For anyone starting a program, league, or tournament there is one person on the court that’s the most important piece of the whole thing. The referee.
While some may argue the event organizer is the main person, and that’s certainly a big part of it. The referees are the ultimate tool to ensure a positive experience for players. Prior to launching any event or league it is vital to have quality officials at the ready. This is not something that can be slapped together, but something cultivated.
You must be intentional in developing officials. There’s not secret that finding and keeping officials is a growing problem. When you do find quality officials you must figure out a way to keep them and encourage them to help build up the younger or more inexperienced officials. Ultimately it becomes a tight knit community of professionals all looking out for each other. Success for one is a success for all. As the organizer or manager of officials your job is to develop them, give them feedback, help them, and more importantly protect them.
For groups that are just forming it will be especially important to ensure that players and officials are learning and playing the sport per the established rules. While new groups may not have enough players for full games there are still opportunities to develop officials. We see this played out in other sports through a “call your own foul” understanding among players. This forces players to better understand the rules and game play to make the correct calls in varying situations, which is important for officials to understand.
For many players just starting out one of the more difficult aspects of the game revolve around not being able to stick check or stick lift.
As a developing official, it is important to recognize when this action is a foul and can make the call accordingly. Just because the defenders stick hits the offensive players stick doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a foul. In its simplest form, a defensive player may not go through the offensive players stick to obtain the ball. Above all else the way to continued development is continued training and development through experience on multiple levels. The more experience officials can obtain and the more games they observe the better they will be at making the correct calls when they occur.
It is a process where people must become students of the game. This becomes more important when you have officials who may not be as knowledgeable of the sport. Working in college recreation overseeing intramural sports I saw a lot of this. At times you take who shows up. If they’re willing to learn you can work with that. It helps if they know the game, but given support, training, and development they can become quality officials. It’s a work in progress, and one that needs constant attention. Don’t shy away from it. Lean into it.