Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Goals for next season

Since I've just returned to officiating this year after a break, there will be no playoffs for me, so I have officially finished up the season. Although I wasn't on the varsity list this year (they're making me work my way back up), I did games across the ability spectrum:

16 rec games of various levels (5th grade through 9th grade)
4 junior high games (felt like more...funny...)
4 freshman games
10 JV games
3 preseason scrimmages (1 JV, 2 Varsity)
8 varsity games

The varsity games were mostly small schools, but not the exclusive diet of blowouts and 8th-place-vs.-9th-place varsity games that a non-varsity official can expect. I had a few small-school games from the middle of the standings, and in what must have been an extreme fluke (or a night we were breathtakingly shorthanded) I had one marvelous 3A game that turned out to be for third place in the conference. At this point, two weeks after their regular season ended, both teams are still alive in the postseason, although one will eliminate the other tomorrow night.

So, how'd I do this year?

Much to my surprise, I am a much better official now than I was when I left off at the end of the 2000-2001 season. I can't pinpoint exactly why this is true. Since I thought my career was over (medical issue), I had been serving as an evaluator of officials, and I think all of those hours watching good officials do good games must have rubbed off on me. Even watching some less-good and less-confident officials must have taught me. I thought I'd have a lot of rust to knock off this year, but I had very little. Within a couple of weeks, I was out doing varsity games and feeling that Zen-like leaving-the-world smoothness of the game. Here is what I did well this year:

--I got myself in good shape. Evaluators said I looked good, hustled hard, and was in position to make calls. I'm not at all an athlete and slower than molasses, so I take particular pride in this.

--I don't feel any games got terribly out of control. I think I did a pretty good job calling off-ball stuff. I am not what's called a "let 'em play" official...at the high school level, they can't be mugging each other. Games mostly settled down nicely with the first calls away from the ball.

--Although I still get nervous before games, I don't get nervous during games anymore, even games where I have to make a big call at the buzzer. And that's refreshing. I'm not lackadaisical...just businesslike.

--I'm very proud of two games in particular this year. One was the aforementioned big varsity game. This one was one of the biggest games I've ever had. My partner was able, but not too experienced, so I wasn't leaning on my partner like I maybe used to do. And we got through the game solidly. The other game was the last day of the season. I had to work a tough JV game alone. Really hard to do. I am confident that there was crap going on I was missing...one coach claimed that the opposition was cussing, elbowing, pulling ponytails, etc., and I don't know why he'd make that up...but still, I felt really good about that game. I was able to catch an off-ball call or two, stayed out of any coach confrontations (although they may have pitied me and gone easy on me), and kept things as controlled as can be expected, I think.

I'm almost definitely going to be on the varsity list for next year, and since we're doing more and more 3-person games, even have a chance of making my playoff debut. So I wanted to make sure to write down what I see as my weaknesses that I can work on for next year.

--I will remember to get my shirts and pants tailored before the year. I lost enough weight that I was struggling to keep the pants up, and as for the top...well, it looked a little like I was wearing a striped poncho.

--I will become more comfortable with 3-person mechanics. I only did 3 games (2 rec, one varsity) in 3-person this year. Never felt fully comfortable. I'm sure this will come with time. But even while I'm getting comfortable in my first few 3-person games, I won't let my discomfort with positioning affect my ability to call the game.

--I will do less poaching of my partners' calls. I didn't do too much of this, but enough that I need to recommit to keeping my eyes in my area, especially on nights where for whatever reason (quality of play, disparity of score) my mind starts to wander. I will especially try not to reach across the lane to get the drive when I'm lead.

--I will learn coach management. I guess you'd have to ask the coaches if I'm good at this or not. I only gave two technicals this year (one to a 6th-grade coach--worst game of the year by far...she was terrible that day, and incited the crowd--and the other to a varsity guy), but never felt like I got the routine conversations to a level I wanted them. Some games I thought I was too brusque with coaches (rarely), some I thought I let them go on too long (fairly often), and others I just kinda said the wrong thing (quite often). Since 3-person mechanics sends the official next to the coach after making a foul call, I need to get this licked. I suspect this will take a long, long time...it'll be one of those ongoing challenges.

So, come mid-November, be sure to remind me that I am working on:

1. Tailoring of uniform
2. 3-person mechanics review
3. Eyes in own area--no more poaching
4. Coach management

Happy off-season!


Hugh said...

Congrats, Ref, on a successful entré back into the game. It's not everyone who can make that happen, especially in a profession that is so public and open to criticism from others.

lemming said...

I would suspect that all of the teaching gives you greater confidence to ref, yes? Congrats!

TeacherRefPoet said...


Lemming--I've thought about this a good deal, and I don't think that the skill sets I use as a teacher have much overlap with the skill sets I use as an official. I guess there's an aspect of getting control before things go into the crapper, but even that similarity feels like a stretch because the techniques are wildly different. In teaching, likeability is important...teachers need to establish good relationships with people in order to do the job well. As an official, relationships are irrelevant, since everyone will hate the official at the first opportunity no matter what he/she does--so while politeness and civility are important, relationships aren't so much. I guess that I might develop ongoing relationships with coaches over the years, as they learn to trust me, but I haven't gotten that far yet. And thanks.

Shannin said...

Way to go on a successful first new season. One of the things I liked most about your post was the accountability -- something I have to preach to my staff daily. You are aware of your areas for improvement, unlike so many who think they are the greatest. I think maybe your teaching background makes you more self-critical. At least you know what you want to work on to get better, and I'm sure you'll do it.

BTW, thanks for your comments on my blog. I was moved by the message, and I know I cannot control the past, but I can control my actions in the future.