For all but a handful of referees who will be tabbed for the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four and Championship game assignments, the 2013-14 scholastic and collegiate season has come to a close.
Now if you’re not one of the designated elite officials still packing a suitcase for another game, the off-season has officially begun, but REF 60 would caution you that the down time will be considerably shorter than you might imagine, at least if you are planning to make significant inroads on advancing in your officiating career next season.
REF 60 would like to offer a proven path for progress that will pay meaningful dividends with your assignments, both in terms of quality and quantity, if you put in the time to perform the necessary mental and physical inventories, as well as investing your precious time and hard-earned money in your officiating avocation.
Step One: Look Under The Hood
Once you have put a couple of weeks separation between your body and your last game assignment, its time to undergo the important physical and mental evaluation process to determine if you still have the ability to perform at the high level you should expect, and that the game demands.
Assess your body and answer the hard question, “can you keep up with the speed of the game?” Officials get one year older; but a steady wave of 15-18 year-old players keeps crashing down on us.
Many times gimpy ankles, backs, knees and hips can be fixed with physical therapy and/or surgery. If that’s the case and you’re willing to put in the rehab time to “roll back the odometer,” now is the time to do it.
Maybe your problem is not a bulging disc in your back, but rather a bulging gut in your front…If overeating is your problem, then pushing yourself away from the chow table and getting into a sensible exercise program, will undoubtedly add years of service to your game.
Once you determine your limps and lungs are in for at least one more season, you need to ask yourself if your mind and heart are ready for the 2014-15 campaign.
If the season started next week, would you be fired up (and I mean fired up!) to juggle your daily schedule and fight the rush hour traffic to ensure you arrive on time to adequately dress and prepare for the game?
Do you have the level of patience required to deal with the trio of biased observers and participants that are the spectators, players and coaches at each and every game?
If the answer is a hearty and honest “yes” then you may proceed to Step Two…
Step Two: Watch The Tape
Make the effort to obtain as many game tapes as possible of your assignments from this past season.
If you are working at the college level you may already have to secure a copy and break the tape down as part of your post-game duties…If you are working high school varsity assignments, every game is taped, so you simply have to call one of the coaches of your games and ask for a copy. You can get a running head start by calling the coaches you have a good relationship with, and if you’re lucky he/she may have a tape of you from a game when they were scouting an opponent. Or maybe you worked that coach’s team more than once last season.
Once you have gathered your game tapes, reach out to an official who has experience in breaking down and grading tapes and ask him/her to walk you through the process. Once you have the hang of it, go in chronological order and look to see if you made the same mistakes throughout the season, or if you got better as the year went on.
Use this valuable tool to improve your positioning on the floor; to reduce mistakes in judgment and to enhance your on-court presence and demeanor.
Step Three: Feed Your Mind
Don’t wear ignorance as a badge of honor.
Successful officials who proclaim, “I’m not a rules guy!” and boast that they rely on their judgment and guile to avoid in-game trouble, do themselves, the officials who look up to them, and the game in general, a great disservice.
Rule competency breeds calmness and confidence in chaos, so make sure you have a firm grasp of the rules.
From as basic as opening the rule and case books and reading a few pages every day, to expanding your knowledge from a wide array of educational content, it is an image-of-difference way to separate yourself from the average officiating pack and begin to run with the elite group of referees.
Right here at REF 60 we offer the widely-acclaimed publications, Beyond The Rules, Volumes I & II, as well as The Best Of 60 Seconds on Officiating.
Whatever sources and methods you choose to be more proficient in the rules of our great game is up to you; that you ARE proficient in the rules is a critical component for your advancement.
Step Four: Get To Camp
Personal instruction from respected officials, peer interaction and networking opportunities are all good reasons to plan on investing your time, talent and treasure in attending a camp this summer.
The camps run the gamut from a few hours for a few nights; to heading off the grid for a week-long overnight excursion immersing yourself in the science of officiating.
The key to a satisfying experience is to determine what you are hoping to gain from this commitment.
If you are looking to improve your skill set and to bolster your scholastic schedule, then find out what camps your high school assignor and your supervisor of official (on some Boards its one person with dual responsibilities) will be working as clinicians or evaluators and let them get an up close and prolonged look at your judgment and game game management skills.
If you think this is the year to make the move into college, or to advance another rung on the collegiate ladder, then you need to target the camps where the decision-makers you want to impress will be, and invest the money and time to put your talents on display.
Step Five: Pay It Forward
There is no escaping the hard facts that in this officiating game of “Musical Chairs,” there are more players than seats, so be prepared for a very competitive setting.
However, that DOES NOT mean that you should employ the strategy of rising above your peers by stepping on their necks. Just keep in mind you cannot be in EVERY gossip session that pokes fun and tears down your fellow officials, and chances are when you’re absent from his group of back-stabbers, they are likely skewering you!
So, take a step back and begin to think about paying it forward.
Be thankful for what you have accomplished to date with your officiating and begin to offer (or expand on) giving your time and talent to enhance the game experience for those less fortunate.
Special Olympics is a great place to start…It is absolutely true that you will get more out of working a Special Olympics game than they will get from you…It is a life-changing experience.
And I’m sure you don’t have to look to hard to find a youth league in a financially depressed area that would certainly gobble up your officiating services that will keep young people off the streets and occupied in a positive structured setting.
Or begin to make yourself available to young officials coming up the ranks and guide them away from the pitfalls you landed in and help put them on the right path that will maximize their refereeing experience.
Maybe consider running for an executive position within your organization and share your management and business skills with your Board.
There are any number of ways for you to give back to the game that has given you so many rewarding experiences…Pick one or two and begin to pay it forward.
The Day Begins The Night Before
No matter what you do in life, PREPARATION is the key, and if you follow REF 60’s proven path for progress, your officiating legacy will either be capped off at the perfect time for you call it a career (Step One), or it will be greatly enhanced in the coming season.
Take care for now and we look forward to connecting with you next season!