Officials can wind up in trouble in any number of places during a game. Many problems happen during the course of play, but others can be prevented by applying common sense and principles of preventive officiating. The following preventive techniques might anticipate possible infractions and head them off before you have to take official action.
The first is something to be taken care of before you leave home: your uniform. Look like a referee when you arrive at the field and you are more likely to be treated like one during the game. This means a clean and neat (not faded) uniform, a current association patch (if required) and shoes shined. Carry a shoe brush in your bag to touch up the shine before the game or at halftime. First impressions are important; make sure yours is a good one.
The second area is your arrival at the game site. Do you screech into the parking lot, run onto the field or into the gym and start the game? Or, do you arrive 20-30 minutes ahead if time, inspect the equipment, playing surface and players, brief your partner or crewmates and generally allow yourself to take your time and do things right? If you are hurried and hassled before the game, you cannot be in the proper frame of mind to do a good job officiating.
Another area is your visit to the coaches to introduce yourself. Keep it short and sweet without a lot of joking and camraderie, regardless of how well you know the coach.
Remember, the other team is watching for evidence of prejudice - they are more than ready to convict you on the slightest pretext. If you approach everyone on the field and the sidelines from a professional point of view, you can avoid a lot of grief.
With the captains together for the coin toss or during player equipment inspection, some referees deliver a lecture on rules or what they will and will not allow. You are wasting your breath. Players are concentrating on getting psyched up for the game and may even resent the intrusion. At worst, you can paint yourself into a corner by prescribing certain penalties for particular offenses. In a given situation, you may not want to apply that penalty. If you pronounce your intentions ahead of time, someone wil1 undoubtedly remind you cf your earlier statement and ask why you changed your mind. Prevent the problem by giving the lecture to yourself while you are getting ready for the game and leave the players alone.
Try to do your equipment inspection while walking through the players during their warmup. Officials can keep a low profile rather than inject themselves into the game. If you had problems with a particular player in the past, ignore it. Youí11 only open yourself to charges of bias if you refer to the problem in pregame meetings.
Once the game is over, leave. If you want to observe the customary hand shakes after the game, do so from a distance. Don't hang around lecture a player or talk to a coach. If you want to watch the game following yours, donít go into the stands in uniform. Change into "civies" and don't criticize the officials. Remember the golden rule as well as the code of ethics.
Those are a few topics for thought. Anyone should provide a fair amount of controversy for your next chapter or association meeting. The ideas are not infallible, but applied on a regular basis they should take some of the hassle out of your games. Remember the game is for the players, not for you. Officials have tremendous power that, used inappropriately, can destroy the game. lf you can remain in the background and prevent problems rather than react to happenings on the field, you wi11 have not only done your job but done that job splendidly.
You wil make mistakes. You must learn from your mistakes so you can prevent that particular problem in future games.
This column, written by Gil Taylor, originally appeared in the 2/97 issue of Referee.