My journey of officiating began in Douglas County in 1977. This is my 37th year officiating basketball, 35th year in fast pitch softball and 5th year in volleyball. This journey has provided me the means to identify the characteristics of a healthy organization. I have belonged to three different high school and five college associations. In short, these sport associations were managed by educated, professional and dedicated retired officials who continue to contribute to their sport of choice. I have been a member and modeled healthy and professional qualities to stick to a sport and support schools and student-athletes.
I believe associations establish a positive, inclusive and supportive culture in the first few meetings when members are all together. Associations typically have six to 12 meetings depending on number of schools serviced, members and business details. Paydays are one of those details. I believe members sustain their time, energy and extensive training beyond the minimum requirement. Encouragement, dedication and incentives need to be spoken eloquently and professionally. A sharp tongue and lack of people skills ruin more opportunities and advancement in associations than any other factor. Advancement provides motivation, recognition and more money to the official. Finally, networking may lead to being asked to officiate a contest in Denver, Colorado, or Orlando, Florida, as I have over the years.
You may ask, “What can a new member do to ensure their journey will be free of obstacles?” Your flexibility of being teachable opens the door to a rewarding and validating contribution for student-athletes, teams, coaches, schools and association goals. Be an ambassador to your sport.
Mainly: Actions speak louder than words. Do what is asked, refine it and teach it to others.
Have a work schedule that allows you to cover games. Typically, games are Tuesdays, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays starting between 3 and 5 p.m. Members pick the days they want to work. Conversations with your association assigner often provide more games. That communication will help the assigner identify the level you can work, crew integrity and dedication to the assigned sport. Learning from the school of hard knocks, your people skills, leadership ability and willingness to be provided feedback of your performance can be a testament to teachability and adaptation to the ideal concept with humbleness. Assigners want officials who do their job as ethically, professionally and rule-book-right as possible.
I grew up with the axiom that the crew I worked on needed to achieve what was known as rule-book-right and ballfield-right. Sometimes officials get the rule book right but the ball field part wrong. Meaning, due to skill level, the crew or official needs to modify what is whistled or flagged to match the flow, skill sets collectively achieved by teams and what the game asks for from the officials. High School games are typically structured to be less than two hours long.
Other characteristics of an official include attending a minimum set of meetings for new business, training of rules and mechanics, standard operating procedures and scheduling. The state of Oregon requires a background check to insure our student athletes are safe from those who might cause harm to children. These details will be part of preparing for a one-hundred-question rules test and, depending on the sport, a mechanics test. To become eligible to work a varsity sport, one must pass the sport test by correctly answering seventy-five out of one hundred questions. It is imperative that a new official either team, pair or be matched with a more seasoned official to support the rookie in navigating all the questions that will surface throughout the season. Often those questions become talking points throughout the remaining meetings. Attendance at these training and business meetings is mandatory by OSAA, and members are not to be assigned varsity games unless they attend those trainings.
Reliable transportation, having the proper uniform, being computer literate and having the necessary start up fees support healthy characteristics in the big picture to get started.
If soccer, football, basketball and lacrosse is your choice, a preseason conditioning program is a necessity. Finally, a purposeful and dedicated attitude to be one’s best while officiating as a crew member and representative of an association is a must.
So give a officiating a try. Interested enthusiasts please apply.