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hile I have officiated since 1975, I have also served for 22 years as a high school softball assigner and 14 years as an NCAA Division III college football conference coordinator. For much of that time, I have kept an “assigning notebook.” What follows are my observations and thoughts as they pertain to what I have learned and what I recommend officials do to enhance their careers.

  • All officials think and believe they are better than they are (I am a prime example). In reality, all officials make some mistakes. The axiom that no perfect game has ever been officiated remains applicable to every sports official at every level. The key is to strive for continual improvement.
  • Far too many officials no longer study and read their rulebooks. While video is a great teaching tool, it will never fully replace studying and knowing the rules. An official not knowing the rules puts the assigner in an indefensible position.
  • Among other things, officiating should transcend race, gender, ethnicity, financial status, etc.
  • The degree of camaraderie between officials varies greatly from sport to sport. Football officials tend to have the greatest camaraderie of all officials, probably in large part due to the size of a typical football crew.
  • The best officials are the ones who are obsessed with excellence. The truly outstanding officials are always thinking about their sport. They rehash plays and are always seeking additional knowledge.
  • The fact is some officials are not as accomplished as other officials. That is true at all levels in every sport. I am fine with that, as long as an official makes a legitimate effort to be the best he or she can be.
  • An unfortunate trend is newer officials wanting to advance before they are legitimately ready for the next level. Officials need to learn the art of officiating. That takes most folks quite some time. While videos, podcasts and the like can accelerate an official’s advancement, officials learn best by officiating.
  • Officiating is not for everyone. That should be obvious, but many people believe anyone can officiate. Your next-door neighbor thinks he knows as much as you do about officiating. Obviously, that is totally untrue.
  • I believe there is a strong correlation between the amount of understanding and knowledge of the sport officials have and their performance. The more officials know about a sport, the better their chances of success. It is critical that an official understands the game.
  • Too many officials are unwilling to accept when it’s time to step off the field. At some point, every official will take off the stripes for the final time. Surely, that is often a very difficult decision. Ideally, every official would like to make that decision for themselves and not have someone else make it for them.
  • If you think you’ve been assigned to a low-level game, screw it up and watch how big it just became. Some games are “bigger” than others — but every game matters. Excellent officials adopt that approach entirely.
  • It is imperative officials are keenly aware of the time (not necessarily on a clock, but juncture of the game) and the score. Those two items dictate coaching tactics. For example, in softball, it is very probable that a team will bunt with a runner on first base with no outs in a tie game in the bottom of the seventh inning. That is less likely in the bottom of the first inning.
  • The best officials strive for continual improvement. There is always something to learn and improve upon. To be sure, perfection is impossible; however, I do believe excellence is an attainable and realistic goal.
  • Humor has a definite role to play and it must be balanced. Officiating should be challenging and fun, but it is not funny. Find humor where you can, but maintain professionalism.
  • The best officials are almost always the best prepared. Just as in anything else, there is a direct correlation between preparation and performance.
  • If the primary reason you officiate is for the money, you will never be as good as you can be. That said, all officials should demand their compensation be commensurate with the service they are providing. I believe the amount officials are typically compensated at the collegiate and high school levels is far short of what they deserve.
  • I strongly believe multi-sport officials can learn a great deal from each sport that will benefit them in their other sports. That is especially true when it comes to slowing down and timing.

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