Now that you’ve agreed to be an assigner, what can you expect? From experience, I can tell you there’ll be high points and low points. It’s not a popularity contest, and you may not make many “new” friends during your tenure. It’s a difficult, thankless job, but now that you find yourself in that position, you need to do the best job you can for the majority of the members. Every decision you make reflects on you as the assigner, and on your association. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you along the way.

1. Know your assigning system.

When I started assigning three years ago, I didn’t know a lot about our scheduling system. If you can get some instruction from your previous assigner, that’s great. In our local association, the treasurer is responsible for making sure the assigning gets done, whether they do it themselves, or select someone to do it, with the board’s approval, and under the supervision of the treasurer. The first thing I did was get on our web system, navigate around it, and find out what looked fairly simple, and what I was going to have to spend more time on. I also made it a point to build a repoire with the webmaster of our website, which incorporates the assigning system into it. We had quite a few conversations that first season, both to learn what the system was currently set up for, and to find out what it wasn’t doing yet that it was capable of. You really want to let your system work for you. Scheduling, billing and payroll should all be handled by a good web assigning system. If you have a smaller association, and are still scheduling on the paper and telephone call system, that’s fine. You still want to understand how to work that system and keep good records.

2. Know your personnel.

It’s imperative that you know who your “problem children” are right away. You also need to know who your “go to” people are. Knowledge of both are equally important. Your problem children will take up a majority of your time, if you let them. Don’t! Your “go to” people will save your bacon many times during the season, with last-minute fill-ins, or by doing that game that no one else wants, and they’ll do it without griping about it. Reward them when possible, and always thank them.

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3. Set definite criteria for assignments and advancement.

At the beginning of the season, the association board needs to set criteria for the assigning and advancement. That takes the assigner out of play in a lot of situations. Either the member fulfilled the criteria or didn’t. Our board uses meeting attendance, test scores, clinics attendance, mentorship and evaluations as a basis for varsity assignments and postseason play. Our board also meets and votes on who will be awarded a postseason recommendation for either a region or state slot. It’s not the choice of one or two people, but the entire board.

4. Be fair and honest.

Those are absolutes and go hand in hand. If you’re not fair in the eyes of the majority of your group, you’re in trouble. If you’re still an active official, assign yourself at the level you were when you took over the assigning job, and don’t use that as an opportunity to “raise” your assignments. That’ll not bode well for your future as an assigner.

Personality conflicts cannot come into play when assigning. Whether you like or dislike an official is immaterial. Are they capable of handling the level of game that you are assigning? Are you giving them the opportunity to advance, if warranted? If they call you and ask for an assessment of their abilities, give them an honest answer based on your observations and the feedback directed to you by board members or senior officials. Be honest and at the same time be as unbiased as you can. Give them what they need to work on, and give them positive points. Keep good records of reports about officials, especially complaints from school or league administrators. Share those with the official, without naming names, to let them know that is serious, and you want them to work on improvement.

5. Be approachable.

The members need to know you are working for them. They need to know they can call you and discuss an assignment, a game situation that went awry or a personal issue. They shouldn’t have to be worried about their schedule being in jeopardy. The members also need to know the absolutes. The items I require of our officials are simple:

A. Be accurate in your availability. If you’re not sure, you’re not available.

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B. Check the schedule when published, and let me know right away if you can’t do the assigned games. Everyone should work rec, youth, C and JV, even varsity officials. For training purposes, we assign all high school ball as three-crew, if we have enough officials available. We use our varsity officials as trainers during the C/JV games, giving immediate feedback to the younger/newer officials.

6. Be available.

Be available to devote an immense amount of time during the season to assigning. Make sure your spouse and family buy in. Be available to field calls from coaches, administrators and officials at almost anytime. Be available to watch games and offer positive feedback to aspiring officials. Watching games allows you to better assess the capabilities and attitudes of your officials. Attitude incorporates everything from work ethic, loyalty to the association, showing up on time and at the right gym, being a great partner, self evaluation and constantly striving to be better.

Assigning isn’t for everyone. It’s like being parent, friend, confidant, father confessor and most of all babysitter all rolled into one. As with most jobs, 10 percent of the people will cause 90 percent of the problems. You have to be persistent to “gut it out.” You get paid, but like good officials, you can’t be doing it just for the money. You have to be passionate about it, and want to do your best. If you’ve agreed to do it, tackle it with all the gusto you can manage. There are a lot of headaches, but there are a lot of rewards. Watching younger officials advance because of your training, or giving them opportunities to officiate higher level games is a thrill. Remember where you came from, how you got to where you are, and give back.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.


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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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