Hustle is defined in different ways by different sports officials, but many will point out that the physical — get from here to there as fast as possible — type of hustle is what counts most. Not so fast. That is one kind of hustle, but there are many more — good and not-so-good — that are not only physical in nature but mental as well. By incorporating important keys to hustle into your game, it will complement your rules, philosophy and mechanics knowledge and help you be a better official.
Seven keys to great mental and physical hustle that every official should consider for his or her game include the following:
Be In Shape
That is the foundation of hustle. Are you in good shape mentally and physically? Can you keep up with the physical demands that your sport(s) puts on its officials? Can you consistently run the floor or field from the beginning of the game to the finish without fatigue affecting your judgment or decision-making?
Some of the many reasons that officials need to get fit long before the season begins include improved energy levels, better sleep patterns, reduction of fat storage for a leaner body and athletic look, stress reduction and improved overall health. That all contributes to physical hustle.
Are you in good mental shape with rules and mechanics knowledge of the sport(s) that you are officiating? If you’re built like Tarzan or Jane with a weak knowledge of rules and mechanics, it won’t take long before that part of your game is embarrassingly exposed. Vice versa, if you have great knowledge of the rules and mechanics, but are not in good physical shape, chances are the game will literally pass you up sooner than you think.
In order to hustle and get to the right place at the right time, you need to be ready to move quickly. Don’t stand straight up with your knees locked and expect to hustle down the court and field at a moment’s notice. Depending on your sport, keep your knees slightly bent and your body relaxed so you can hustle into position when needed. A part of stance is body language as well. Instead of looking at the ground after calling a foul or penalty, continue to be alert, attentive and proactive to show you’re ready to move and the players and coaches have your attention.
Know Your Surroundings
You should know what is around you when you’re hustling up the court or field so you don’t run into game personnel along the sidelines. Good officials hustle and focus on everything that’s happening on the field or the court.
Sometimes things happen outside the lines that demand your attention. That’s a type of mental hustle to keep sharp by knowing when or if there are any game administrators or security people available in the event of unruly spectators. Maybe it’s an unruly fan at a high school football game or a group of parents during a youth game going off on you and your partner(s).
More and more, fans are taking to the field or court to settle differences with officials, creating a need for officials to divert their attention from the court or field to the stands at select times to preserve their safety.
Have Game Awareness
Perhaps the most fundamental reason to know the teams’ and players’ tendencies lies in an official’s ultimate charge — to get the call right. Officials should do what they need to do by preparing ahead of the game and certainly in the pregame to make themselves aware of what players and teams generally do in certain situations. If a team plays an up-tempo style, you may need to hustle up and down the court more often. You should be prepared for that.
It is important to realize, however, that just because players have done things in the past, it doesn’t mean they will do them in the future. Good players and coaches know how to adjust, so officials also are faced with the same challenges, which can be made during breaks or at the intermission.
Know hot to stop quickly
Sometimes signals can get sloppy because officials hurry through them. Maybe they’re walking or about to stop when they should be stopped, according to their mechanics manual. That’s a negative form of hustle. Keep it simple. The ball or clock, in most cases, is dead anyway. It may seem like it’s taking forever to convey a signal, but the scorekeepers will appreciate it. Coaches and your partner(s) will too.
In most sports, mechanics manuals ask officials to stop and then make a signal. Stop, stand tall, deliver the signal and hold it for an extra second. It projects a greater display of confidence, hustle and presence than walking through a signal, and it allows everyone that matters to see you.
Understand the levels of hustle
You need to be in the right position to make the best call possible. Quite often, that requires an intense effort and, at other times, not so intense.
During dead-ball periods, when hustle will get the game started quicker, trotting to a spot even when it’s not required indicates the official is “working” the game, rather than tired and uninterested. However, there is no need to sprint out to the mound. Fake hustle isn’t recommended.
Use sound mechanics
Utilizing approved mechanics from your officials’ manual in a crisp, matter-of-fact manner can be perceived as an energetic contributor to the game. Get comfortable with your place on the floor and the field so that rotations, positions and signals during the game become second nature and necessary motions are automatic. In turn, your attention will be in the right place.
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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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