You’re making one of the 27 most-common officiating errors if you …
21. Don’t Consider Whether to Respond
Just do it – run your mouth any time anyone says anything you don’t like! Your career will be short, but you’ll suffer far less internal tension than most.
Understand a simple concept: Not every challenging statement requires a response. When you can tell which comments must, should or shouldn’t and better not draw a response from you, you’re on your way to a long and successful career.
Here’s one additional related tip: More often than not, the “right” response will not be verbal. You might nod your head slightly, smile momentarily, glance at whoever said something, hold eye contact for a moment or two, shake your head, or hold up a stop sign (one hand at arm’s length, shoulder high with an open palm toward the complainer). Learn to use them wisely and you won’t have to worry about a verbal response.
22. Don’t Ignore the Crowd
Is concentrating on officiating a challenge when you’re working in front of 8,000 or 9,000 spectators? Sure. Is it a bigger challenge in front of eight or nine dozen? Yep.
Large crowds have a “buzz” – the noise level is constant and individual voices are generally lost in the crowd. But in a high school gym with 20 or 30 spectators, every leather-lunged jerk can sound off like a public address announcer. When you can’t help but hear every derogatory comment, you do have to struggle to focus on the game.
Concentrate on your real duties – officiating the game. Learn to tune out all but the most disruptive spectators and remember that someone (not you) is responsible for crowd control.
If someone’s obnoxious father really is interfering with a game, ask the game administrator, league representative or, as a last resort, the head coach of the fan’s team to take care of the problem. Save it for real problems, but understand that you cannot allow a game to continue if spectators are causing major problems.
Finally, resist the friendly woman in the second row who looks so sweet and only wants to ask a simple question. You can bet there’s more than a question coming and you can also bet you won’t win by acknowledging her.
23. Don’t Take Pride in Your Appearance
No, you don’t have to wear a tuxedo en route to a junior high basketball game, but it is a good idea to dress a bit better than most people might expect. Clean clothing is the first basic; slacks instead of shorts, dress slacks instead of blue jeans, a collared shirt instead of a T-shirt, a necktie instead of an open collar – each step up does that much more to send a subtle message that you are and expect to be treated as a professional.
24. Don’t Talk With Players
Consider the last time you were in close proximity to a stranger for several minutes. It may have been standing in a slow line in the bank lobby, waiting for popcorn at the movie theater or hoping a stalled elevator would move soon. If the person with you offered just the slightest, pleasant, ice-breaking comment, you felt a bit more at ease during the wait.
You have the ability to break that ice, and a great time to do it is before something happens that requires you to say something to a player. You’ll stand around the floor during a basketball team’s warm-ups and several players will bass by. Since you’re the authority figure, few players will initiate a conversation. But you can, sometimes with a simple “hello” or a simple nod of your head. You’ll stand on a baseball field between innings, same thing. You’re on the football or soccer sideline during a game, still the same.
As Grandma probably said, “All good things in moderation.” Be a bit selective. You don’t want to know every name on the roster and you can’t afford to spend too much time talking, but as you identify the team leaders go ahead and offer a simple greeting. See whether a short conversation develops. There’s no need to push it, but if you appear both comfortable and cordial you’ll also appear confident and competent.
There’s a dividend that you may collect later in the same game. When you sense a problem developing with a player on one team, if you’ve already broken the ice with one of that player’s team leaders you can ask the leader to intercede with the problem player. He usually will, and he’ll feel good that you have confidence in him to trust him to lead his teammates in a positive manner.
25. Don’t Anticipate
One of the greatest officiating axioms is: Don’t anticipate the call. If you decide what you’re going to see before you see it happen, you’ll get burned by every unexpected turn of events.
But one of the greatest officiating techniques is: Anticipate the play, not the call. If you “feel” what’s coming and adjust your position or your visual focus to the right area, you’ll see the play better and you’ll have a much better opportunity to make the correct call.
Good baseball umpires know when to expect a bunt, steal or a brush-back pitch. Top basketball referees recognize the times a team is going to apply full-court pressure or change its defense. Football officials know when to expect a deep pass or a quarterback sneak. In soccer, you know when a team will play kick-and-run and when teams will attack the defense methodically. All of those things help you anticipate the play, not the call.
Consider windy weather, a wet field, hot or cold conditions, a short court, short tempers. Anything that is going on might help you get on the right track.
26. Don’t Resist Showboating
If you’re a veteran official with plenty of confidence, you probably have developed your own style, an element of flair in your officiating. That’s fine, but you really want to be aware of what you’re doing and how people are reacting.
The late Ron Luciano, who died in 1995 at the age of 57, was among the most recognizable pro umpires of his time. He worked the American League from 1969-79 and became famous for “shooting down” runners who were out while pointing his fingers like a kid’s imaginary gun, for shaking his head “no” and waving his hands like a bartender cleaning a spill when a runner was safe, and for many of the most flamboyant arguments and ejections in big league history.
Lots of people loved watching Ron work because they thought he was a great guy having a great time. But lots of his fellow umpires considered Ron more of a clown than an umpire because they felt he preferred public adulation to the respect of his peers.
The truth was, Ron was a tremendous umpire. You don’t get to the majors if you’re not. The showboating hurt his reputation among his peers. If a true major leaguer is hurt by his flamboyance, what might yours do to you?
27. Don’t Finish Every Game Strong
You know the feeling. You’re in the last few minutes of a one-sided game, just waiting for the final minutes or the final outs to roll by. No matter which team is getting trounced, they’ve been out of the contest since the first 10 minutes and they know it.
Lots of us have a tendency to swallow a few extra whistles, to ring up a strike on anything that doesn’t bounce. Bad idea!
When the players and the coaches believe you’ve lost interest in the game, it really turns their cranks. Frustration becomes anger, becomes hostility, and becomes a major problem. When the game is “over” before it’s over, the losing team has nothing to lose and the winners are already celebrating. That’s the time to turn it up a notch, focus on the subtle bumps and comments at the side of the court and become an assertive game manager.
A partner who “disappears” near the end of a close game is a problem; one who disappears at the end of a blowout might be a catastrophe!
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