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Great Expectations: What Your Partners Need From You

By Tim Leighton on February 27, 2017 officials

The aura is immediately noticeable when your crew-mate enters the gymnasium, stadium or rink. It isn’t a pleasant aura, either. A bad day at the office couldn’t be cured or staved off by the drive to the athletic contest that is on the official’s schedule.

It could be a recipe for a disastrous officiating experience ahead.

“When an official, one of my crew-mates, walks through the door, I need their undivided attention,” says Tony Day, a three-sport official who resides in Hanover, Minnesota. “All of the other stuff needs to be put on a shelf or the back burner for a while.”

Strong communications, eye contact and being on the proverbial “same wavelength” are the hallmarks of a strong officiating crew entering any athletic contest. Oftentimes, a strong pregame conference serves as a lasso in bringing the crew together to ensure everyone is engaged and prepared to officiate at a high level.

The expectations of one another are established during the pregame and they are carried out during a contest. What are some of those expectations?

  • How are you going to manage the game? This is a key question and is often the catalyst to a strong performance by a crew. How the game is called, to where the ball is put in play, to how many shots on free throws are all components of managing the game effectively, not only individually, but also as a crew. And perhaps a key in-game question: How patient will you be with an overzealous coach?
  • Watching off-ball: In basketball, a three-person crew is a thing of beauty when the partners trust one another. Watching off-ball is based on trusting your partners that they are taking care of their primary areas. Officiating your primary area, while resisting temptation to reach into a partner’s area, helps to ensure strong coverage and reduces the chances for a double whistle. Double whistles, as coaches and fans know, typically, occur when two officials are watching the ball at the same time. Communication and setting expectations prior to the contest curbs double whistles immensely.   
  • Verbal and non-verbal communications: There is a reason mechanics exist for officials. It is your way of communicating with your crew, the coaches, players, game management and the fans. A whistle indicates you have something to share. Your mechanics explain what you have. What follows are your words, when, during a dead ball situation, they provide instructions to help keep the game flowing in an effective, positive manner.

Expectations aren’t just wishful thinking for officiating partners. They are, well, expected.

“I need, and expect, the best efforts from my partners,” Day said. “Every game, and I don’t care if it is a kids’ game or for a high school state championship, I need a partner that is really locked in. The players deserve it, the fans deserve it, and the crew expects it, too.”