The 27 Most Common Officiating Errors (11-20)

11.   Don’t Study Definitions

      Most rules questions posed by officials can be answered by simply reviewing the definition of one or two significant terms involved in each play.  When you really understand a definition, imagine three or four play situations that would rely on the definition.  If you find you don’t really understand that definition all that well, or that you’ve got some questions, go find the answers.
        Move on to the next definition.  When you finish the definition section, go to the rest of the book.

        It’ll take a while, but if you build a strong foundation through a complete and accurate knowledge of the game’s definitions, you’ll answer tough questions instinctively for your entire career.

12.   Don’t Wait to Climb the Ladder

      Anxious for that first high school varsity game?  That first small college assignment?  The move to the glorified Division I Level?  One nearly universal characteristic of dedicated officials is the desire to work more and better games.
        Stepping up to a new level of competition is a difficult process that requires careful management.  Few officials are willing to say “not yet” when offered that first varsity assignment.  Be sure you’re ready; there’s not much chance of successfully climbing to the top of your ladder after you fall off the first time.
13.   Don’t Resist the Gossip Temptation

        Other than actually working games there are few things officials enjoy more than yakking.  We’ll brag about our schedules, how tough we are during games, how many impossible rule situations we handled last week and all the inspired putdowns we’ve come up with during coach and player confrontations – many times at a favorite watering hole after a round or two.
        But you might want to think twice before offering your opinions on teams, coaches, players or other officials.  In the officiating business, a slip of the lip (that says the wrong thing) will sink a career (yours).
        Think the head coach at Central High is a real jerk?  Fine, think it – there’s no good reason to say it.  Figure out the Hilltopper baseball team’s steal sign?  Great.  Keep it for yourself or share it only with a partner who is working with you and wants to know.  Believe your assignor is jerking you around on next season’s schedule?  Find a private opportunity to talk directly to the assignor – ideally, face to face.
        We’re living and working in a closed society.  Anything said to anyone or overheard in a public place is going to get to the person under discussion!  Believe it.  If you don’t, your gossipy habits are going to hurt your career – even if you never know why you can’t seem to get a championship game assignment.
14.   Don’t Keep the Rules the Same

      What’s your tolerance level?  Will you let a point guard slip his pivot foot an inch or two without a traveling call?  Can a wide receiver stand with his arms swinging at the snap without drawing a flag?  Do you ignore it when the pitcher’s pivot foot hangs beyond the edge of the rubber?  Do you call a violation every time the keeper’s hand carries the ball through the penalty area plane on a distribution pass?
        Each example might provide hours of debate among officials.  That’s not the point here.  It doesn’t matter (for now) whether you call every infraction or ignore all of them.  The advice here is if you call it at the beginning of the game, keep calling it; if you pass in the first few minutes, pass all night.
        Here’s one more call and a philosophical approach often suggested:  “Go get the first two strikes on a batter, be liberal.  But be sure the third strike is really there.”
        Do that and one thing is sure to happen:  The pitcher, catcher and the defensive coach will decide you are inconsistent – the “same pitch” was a strike a moment ago (or an inning ago or two hours ago), but it’s not a strike now?  “Be consistent!” they’ll yell, and you’ll deserve the criticism.
        You’ll also deserve the criticism if you whistle the first traveling violation with 12 seconds to play or flag a motion penalty for something the coaches will see on the films every time that receiver lines up.

15.   Don’t Carry a Simple Sewing Kit

      At some point, you’re going to have a uniform problem.  Whether its’ a seam in your trousers that’s just starting to unravel or a belt that you didn’t pack this one night, a basic sewing kit can save the day.
        You won’t need much in the kit.  One or two needles, black, navy and gray thread, a couple of plain buttons, and five or six safety pins are plenty.  You’ll fine a sewing kit in the sink area in most of the better hotels in this country (next to the cheap body lotion and giveaway shampoo bottles) or you can make a “big” investment of $3 or $4 to buy a kit in a small plastic box.  Either way, you’re prepared to solve little emergencies by carrying an extra four or five ounces of equipment in your bag.
16.   Don’t Avoid Making Threats

        Those “if-then” statements that scrambled your brains in high school geometry will toast your career during games.  “If you say one more word, then I’ll throw you out of the game!” is among the first cardinal sins of officiating for at least two reasons.
        One, the next word might be “fine.”  You either dump the coach or back down – neither is attractive.
        Two, if what’s been done merits a threat, go ahead and pull the trigger and eject.
17.   Don’t Control Your Emotions

      If you get angry during a game, you’ll lose the impartiality that must be a constant aspect of your performances.  But any number of emotions can get the best of you. 
        One official had a reputation for seeing the positive side of every situation – to a fault.  The inside joke about him was:  He’s the only guy in the world who could wake up on Christmas morning, find a pile of horse dung under his tree and immediately say to his mother, “Oh boy!”  Where’s my pony?”  No matter how bad things were going around him, this guy was delighted to be there.  Six innings of constant whining about his strike zone?  “Game went great today!  Not one problem with a checked swing!”  You get the picture.
        If you are so happy to be where you are, chances are you won’t recognize problems that really do require your attention.
        Some official’s get can get caught up in the excitement of a game.  There’s a fine line between letting the emotional high during a great game build your adrenaline flow, and being awed by the individual performances of truly talented athletes.  The adrenaline rush is fine, it adds to your energy; but distraction to the point of focusing on a player’s “wow value” will erode your ability to do your job.


18.   Don’t Admit Your Errors

            Consider this typical exchange from any time during any game at any level:
                Coach:  “You missed that one.”
                Official:  “No, I got it right.”
                Coach:  “I saw that whole play and I know you missed it!  You’ll never convince me!”
                Official:  “Coach, I had a great look.  I got it right!”
        Coach:  (voice rising):  “Your problem is you think you’re never wrong!  Why can’t you just admit you kicked that one?  I know you missed it!  You know you missed it!  Everyone here knows you missed it!
                Official:  “Hey!  That’s enough!  I got it right.  It’s time to play!”
        Coach:  “You’re terrible and you can’t admit it!  That’s why nobody in this league wants to see you on a game.  You’re terrible … an you’ll never work here again!”
        OK, the last shot slipped deeper into the land of the great clichés’ than intended.  Let’s get back to the example.  Assume for a moment that the coach is right, the official did miss the call and the official knows he missed the call.  The same exchange might take a different direction.
        Coach:  “You missed that one.”
        Official:  “You know, Coach, you’re right.  I did miss that one, but it’s gone and I can’t do anything about it.”
        Coach (for the first time in his life is virtually speechless):  “Well … uh … geez … uh … well, bear down out here!”
        The point is simple:  It really does take two to argue.  If you know you’re wrong and admit it, the other guy doesn’t have a whole lot more to say.
        But there’s a very important second point:  You can’t rely on that method to solve all your problems every game.  You can tell most coaches that you kicked a call – once.  When you’ve worked hard enough and long enough to have developed credibility in the league, you can tell the same coach the same thing again – once in a while (like every season or three).  More often than that and instead of enhancing your reputation as an honest person you’ll build one as a genuinely lousy official.
19.   Don’t Listen to Coaches

      Once in a while (OK, once in a great while), a coach will offer up a gem of wisdom that really deserves consideration.  Sure, it may be inadvertent, but there are coaches who understand officiating.  There are plenty of coaches who understand the game they coach.  They look at the games from a different point of view, but that view can be beneficial.
                If you never listen to a coach’s comments or “advice,” you’re probably missing an opportunity to improve.

20.   Don’t Ignore Coaches

      You were going along, trying to work a game, trying to keep things under control.  Suddenly, a coach will say something that belongs in a book.
        Imagine a basketball coach who, with his team trailing 88-32 with 1:42 remaining in the game, shouts, “That’s a foul!  Come on!  You’re missing a good game!”
        That’s a classic example of a comment you really want to ignore, at least in part because your first impulse is probably to laugh out loud.
        Coaches will say plenty during most games.  Much is designed to do no more than vent the coach’s own frustration.  When you hear those comments and they bother you, it’s time to find better ways to focus on the game action.

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