The sports official is by far one of the more difficult positions to be in. It requires a detailed knowledge of the sport, rules of the game, game management, and communication skills. It also requires the ability to have thick skin to deal with difficult people and situations. However, finding, training, and keeping good officials is a challenge that must be overcome to provide quality games for participants. For those who hire, train, and manage officials they should be protected at all costs from abuse, threats both verbal and physical. This is vital when talking about minors who officiate games. For any sport to grow there must be sustained recruitment and development of officials.
Most competition levels fall into the recreation based leagues. These leagues are comprised of a wide range of ages. For the current landscape in North America these leagues are primarily filled with players who are relatively new to the game. The staff who officiate these games are likely relatively new to the sport too. Some may come with previous experience from other sports, but for most it will be a new experience. Grace must be given to officials to properly develop. Over time the skill level of the players and officials will likely rise to meet each other. This development and experience is what will allow the sport to succeed.
For any development to happen it will take time. I’m protective of my officials, especially the new ones. For some reason they’ve developed an interest in being an official. If I’m lucky they come with some experience. If not, I need to do what I can to help them. While I won’t step in and take over a game in progress I will work with them between breaks to discuss potential issues and make a plan that they can work on in the moment. The key is to not overload them with information, or highlight every mistake. Find one areas they can improve on and plan to bring it to reality. Throughout the season you can go further by writing out a report on what they’re doing well and areas they can improve on. Think of it as a report card. This can help developing officials continue to learn and grow.
An official is a unique person. They are a student of the game, and someone who has a love of the sport. While they maintain the integrity of the game, they also have a responsibility to maintain player’s safety. It’s a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Do what you can to support, develop and train your officials. If you take care of them they will take care of you. In turn that will help the sport take another step forward.