It has been said for years that the easiest, most efficient method for holding an assistant referee flag is to let it hang down the center of the right-hand palm and exit the hand between the pointer and middle fingers, as seen in the PlayPic. However, many assistant referees grasp the flag handle as though they were holding a stick and were going to poke something in front of them.

Here is the rationale:

1. The “like-a-stick” grasp or grip causes the flag to be aimed outward instead of hanging straight downward and the only way to avoid the “pointing outward” is to bend the wrist unnaturally, causing strain on the wrist and leading to cramping or rapid tiring.

2. The “between-the-fingers” grasp or grip makes it easier to change hands (which must occasionally occur either when changing direction on the touchline or when starting to signal in a hand other than the one in which the flag was being held). There are more muscles being used in the “like-a stick” grasp or grip when changing hands and that increases the likelihood of losing confident control of the flag — dropping the flag or having it flung away when making an energetic signal. If you see a flag change hands in slow motion, it quickly becomes evident that the “like-a-stick” grasp or grip actually includes a brief time when the flag is only barely in good contact with one or another hand. Watch relay runners trade batons to see something similar.

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3. The “between-the-fingers” grasp or grip enables a smoother transition from the “held-straight-downward” position to a signaling position where the flag is a clean extension of the arm. The “like-a-stick” grasp or grip often results unconsciously in the flag continuing to be held like a stick even when signaling — and as a consequence the flag is to one degree or another not an extension of the arm (a “wrist break”).

Once demonstrated, most assistant referees quickly understand the effectiveness of the “between-the-fingers” grasp or grip. If you want the flag to be held straight downward at the side when not signaling and you want the flag to be an extension of the arm when you are signaling, “between-the-fingers” is the way to go.

To help with making the flag an extension of the arm when signaling, many assistant referees move their index finger to a position along the flag shaft in the process of adjusting their grip for the actual signal.

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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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