Tag Archives: fans

Please Remember

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I like to read up on articles about youth sports, and while searching for new posts there is a good chance I’ll come across a “Please Remember” sign like this one:


There are all sorts of variations. Yankees for baseball leagues, Blackhawks for hockey leagues, Patriots for football leagues. Pretty much all of these signs are meant to be humorous reminders of a serious issue – that we are watching little kids playing a game. These signs are helpful because they cut to the core of a major problem in youth sports across the United States. The problem, as I see it, is not watching a youth game in context.

I love competition, but I don’t always want competition. Sometimes cooperation works just as well or better for a given task. The benefit of any youth team sport is that players learn how to cooperate on a team while competing against other players. Ideally in an environment that does not discount the importance of one in favor of the other. The playful signs I’ve run into work because we all get the joke. We’ve all lost our cool at a youth game. It happens from time to time, and that is okay. What is not okay is always losing your cool game after game, weekend after weekend, and season after season. The sign helps because we all get the joke, but I think the sign would hold a lot more power if another sign was posted next to it detailing the opposite behavior that gets all the press.

Here is a sign similar to the first one above:

please-remember #2

And here is the sign I created with the opposite message:

Please Remember-Awful Sign


The sign I created sounds ridiculous. The “Please Remember” rules are clearly untrue and not grounded in any kind of reality, but we can all lose our minds a little bit in a one goal U13 game after three earlier games in the summer heat. Humor tends to diffuse situations, and I encourage everyone out in youth programs around the country gearing up for summer ball to kindly approach the folks who might be suffering from the early symptoms of heat exhaustion. Offer them an ice pop, and remind them to follow the good sign and not the bad one.


Are You Kidding Me?

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The phrase I hate the most when I officiate is when a coach, player or fan yells, “are you kidding me?” No, I am not kidding you. In fact, I am completely serious. I called a penalty and that is the end of the discussion. A coach or person affiliated with a team is likely to say “are you kidding me” at least one time during the regular season. I can almost guarantee it because there is going to come a point when that person just cannot accept a particular call or no call. So they yell out in frustration. I understand their frustration, but I still don’t like the phrase.

That phrase irks me because it implies that I am not taking my job seriously. The person making that comment probably thinks that I just show up, throw on a striped shirt, and make calls whenever I feel like it. That person does not know that I:

  • Read the rulebook multiple times before the season and almost every day during the season
  • Run in the offseason so I can keep up with the players who get faster every year
  • Spend hours in the classroom teaching and being taught the intricacies of officiating lacrosse
  • Buy two new hats and two new flags every season so I look the part of a professional official
  • Take meticulous notes after my games detailing how I felt I did and what I need to work on for my next game
  • Call up my officiating friends and discuss weird rule situations so we all know what to do when something strange happens in our next game
  • Show up an hour early to every one of my games
  • Make calls based on safety and advantage/disadvantage. Nothing more.
  • Do not care who wins or loses
  • Want the game safe and fair

These are some of the things that I do and believe in, which I believe makes me a competent official. Many of my officiating colleagues in this state and across the country do similar things to prepare and be at their very best come game time. We put in hours of work behind the scenes so we can provide a quality product. To everyone who says, “are you kidding me?” I suggest taking an officiating class and stepping onto the field. Every new official that I have ever worked with says the exact same thing – “This is much harder than it looks.” It is hard to do, but the rewards are great if you put in the effort to become as good as you can be.


Bigger Than The Game

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One officiating concept that I try to live by is to not be bigger than the game. That concept means that I do my best to not take over the show that the players and coaches are putting on because there isn’t a fan in the stands that paid a ticket to come watch me officiate.

When I was a less-experienced official I was definitely bigger than the game mainly because I didn’t know any better. I was like Leslie Nielson impersonating a major league umpire in the clip below.

While Mr. Nielson was doing a parody of umpires, that clip illustrates an official being bigger than a game and making a mockery of the game in the process. While the clip was a joke about baseball umpires it could have been done with any official in any sport. The potential always exists for an official to be bigger than the game, which is not a good spot to be in. It is a bad spot to be in because other officials really disapprove of a showboating, or overly officious, officials. So do fans, players, and coaches especially.

After my second year officiating for the Georgia Lacrosse Officials Association I went to an officials training clinic at UNC, Chapel Hill. I thought I was a real hot-shot official and I set out to prove that I knew what I was doing. As it turned out, I knew absolutely jack squat.

My evaluators at the training clinic ripped my officiating abilities apart. My positioning was terrible, my mechanics horrible, and my game management skills were non-existant. To top it all off one of the lead evaluators told me that it looked like I thought the fans came to watch me officiate. I was devastated and spent much of the drive back home thinking of quitting officiating.

It took a month before I stepped onto the field again. Since I decided to continue reffing I had to change my mindset. I had thought I was some reffing prodigy who knew everything there was to know about officiating. That old mindset contributed to the perception by my evaluators that I thought I was bigger than the game. While I could not change my training evaluators’ perception of me, I could certainly ensure that no one perceived me in that way ever again. So I made it my mission to become a student of officiating.

I decided to approach every game as a learning opportunity. Each and every game was a chance to get better and get my officiating to a new level. However, I also needed to work on removing my ego from my officiating. While it is a good thing for an official to have a high amount of self-confidence, I think it is important for officials to keep their egos off the field. If we don’t, we give the impression that we think we are the most important people on the field. To be fair, officials are necessary for the game, but as I said earlier no one pays for a ticket to watch us ref. Fans come to watch the players. The coaches come to coach the players, and the players come to play each other. The officials are meant to filter out bad behavior and leave a good game in their wake. If we leave the field of play and no one can remember we were there, then we did a good job.

Some officials call this blending in, or being “green.” All that means is that good officials are rarely noticed. They seem to blend into the field. Only appearing when a foul needs to be called. That is what good officials strive for. We don’t want people to remember us. We want fans, players, and coaches to remember the game and how it was played. Not how it was officiated.

It is a little strange to think that we aspire to not be noticed. That my fellow zebras and myself don’t want any recognition from anyone during or after the game. We don’t want applause for a job well done, we just want people to forget we were even there.