You may think the impact of your officiating is confinded to the time the clock is running and ends at the buzzer, but your calls linger after you. At some time or another we all enter the court or field feeling confident, but not overly so, desiring to put an effort worthy of ourselves or those that assigned us and hoping to achieve greater skills.
As such, we ensure that we know the rules, that our uniforms look crisp, shoes clean and polished, we arrive early to meet our partner and review pregame issues (just in case) and then step onto the court or field to begin work.
And then a play takes place, one you have seen time and time again. Or something arises that warrants your attention and you have dealt with it so many times before that your statements are so clearly polished they are golden as you speak with the offender or coach.
Then a call is made that leads to an eruption from the sidelines. You hear the words that make us all cringe. The usual refrain is, “The last umpire we had didn’t require that.” Or, “The last crew said it was legal.”
We all know the coaches, players and parents will try to get in your head and make comments like those in an effort to influence your next call or avoid corrective action. But then, there are those times when you know the coach, player or parent is right.
You know, those issues that keep popping up no matter how hard you work to correct them simply because they are the rules. Like coaches staying inside the dugout or coaches refusing to vacate the restricted area. And yet each time you walk on the field or court, you see it again and again.
You raise it at meetings to no avail. It seems that others are aware of it and just don’t see it as an issue warranting their attention. Often it is deemed of such little importance that turning a blind eye to it is the easiest way to handle the matter.
To that I say, hogwash! Ignoring an issue that may need attention is, in reality, officials stating they are too lazy to enforce all of the rules and they will decide what actually requires enforcement. In so doing they hang the next crew or official out to dry when that same issue arises and, as is the case in too many situations, it escalates and an ejection happens as a result. Who are the bad guys: The crew that enforces the rules or the crew that didn’t?
Those who enforce those rules are said to be nitpicky. Sometimes we focus too much on the trees and miss the forest. But in the same vein, the trees are what causes the damage, not the whole forest.
So, the next time you go out to work a game, think not only of those that have worked the teams before, but the officials who will work after you. Did you set them up for failure by not hustling and doing your job to the best of your ability? Remember, their performance partially rests on your shoulders based on what you do in the game you work. Your weakness will be recorded in the minds of those teams you work with that day, so they have a trump card in the future for the next crew. Coaches, players and parents love those “gotcha” moments.
Remember, calling a great game goes beyond the two hours or so that you might be on the field or court. Your prep time before and your postgame review all contribute to the overall quality of your game. And those efforts likewise contribute to the next crew’s performance. If you don’t want those that have gone before to sell you up the river by their own failures, don’t be guilty of the same.
Calling a great game begins with our consistency as a larger group. The teams we work change but the game stays the same. Be consistent, call a great game, call it right and help out your brothers and sisters who work the next game.
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