Photo Credit: Bob Messina

At any sporting event, you’re likely to hear someone holler, “Keep your head in the game!” That heckler might not be referring to the athletes. He or she might be talking to the officials.

Games at all levels are taking longer to complete, and can now be drawn-out affairs. You can be sure that you’ll have at least one or two games each season that will keep your focus to the final play. But you’ll have some stinkers, too — games that simply drag on.

Remain attentive as the game drags

It might be easy to stay focused early on, but how can you stay attentive in games that seemingly won’t end? And how can you maintain concentration in those lengthy contests even when the score is close?

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Talk to yourself.

Don’t be self-conscious about verbalizing your internal dialogue. It’s a way to try to maintain focus. You don’t have to be loud and conspicuous about it, but if your concentration is lagging, you should do anything you can to keep in the game. If you don’t, you could be lulled into complacency and not be ready for the next play.


If you’re working a sport that has down time between plays, consider what a team might try to do next. Going through play scenarios and trying to anticipate what coaches are planning based on what’s currently happening in the game will keep your mind from wandering and help make you a better official.

Consider your evaluations.

It’s expected that you will be trying your best to make good calls when the game is on the line, but the difference between good and great is how you call the routine plays. Evaluators and coaches will notice officials who are doing good work even during blowouts or games without a lot of action.

Remember the embarrassment factor.

Think about how mortified you’ll feel if you miss an easy call because you lost focus. The fear of embarrassment can be a motivator to stay in the game.

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Hydrate and fuel.

If you’re hot and thirsty, you could lose focus, especially if all you’re thinking about is getting a drink. You should also consider eating an energy bar at halftime to keep your blood sugar up, which is a big factor in your ability to concentrate.

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It’s your responsibility.

Ultimately, you are hired to work the full duration of a contest’s time limit. Not to work a half, or three-quarters of it. That means calling the very last play with as much focus and effort as you called the very first. As an official, it’s your duty to do no less.

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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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