- Don’t Keep an Accurate Schedule
Have you missed a game recently? Arrived late when everyone else was on time? Gone to the wrong school, field or stadium? Chances are it’s because you don’t keep an accurate schedule.
Most of us think immediately about getting to the right place on the right day at the right time – that’s what keeping an officiating schedule is about. But your schedule should also tell you which teams played which games, what position(s) you worked on a certain date, which team won, who your partners were and whether there were any unusual game situations or serious injuries. There at least three additional factors:
- An accurate schedule will prevent double-booking. You won’t plan your week on a Monday morning and realize you have signed contracts for two or even three games scheduled at different locations on Tuesday afternoon.
- An accurate schedule will make it much easier to track your paychecks, expenses and tax deductions. If you know where you’ve been on every date of the year, how far you traveled to get there, what you spent for hotel rooms and meals on those occasional overnight trips and which of the expenses are legitimate tax write-offs, April 15 will not be the nightmare situation comedies are made of.
- An accurate schedule will give you a fighting chance to reestablish your officiating schedule promptly in case you ever move to a different city. There’s no guarantee, but wouldn’t you feel more comfortable offering your new assignor a detailed list of the games you’ve worked each of the last five years instead of just telling him you’ve had a full varsity schedule since Reagan was president?
With all the technology available to us today, there is no excuse for not keeping an accurate schedule.
2. Don’t Take Care of Business
What’s the typical turnaround time between when you receive a phone call and when you return it? How many days does it take you to receive a contract in the mail and send it back to the school or organization requesting your services? If your full-time job will prevent you from working a game next month, will you tell your assignor today, tomorrow or next week?
3. Don’t Bother to Look Your Best Before Every Game
Consider your partners. You probably enjoy working with the ones who look good every night. Coincidence? Perhaps.
Experience tells most of us that the official with the dusty uniform pants and muddy shoes doesn’t care all that much about working a good game. They’re usually more concerned about starting a few minutes early, moving the game along at an Olympic pace and collecting their check.
Conversely, a clean, pressed uniform, shined shoes and well-groomed appearance give you a look of professionalism before the game begins. First impressions are lasting ones, so make it a good one.
4. Don’t Carry a List of Phone Numbers
If you are one of the ever-growing number of people who has a cellular telephone, don’t forget the most important accessory: A list of key phone numbers. Think of it this way: What if, even though you keep an accurate schedule, you arrive for a game and there’s no one at the site? Who would you call first? Or, what’s your first move if your partner is a no-show? Most of us would reach for a telephone. Calling for help will be a slow process if you don’t have the numbers.
What numbers should be on your list? Your assignors, the coaches you’ll work for, your partners, any officials in your sport in your area, the pay phone at any booth near the fields on your schedule, plus police, fire and ambulance emergency numbers – that’s a good initial list.
You can probably eliminate that non-existent pay phone near the fields because there just aren't very many of them available today.
5. Don’t Arrive Early
We all know it’s tough to get to every game an hour before start time, but there’s nothing wrong with that goal. It’s tough to pull into the parking lot, jump out of the car and start the game within three minutes. There is something wrong with that habit, especially if it’s chronic.
How early is soon enough varies from sport to sport and level to level. Working a soccer match alone on a familiar field on Saturday morning for youngsters is one thing; handling a major college football game in a new stadium on national television is another. Lots of things affect the time you need on site to prepare for a game, but a few things remain the same.
The coaches, players and game administrators deserve to know ahead of time that the officials are on hand and the game can start on time. Team warm-ups, pre-game ceremonies and other activities all are timed to the start of the contest. Twenty minutes is the absolute acceptable minimum, and plenty of organizations set the minimum at 30, 40, even 90 minutes.
If you’re working, for example, your ninth high school baseball game of the season on today’s field with your favorite partner and traveling together; you probably can get to the park and start the game 20 minutes after arrival. But you’ll make a better impression and do a better job if you’re 30 minutes early, better still at 45. Respected prep umpires tend to establish 45 minutes as their own “mandatory” arrival time.
But football, with crews of four or five officials, chain gangs, clock operators, equipment checks and field inspections, really requires at least an hour on site before kickoff. Good crews are on hand 90 minutes early.
No matter how you plan your schedule, you’ll occasionally have trouble getting to your game on time. The point is, if you plan to be early you’ll still be “on time” if you’re a little late. If you’re late regularly, it’s time to reassess the assignments you accept and rethink your priorities.
6. Don’t Park Your Car Strategically
If there’s one place you should not park your car, it’s next to a sign that says, “Reserved for Officials.” There’s no sense making it easier for thieves or disgruntled fans to find you or your vehicle.
What are the good places? There’s no magic formula, but try to park a bit away from the crowd, in the vicinity of the door you’ll use to exit a building and, above all, try to leave room behind and in front of your car so you don’t get blocked in. Pulling forward is faster, simpler and safer in the event some fool wants to have a post-game “conversation” with you.
7. Don’t Have a Strong Pre-game
Referee is famous for stressing the pre-game officials’ meeting before every contest. There’s good reason.
The few minutes you spend with your partner confirming positions, coverages, local rules, game responsibilities and officiating tactics do pay off. The time helps you focus your concentration on the game at hand and it reinforces your confidence in the crew. You’ll work better when you’re certain of what your partners are going to do in any given situation.
8. Don’t Keep Your Meeting With Team Captains Brief
Variations on the “best” pre-game with captains are common: “Any questions, guys? Gonna have fun tonight? Good luck!”
OK, that’s a bit extreme, especially if you have to flip a coin or cover ground rules. But you get the idea. We’ve all had partners anxious to conduct an annual rules clinic before the game begins. Once in a while you’ve probably had a partner try to warn the teams about rough play, unsportsmanlike conduct or the antics of a locally famous teammate. Remember the results? If you bothered to look the captain in the eye while your partner completed his litany, you probably saw nothing more than boredom.
Take enough time to let the captains know you’re confident in your ability to control and enjoy the contest and you expect them to do the same. Perhaps ask them to “help out” with an angry or frustrated teammate before you have to get involved. But tell them 10 things you expect from the teams during the game and they’ll remember only that you’ve made a terrible first impression.
Rely on the KISS principle: Keep it Simple, Stupid!
9. Don’t Wait
We all hurry. We all sense an urgency to announce our decisions. Those are terrible temptations.
Someone, somewhere said it first, but thousands have repeated the immortal words: “It ain’t nothing’ ‘til I call it!”
Watch the play happen. “See” it again in that human replay machine called your mind. Decide what you saw, make your decision, then announce your decision with conviction.
It’s called good timing. It’s a secret of officiating success. For umpires, remember to SEE IT! DECIDE IT! CALL IT!
10. Don’t Start Each Game Fresh
It is crucial to treat each game as a new experience. If you work a game involving a player or coach you’ve had to penalize or eject, your demeanor and actions must convey the feeling that you’ve forgotten about it – even if they haven’t. Even the appearance of punishing a coach or player for something that happened in the past will taint your reputation and perhaps ruin your career.
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