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MOREand How to Avoid ThemFrom the Publishers of Referee MagazineAnd the National Association of Sports Officials


16MOREand How to Avoid Themby Scott Ehret, Editor, Referee MagazineReferee Enterprises, Inc., Franksville, Wis.


16 More Most-Common Officiating Errorsand How to Avoid Themby Scott Ehret, Editor, Referee MagazineCopyright © 1997 by Referee Enterprises, Inc. (REI)P.O. Box 161, Franksville, Wis. 53126.Published jointly by REI and the National Association ofSports Officials (NASO).All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in anyform or by any means, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in areview, without permission in writing from the publisher.Printed in the United States of America.


7IntroductionSomething DifferentIt’s nice to tell a success story, and that’s just what this bookletrepresents. Earlier this year we published The 44 Most CommonOfficiating Errors and How to Avoid Them; reaction from NASOmembers and Referee fans has been heart-warming.To tell the truth, the original book was what we call amarketing premium. It was prepared specifically for the annualNASO membership campaign — when a member sent in thenames of two prospective new NASO members, the originalmember received the book, free of charge. It didn’t take us longto realize the membership campaign was generating unusuallygood results. Participation was up noticeably from previousyears. Then, a few days later, we began receiving some very niceletters about that free book itself and requests for book copiesfor non-NASO members. It seems both the information and thepresentation really hit home with the men and women who readthe suggestions.Well, if you’ve ever dealt with a marketer you know oneabsolute truth: If a marketing idea works, a marketer will wantto do it again (and again)! Here we are …Once again, we’re offering “down and dirty” information webelieve will benefit any sports official. Once again our entireediting staff has been involved in the process, so if you considerthanking any of us be sure to include associate editors Bill Topp,Jeffrey Stern, Andrew Greene and Carl P. Schwartz. With theirhelp, and with the cooperation of our art department, and withthe encouragement of those whip-crackers in marketing (hey,I’m kidding!), I’ve collected a few more of what I consider themost-common errors referees and umpires make during thecourse of a typical game. As you read through this very brieftext, I hope you find advice you can …… Enjoy.— Scott Ehret, Referee Editor


You’re making an officiating error if you... 916 More Most-Common Officiating ErrorsYou’ve probably already read The 44 Most CommonOfficiating Errors and How to Avoid Them. Now we’lltell you that you’re making one of 16 more mostcommonofficiating errors if you …1.Don’t Take Care of the PaperworkIt’s not quite universal, but most officiating assignmentsinvolve some kind of written scoresheet, game report orlineup card, something that involves paper and a writingimplement. Deal with the paperwork promptly, early if possible.Above all, don’t fall behind.I remember working a college baseball game with a youngpartner. While he was a promising umpire, it was one of his firstopportunities to work a college game. Compounding theproblem: We were working the completion of a rain-interruptedcontest, then a regular game. The rookie chose to take the firstplate job.At home plate the host coach launched into the rathercomplicated local ground rules. It took several questions beforeeveryone was comfortable. Then we reviewed the gamesituation — score, inning, runner configuration, etc. Almost asan afterthought, my partner realized he did not have eitherteam’s lineup card.When he asked, the visiting coach pulled his card out of hispocket, but the home coach promised to bring his as his teamcame to bat. Foolishly, the youngster bought the promise andwe started the day’s play with only one lineup officially in hand.No, we did not face complaints or an official protest over thehome team alignment, but the rookie’s rather soft attitude at theconclusion of the pregame meeting did come back to haunt him.During that first half-inning the home coach began chirpingabout balls and strikes. The problem escalated quickly whenthere was a play at the plate that scored a runner. Then, whenthe home nine came to bat, the lineup card wasn’t ready. Finally,the rookie looked to his veteran partner for gentle guidance.“Get your butt in there and tell him we’re not throwinganother pitch until you have that card,” was my stern response.


10 16 More Most-Common Officiating Errors“Then tell him if you don’t have it in 60 seconds this game isover and we’ll change gear for game two.”Somewhat ashen-faced, the youngster did as directed.Amazingly, the coach instantly produced a complete lineupcard. It had been in his hip pocket all along. He was testing therookie and the rookie did not fare well on the exam.From this baseball example you can see that it is far better toset the parameters early and hold to them, rather than bendingover backward to get the game started before the paperwork iscomplete.2.Don’t Check Game EquipmentOK, few baseball and softball umpires walk the entirefield once a season, let alone once a night. Soccer refereesare supposed to check the field, the goals and the goal netsbefore each match. A football crew is expected to walk the fieldand search for dangerous items or obstacles near the playingsurface. Basketball refs really should check with the table crewto insure the clocks and possession arrow are working properly.Yes, these and other equipment checks are a bother. Yes, it’srare that you find any kind of difficulty. Yes, there are timeswhen you can accomplish more by spending three moreminutes with your partner than you can by checking theequipment. But the checks are necessary — and they arerequired. If you fail to perform the required (or the reasonable)checks before a game and someone is injured due to faultyequipment, all those house payments may turn out to be forsomeone else’s bank account because a liability suit might cleanout your financial security. Make the checks. Make them a partof your pregame routine, just like tying the laces on your shoes.Then, arrive a little early so you can still spend the extra minuteswith your partner.Don’t Visualize the Game Before It Starts3. How do you prepare mentally for your games?Different officials have very different pregame habits, butamong the best is the practice of setting aside 10 or 15 minutesfor quiet reflection.Consider what you might know about each team and what


You’re making an officiating error if you... 11that knowledge tells you about the game ahead. Is the contestlikely to be high scoring? Closely fought? Fast paced? Realizingthat before the game begins will help you be ready from thestart.Even if you know nothing about the teams, you can sitquietly and visualize the things that happen in every game. Ifyou’re working the bases in a baseball game, call to mind threeor four different steal plays and consider whether you’ve beengetting a good look at the plays in recent games. Before a soccermatch, think about what you want to see when a strongdefender challenges a capable ball handler. “See” the plays thatyou know will happen and see yourself moving into greatposition to observe the action, analyzing the activity, andmaking the truly inspired call. (Be sure your timing is good.)The seemingly simple process of visualizing game action is agreat step in mental preparation. If you’ve never tried it, you’llbe amazed at how easy those first few decisions can be.4.Don’t Look at the Rulebook PeriodicallyI believe that most of us read the whole rulebook beforeeach season. Of course, I’d like to believe all of us do, butI am a realist. I wonder, though, how many of us routinely andregularly read a part of the rulebook during the season. Myrealist nature tells me the number is not too good.NFL referee Red Cashion, who retired at the end of the 1996season with 25 years in the league, said he looked at therulebook every day, even during the offseason. He believed thatwas the only way to build and maintain a truly completeunderstanding of the rules. Imagine that from someone who’dworked one sport in one league for more than 20 years.Now consider your officiating career. How many sports doyou work? At how many levels? In how many leagues? Ahhh …I can hear the rulebook pages rustling already.5.Don’t Forgive YourselfHave you “kicked” one lately? Come on, tell the truth. Ifit’s the middle of your off-season you can probably sayno honestly. If not, chances are you’ve done something you’dlike to forget some time in the last 30 days.


12 16 More Most-Common Officiating ErrorsYour big mistake could be an easy breaking ball that floatedthrough the middle of the strike zone, only to be called a balland followed by a bases-clearing triple. It could be an obviousoffensive pass interference call ruled against the defender. Youmay have missed a goal that deflected off the ground support atthe back of the net. Or, did that errant cross-court pass reallybounce off the wall when you weren’t really concentrating?No matter your mistakes, as long as they are occasional youshould follow a simple, three-step procedure: Figure out whythe mistake happened, decide how to prevent a similar mistake,then forgive yourself for your error. The alternative is carryingguilt around for the rest of your life, and if you’re going toofficiate, that baggage would soon get pretty heavy.Don’t Watch Other Officials Work6. We’re all good. We all know it. Just ask us. Oh, deepdown inside we all know we could improve, could learna few new things about officiating, but most of us are content towork our games and take the rest of the night or the season off.If other officials — particularly officials who are younger orless experienced than you are — are working more varsity, morecollege, or better games than you are, maybe there’s a reason.Maybe your mechanics are just a bit out of date. Perhaps you’vefallen into some habits that really don’t serve you well. It couldbe that you’ve simply forgotten about a technique or two thatonce was an automatic part of your repertoire.Find out when those other officials are working and take alook. Keep your mind open and your emotions in check,because if you say to yourself, “I’m better than that guy,” you’lllearn nothing. Then, watch a few plays. Consider what theofficial is doing, particularly if he is doing something at alldifferent than you do. Ask yourself why he’s doing what he’sdoing. Really think about what you see until you feel certainyou understand, then consider whether that other guy has abetter idea.Importantly, if you can’t figure out the why behind histechnique, talk to him after the game and find out why he doeswhat he does. If you’re really watching his work, you’re likely tohave several things to discuss. You’ll be surprised at two things(maybe more): He’ll be flattered that you asked, and he’ll be


You’re making an officiating error if you... 13willing to discuss his methods. That game you watched could bethe most important game you didn’t work in your whole career.7.Don’t ExperimentIn life, trial and error is a great teacher. It’s the same inofficiating.Are you a softball umpire who’s always worked the boxstance behind the plate? Try the scissors for a game or two. Aconfirmed football linesman? Find a sub-varsity game and workthe umpire spot. Try working wider on the baseline or closer tothe top of the basketball key. Run a different diagonal duringyour next soccer match.Any time you vary the things you do, you instinctivelyrespond by thinking more carefully about what you are doing.Your comfort level disappears, so you have to concentrate.Whether you are altering a fundamental position or trying anew technique while “handling situations,” you’ll find newways to accomplish your goals and many times the new wayswill work quite well. When they do, all you have to decide iswhether you should completely change your establishedmethods or instead make some slight modification.Necessity may be the mother of invention, butexperimentation sires improved methods.8.Don’t ‘Keep Officiating’When Jerry Seeman became NFL supervisor of officialsin 1992, among his first instructions to the league’s staffof 100-plus officials was, “We will be great dead-ball officials.”His point: Just because the play appears to be over does notmean the officials can relax.There’s some good reason to be more focused between playsthan during plays, although I’m not going to advocate that toostrongly. Think about it. During a play there is a reasonablypredictable flow to the action. Each team has established goalsand the players are making concerted efforts to coordinate theiraction. When any player fails in his assigned duty, the teameffort is less likely to be successful. Now consider the timebetween plays. There is no predictable flow. There are no teamgoals. No player has a particular assignment. It’s the greatestopportunity for extracurricular (unsportsmanlike) activity. If the


14 16 More Most-Common Officiating Errorsofficials have relaxed, they’re going to miss what happens. Missa cheap shot by one player and you’ll probably penalize theretaliation. A “good” game can get ugly very quickly, allbecause you have not executed your dead-ball-officiatingresponsibilities.Those responsibilities are significant, but they vary greatlybetween sports and among crews. Let’s simply agree that deadballofficiating is an important part of your crew pregame, everygame.9.Don’t Learn History or Observe TraditionBy their very nature, sports are based in history andsteeped in tradition. Want to risk your credibility? Stareblankly at a baseball coach who compares his left-hander’sbreaking ball to the off-the-table curve thrown by Sandy Koufax.Wonder aloud, “Who?” when an athletic director spends a fewmoments before a basketball game comparing the abilities ofWilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. I could offer examples fromPele to Red Grange, but the people are not all there is to sportshistory. Teams, stadiums, championship series, innovativeadministrators and fabled incidents all contribute to a sport’shistory. If you want to be considered a worthy official, you haveto have at least a working knowledge of your sport’sbackground.Closely related is each sport’s traditions. They exist forreasons and while some may not be readily apparent, you’refoolish to try to disrupt them.For example, I worked for several football seasons with areferee who refused to bring the team captains together beforethe beginning of the second half. He reasoned that he’d talkedwith them before the game and that he had nothing of value tosay after intermission. Instead, he directed members of the crewto talk directly to the team coaches and determine their options:kick or receive, defend which goal. The crew then relayed theinformation by hand signal and the game resumed.The problem was, no one but the officials felt ready for thesecond half to begin. Players and coaches consistently askedwhy we were starting play before the captains marched tomidfield for the brief ceremony. The captains often reported tothe 50 yardline, waiting to march out only to be told there


You’re making an officiating error if you... 15would be no meeting. There were never any major complaints,but there was always some degree of uneasiness on eachsideline.What did we gain by eliminating the ceremony? Well, weresumed play anywhere from 60 seconds to two minutes sooner;logically we concluded each game that much sooner. Over thecourse of four or five seasons, we probably spent at least 45fewer minutes on the field. What did we lose? It’s much harderto determine, but in at least a few cases our credibility had to beat least a bit suspect. Not a good tradeoff in my mind.10.Don’t Get InsuranceThere are all kinds of policies with a wide variety ofpremiums, but in this litigious society, insurance for anofficial should be as automatic as good shoes. how much youcarry and where you find it is an individual choice. Just beaware that it is easy to find insurance programs tailored toofficiating needs and the programs are generally affordable.You wouldn’t drive a car without auto insurance (wouldyou?); only a fool fails to insure his home or her health. Whywould you undertake an officiating assignment without strongliability protection? Health, accident, game fee protection andother types of insurance are well worth consideration.11.Don’t AffiliateWhether at the local, state or national level, you gainstrength from sports officials affiliations. In fact, youshould belong to at least three organizations for each sport youwork — a local officials association, your state high schoolassociation (unless you do not work high school games) and anational organization that sanctions at least a portion of thegames you work.Membership carries both rights and responsibilities. As amember, you should expect some degree of training andeducation; you should also enjoy some amount of assignmentassistance from your local group. State and nationalmembership is a bit more altruistic: Those groups should lobbyfor improved working conditions, better rules and an enhancedstatus for officials in general. But do not ignore yourresponsibilities. Expect to attend meetings, annually at the state


You’re making an officiating error if you... 17confused, then will appear very confusing in print or on the air.Frankly, your best bet (among a long line of losing bets) is to dothe interview on live radio or television. When you’re live, noone gets to edit your comments.13.Don’t ThinkWe spend years and countless hours learning toofficiate. Then comes an unusual game situation andwe fail to consider the many things we’ve learned about our job.Suddenly, we’re in trouble — unnecessarily.Veteran officials realize that officiating is much more amental exercise than a physical challenge. Hey, there are dozensof kids far more physically fit than you or I, but few of themhave the potential to become truly talented referees andumpires. What sets us apart from them is our ability to thinkabout the job that we are hired to do, then to do what’s rightwhen it’s time to make a difficult decision.When Johnny Overby was the basketball supervisor of theBig Eight Conference, he’d tell his referees the same thing everyyear: “I send you to games so that when it’s time to make a call,you’ll make the call.”14.Don’t ReactI offer this point immediately after “Don’t Think”for good reason: Officials have to react to gamesituations; if they think too much they make mistakes.The difference between a lead official and a crew member isthe ability to understand when to think and when to react.Situations require thought; plays require reactions. You can’tstop to think about a block-charge or pass interference or awhacker at first base or a slide-tackle from behind. Those thingshappen too quickly for careful analysis, so you have to make animmediate decision. Trust your reactionary instincts. If you’vedeveloped your officiating expertise wisely, you’ll react well.15.Don’t Pull the TriggerLet’s focus for a moment on technical fouls,unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and ejections.These situations are never pleasant, but they do require yourcareful attention.


18 16 More Most-Common Officiating ErrorsWhen a player or coach begins to approach the line betweensportsmanlike and unsportsmanlike conduct, the official has oneof those Goldilocks decisions to make: Is it too soon to penalizethe conduct and improve the game conditions, is it too late, or isthe time just right? There’s no magic formula for getting theporridge to the right temperature, but when you sense that it’stime for a T or an ejection you must act!As I’ve looked back on my officiating career, often late on aFriday night and among a group of fellow officials, I’veoccasionally said, “I cannot recall any time I ejected someoneand regretted it, but I do regret plenty of times when I thoughtabout ejecting someone and I passed.” It’s amazing how manyheads nod at that statement.The lesson I’ve learned is a simple one: When things get badenough to seriously consider a technical foul, yellow card orejection, it’s probably time to go ahead and pull the trigger.When you hesitate, you’re probably just delaying the inevitable,because that coach or player usually knows what you’rethinking and if you pass this time he’ll just test you again.16.Don’t Socialize with Your PartnersLove of the game; extra income; physical activity;mental challenges; there are plenty of good reasons toofficiate. The most enduring is camaraderie.Every time you work a game with a new partner, do anythingreasonable to save time for a meal after the game. Unless yournew partner is a real jerk, try to stop and eat together. Whetherit’s a McDonald’s drive-thru or a four-star restaurant, get toknow the people you work with. You’ve already got onecommon interest in officiating; you’ll be surprised at the otherthings you share.The season is fleeting, the games even more brief; but thefriendship you start tonight may last a lifetime.


Most-Common Officiating ErrorsYou’re making one of the most-commonofficiating errors if you …1. Don’t Have Fun2. Don’t Keep an Accurate Schedule3. Don’t Take Care of Business4. Don’t Bother to Look Your Best4. Before Every Game5. Don’t Carry a List of Phone Numbers6. Don’t Arrive Early7. Don’t Park Your Car Strategically8. Don’t Have a Strong Pregame9. Don’t Keep Your Meeting With4. Team Captains BriefBASEBALL-SOFTBALL (10-12)10. Don’t Bother to Pause,33. Read and React11. Don’t Set Before the Play12. Don’t Wait13. Don’t Start Each Game Fresh14. Don’t Study Definitions15. Don’t Wait to Climb the Ladder16. Don’t Resist the Gossip Temptation17. Don’t Keep the Rules the SameFOOTBALL (18-20)18. Don’t ‘Keep Officiating’19. Don’t Help Spot the Ball20. Don’t Brief the Chain Crew21. Don’t Carry a Simple Sewing Kit22. Don’t Avoid Making Threats23. Don’t Control Your Emotions24. Don’t Admit Your Errors25. Don’t Listen to Coaches26. Don’t Ignore Coaches27. Don’t Consider Whether to33. Respond28. Don’t Ignore the Crowd29. Don’t Take Pride in Your33. Appearance30. Don’t Stay Physically FitBASKETBALL (31-33)31. Don’t Let the Game Come to You32. Don’t Offer Clear Signals33. Don’t Bother With Advantage-33. Disadvantage Principles34. Don’t Talk With Players35. Don’t Let Your Partner WorkSOCCER (36-38)36. Don’t Demand Work From33. Assistant Referees37. Don’t Stay Wide on Your Diagonal38. Don’t Recognize the ‘Moment of Truth’39. Don’t Anticipate40. Don’t Concentrate41. Don’t Resist Showboating42. Don’t Finish Every Game Strong43. Don’t Have a Strong Postgame44. Don’t Take Time to Think45. Don’t Take Care of the Paperwork46. Don’t Check Game Equipment47. Don’t Visualize the Game Before33. It Starts48. Don’t Look at the Rulebook Periodically49. Don’t Forgive Yourself50. Don’t Watch Other Officials Work51. Don’t Experiment52. Don’t ‘Keep Officiating’53. Don’t Learn History or33. Observe Tradition54. Don’t Get Insurance55. Don’t Affiliate56. Don’t Hesitate Before Talking33. to the Media57. Don’t Think58. Don’t React59. Don’t Pull the Trigger60. Don’t Socialize with Your Partners


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