Photo Credit: Dean Reid

Ever try constructing a tower out of playing cards? It isn’t easily built. Once achieved, it’s something to be proud of. But one wrong move and it comes tumbling down. It’s the same thing with your reputation among other officials. No matter how long you’ve been around and the good work you’ve done, a single mistake can ruin it all. Here are some tips to help you keep your image as shiny as a new penny.

Support Your Partners

Officials immediately lose respect for officials who show up crewmates. You’re a team. If a crew member is taking care of business, the others should watch his or her flank. Then, if things get out of hand, they must be there for support.

If you really want to lose respect, just get caught not paying attention or rolling your eyes when called on for help. Even a slight shrug of the shoulders is the type of negative body language that shows up your partner.

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Keep Your Ego in Check

Self-promotion and politicking are sure ways to lose respect. Far too often, personal gain, publicity and money get in the way. And then there’s greed. Take the official who will do almost anything to get ahead, get noticed and ultimately get to “the next level.” That type of official seems to care more about personal interests and advancement than the intrinsic values of working a good game.

Being a flashy official is one thing. But drawing unwanted attention to yourself and trying to steal the stage from the athletes on the field or court is simply arrogant and obnoxious.

Stay Positive off the Field

The word “negative” has lots of connotations. When describing a sports official who is negative, the definition, “lacking positive qualities; disagreeable,” seems to jump off the page. Officials who constantly grumble about working conditions, playoff assignments (or lack of them), game fees and speed of check arrivals grate on the nerves of others.
Complaining is wasted energy and those who constantly complain can actually shorten their officiating careers. A positive attitude toward your league or conference goes a long way in opening the door to respect.

Own up to Your Mistakes

There are times when you will make a call that proves to be incorrect and you will simply have to live with it. But if the nature of the game allows you to correct the misapplication of a rule, you should do it.

If you make a call and a crewmate or partner asks, “Are you sure that’s what you saw?” you must trust the official’s motives are pure. You must also set aside personal pride and yield to another official if you truly believe the crewmate or partner is correct.

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Respect the Game

Officials whose attitude conveys they feel the game is “beneath them” and perform just to “get it over with” show disrespect of the highest magnitude. They will quickly lose respect of other officials and, if players and coaches pick up on those vibes, may well have trouble controlling the game. If you’re unhappy with the assignment, don’t work it. Don’t make the participants and your crewmates suffer because you feel you should be working better games or at a higher level.

Make No Compromises

Under no circumstances should an official use “make-up calls” as a means of correcting a mistake. In officiating, as in life, two wrongs do not make a right. A make-up call is cheating, and it puts the integrity of all officials in question. A foul at one end of the floor is a foul at the other end. If you missed a call on a particular player, you’ve just proved you’re human. You don’t owe any player a call.

Don’t Move Too Fast

Most officials would like to advance up the ladder, whether that means moving up from sub-varsity to varsity games, regular season to postseason games or small-college to major-college games. But many officials permanently damage their careers by moving up too quickly. Assigners and supervisors appreciate honesty. You’ll gain respect by turning down an assignment for which you’re not ready. Before you accept a game at a level above what you are used to working, talk to a trusted veteran official who knows your work. Ask for an honest assessment and let that opinion guide you.

Offer Help When You’re Asked for It

Successful officials do a disservice to the avocation by failing to pass on what they’ve learned to less-experienced officials. Advice should be given when it is solicited. Comments should be based on performance, not personality. Use phrases such as “you did” rather than “you are.”

Earning the respect of your fellow officials doesn’t come easily nor quickly. But the best officials in all sports and at all levels have their partners’ respect and it shows in their performance on the field and their demeanor off it. Donning the uniform automatically grants you whatever respect outsiders have for officials’ authority, but when it comes to your fellow referees and umpires, you’re not automatically given it, you can’t force it, demand it or take it — you must earn it. *

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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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