Sunday, November 18, 2012

Good official" defined

"Only Good Officials, please."

        Are you a "good" official? I don't mean "great" or "outstanding," but one of the several dozen competent, workmanlike officials who make-up the solid and steady core of WMTFOA's workforce. Are you one of them?
        Those who assign officials will privately admit that there is an unspoken obligation to supply "only good officials." We all know there is a difference between "good" and "not so good," but we might not be able to accurately define why one official is welcome at meets and another is not. What's below is an attempt to codify that definition.
In my opinion (and only my opinion) being a good official has very little to do with actually being an official per se. In truth, we're all pretty good at marking and measuring and timing and picking places. Further, I've never had a coach or an AD come to me and ask that I not re-hire someone because of a bad call or a mistake that person made.
        It follows, then, that being a good official is not necessarily about officiating. Rather, it's all about the very same things that make for a good employee. Good officials all have four common attributes:
1.    They show up on time and ready to work
2.   They do their job
3.   They are good co-workers
4.   They create no problems

Show up on time… 
        Being on site a half hour before your event begins is the minimum requirement for a passing grade here – if you're not there at least a half hour early, you're late. There are pre-meet duties to be taken care of and warm-ups to be supervised, to say nothing of the aggravation your lateness will create for the guy with the clipboard and the checklist of assignments. 
        At the other end of the meet, bugging out before the final handshake won't make you popular with your employer, either.

and be ready to work:

        The first part of "being ready" is to look the part: Good officials show up in uniform and look professional. Some officials routinely come to work looking like slobs – wrinkled clothes, faded sweatshirts that used to be yellow, blue jeans. Nobody wants to work with (or hire) someone they have to apologize for. 
        The second part of "being ready to work" involves your personal equipment. At every recent clinic we have had a different official go over the various items that he carries with him. In every case, the demonstrator has stressed the idea that everything should be in a dedicated bag of its own and not used for other purposes. There is a minimal checklist of "officials' equipment" on the reverse of every certification card. Showing up without a clipboard or a tape measure or a stop watch are not among the practices of a good official.

Do your job:

          Running an event involves a lot more than just calling names and watching the scratch line: Sign the athletes in, supervise warm-ups, give instructions, then run the event with a minimum amount of delay, all the while enforcing the common-sense rules of safety and respect. Nobody expects to notice a good official, because they run an event in a quiet, workmanlike manner. It's what you're being paid to do. Do your job.
        Work quickly. The most common complaint I hear about new officials is that they're slow. Most become less so once they establish a working routine and become surer of their own abilities, but others remain persistently pokey. Experienced people who work slowly will tell you they are methodical and won't be hurried, but in the opinion of other officials who have to work with them, they're just plain slow. An unfortunate aspect of track is that delays are all additive – you can't later make up for time lost. If you are new (or slow, or both) you should make a study of the practices that will allow you to work more quickly. Slow officials universally are fussy and exact in situations that don't call for fussiness or exactness. No one expects you to rush or cut corners. But if you work briskly you will become efficient, and efficient officials are good officials.
        Are you a talker? I am, and I'd give up officiating if I couldn't talk to the kids, but save such conversations for times when there's nothing else going on. It's always possible to talk too much and become a distraction to athletes who might be trying to concentrate. 
        Similarly, some officials can't stop themselves from coaching, even though it is never a good idea. The list of reasons why you shouldn't coach the kids you're officiating is extensive, but here it's enough to say it's not what you're being paid to do.

Be a good co-worker:
        Very high on the list of things a good co-worker does at a track meet is something commonly called "moving the meet along." Since I routinely serve as a starter, the example I like to sight involves the people at the finish line: When I return from the far end of the track after starting the 100m or the 200m, if I'm working with good officials they will already have called out the runners for the next race and positioned them on the track. That would normally be the starter's job, but good co-workers know when to step-in and step-up. The total time saved is just two or three minutes, but it's a wonderful example of how good officials keep things moving. 
        When your event is over, help another official. We're not being paid by the event, but by the meet – the whole meet. There are never enough officials, so there is always something you can be doing. Even if you're not needed to time a race, there are hand-off zones to be watched, a break line to be inspected, curves to be watched in non-lane races, hurdles to be inspected, athletes to be mustered for the next race. You might wait around and be asked to do these things. Good co-workers don't need to be asked.

Create no problems:
        When it comes to facilities, you'd be hard pressed to find ANY high school facility that isn't wanting in some respect – particularly in field events. As high school officials, our constant wrestling partner is the difference between what's not-up-to-the-letter-of-the-rule and what's actually dangerous. If something isn't quite right, bring it to the attention of the coach. Better yet, write him a note that can be passed along to the Athletic Director. But don't create a problem that isn't there.
        A real problem that officials themselves bring to meets is an inability to do certain jobs. There are seven field events at the high school level. You might prefer one event over another, but a good official should be able to work all of them. Officials who "can't start" or "can't work the pole vault" or "can only mark in the field" or "can't get more than one time" are preventing themselves from being complete officials, and represent a problem for those they work with.
        At every meet there's going to be problems that crop up. It's inevitable. Be willing to discuss questions and disagreements with coaches. Hear – that is, really listen to - what the other person has to say. Don't be argumentative. Refer to the rule book when you state your conclusion. If you can't solve the problem, at least don't make it worse. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

        We all try hard to do a good job – we all like to think of ourselves as good officials. Sometimes, the unsolicited opinion of another official can confirm an opinion we have of ourselves, or might point out a blind spot. I hope this will serve that purpose. 


1 comment:

WesternMassAlarms said...

I personally think that this message is clear and honest. These are the type of things that have been discussed at Board meetings and though it is possible SOME people might not agree with EVERY thing stated. It certainly opens up the floor for discussion. But for the life of me, I cannot figure out what anyone who calls themself a professional would argue!

As a person that now hires officials to work at my facility; those ARE the qualities I would be looking for when contemplating whom I would want to work at my site.

I applaud Stephen for actually putting something down in black and white. THANK YOU!

I would add that some of the VETERAN officials need to be a bit more humble and understand that each meet they work is a priviledge, not just "another assignment". Don't " go through the motions", or think you're "so much BETTER" than anyone else, perhaps because you have worked some BIG meet somewhere and someone else has not.

It's ALWAYS all about the athletes!

TREAT EACH MEET AS IF IT WERE THE OLYMPIC GAMES, because to some one that may be competing - it very well MIGHT be!

Michael Budd