Whenever I ref a men’s club game or tournament, like I did this weekend, I invariably run into a former teammate or opponent from my playing days. After the usual pleasantries are exchanged I get asked the same question: “Why aren’t you playing today Corsetti?”
The short and funny answer is: “I’m not getting paid $50 bucks to play the game, but I do get paid that to ref it.”
The more complicated answer is: “I don’t want to play anymore.”
I rarely give out that second answer because I get a lot of perplexed looks from youth, high school, college, and men’s club players. None of them understand why I wouldn’t want to get out and mix it up with some buddies on a lacrosse field. I don’t think they believe me when I explain that if I never picked up a lacrosse stick again for the rest of my life that I would still die happy.
You see, I love lacrosse, but I never really liked playing. And that is a huge distinction to make.
Since I started playing in fifth grade at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse at Murphy Candler Park until I stopped in my final club game around 2011, I had trouble enjoying lacrosse while I played it. I had a blast with my teammates, and I rejoiced when we won games, but there was a darker side that I never liked.
Since I began playing as a child I never fully enjoyed a game because I was so self-critical. Every mistake I made was magnified in my mind as being the worst mistake ever made on a lacrosse field. I had fun, sure, but I was also plagued by self-doubt and a ridiculously critical inner-voice. As I grew older and played in more competitive games that self-doubt turned into anger. Eventually the game wasn’t any fun no matter what the final score was.
I spent ten years playing lacrosse turning much of my anger towards myself, and at twenty-two years old I played a men’s club game out in north Georgia with some friends. The team played well, I played well, we won with a comfortable lead, and I was miserable driving home. I was miserable because I got stripped of the ball on a clear. I was pissed off at myself in a game that had zero meaning. So I made the decision then and there that I no longer wanted to play lacrosse.
I never liked playing lacrosse, but I loved the game then and I love it now. The only difference is I get to officiate, which allows me to cultivate a mental attitude that I am much happier with. For me, the best part about officiating is that I only have one metric that I judge myself on, which is:
- Did I give everything I had to the two teams playing?
- As one high-level official I met said, “If the players are going to give 100%, I am going to give 100%.”
The second best part about officiating is that you never win and you never lose. You either did a good job or you didn’t. For some reason that tiny difference turns my competitively hot anger against myself into a cool anger. When I make a mistake that cool anger keeps me hyper focused on the game in front of me, and it drives me to make sure that I don’t commit any more mistakes for the rest of the game.
Officiating lets me be my self-critical self without being destructive. I tell people who ask me why I officiate the following:
When I ref a game I get to be the calm center of the swirling tornado around me. I step on and off the field with a calm and relaxed mindset. That makes me happy.
I’m still competing to be the best lacrosse official I can possibly be, but it took me over fifteen years to realize that while lacrosse is a competitive game, it is still just a game, and I’m not going to crucify myself mentally for not hitting my generally too-high standards.
I love lacrosse, and I like officiating. So that’s what I’m going to stick with until I can transfer my officiating mentality into my playing mentality.
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