Photo Credit: Bob Messina

Youth leagues are where many officials get their start, particularly those who begin officiating at a young age. Those games provide a good place to develop skills. It’s rewarding to teach the young players sportsmanship, for example. Help them understand some of the finer points, like winning and losing gracefully. You might be amazed by how positive an impact it could have on their future.

But even if you advance to higher levels of a sport, you might want to consider going back to volunteer or work at the youth level for a season, a tournament or even just a game once-in-a-while.

You can promote officiating.

Show the enthusiasm you have for your officiating. You’ll notice how all the participants respond well to a positive, upbeat official. Whenever you’re officiating, you’re in a high-profile, high-visibility position.  Keep in mind, youth league games might be the first in-person interaction with officials for both the players and parents involved. Nothing is more important to the image of officiating and the recruitment of new officials than the public having good formative experiences with officials.

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Enjoy the credibility you gain with your service.

You’re there making the calls, displaying the mannerisms and decision-making abilities of an experienced official. That can impress young minds, or at least instill in them confidence that their game is in good hands, especially if they haven’t had many veterans work their games in the past. It’s perfectly reasonable to work youth games to recharge your batteries.

You can be a mentor to younger officials.

If you volunteer to work a youth game, you may be paired with a young or less-experienced official. Providing quality mentorship is vital to getting beginning officials to stick with it for the long haul. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have by sharing your skills and experience.

You can actually improve your skills.

One thing that is often overlooked about working lower level games is that they can sometimes be more difficult to officiate because what happens is less predictable. Participants in these contests are less experienced, less skilled and often coached less than at higher levels. This can result in officials having to adjust on the fly to situations that play out differently than they would in high school or college contests.

Remember, taking care of the youth game is taking care of the children. As they participate, there may be undesirable behaviors exhibited that you have to deal with. You might also have the opportunity to give feedback to players on how to play in a way that won’t get them called for something in the future.

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Sometimes the coaches and parents at youth games might let their emotions get the best of them. That is where your experience can really help the situation. Your leadership and people skills will come in handy when dealing with those outbursts. Confidence is a welcome ploy against much of those negative behaviors. Remaining level-headed shows you’ve got the game under control and that no one can take that away.

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A well-officiated youth game should earn you respect, and it is safe, fair and fun for both participants and spectators. The impact from your efforts may well last beyond that season.

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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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