving to and from games. Many discuss the game over a beer or food before heading home. Be sure to pick a place several miles from the game site to avoid bumping into fans who attended the game. If you’ll be having dinner as well, you may have to make reservations. Similarly, if your trip will require an overnight stay, be sure you have made hotel reservations.

Many officials say that the stories from road trips are, many times, more memorable than the games themselves. Planning ahead will allow you to enjoy those moments all the more because you won’t face anything you aren’t prepared for. See you on the road.

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