During my officiating career I have been involved in dozens of evaluations of officials by observers. While my experiences with my own evaluations were filled with positive and negative moments, I have been most concerned by the evaluations delivered to my officiating partners.
The individuals providing these evaluations were often clueless as to social graces and positive interaction. Their interest was not in constructive criticism but in putting another person down. Whether observing an employee in an office, an official on the court or any other scenario, there is a proper way to talk to the other person and provide them with feedback they will listen to and learn from.
This is true when we offer postgame evaluation to our partners. How we make our point goes a long way toward how they hear us and how they react. When we work with the same partners over many games or seasons we do earn the right to be a bit more blunt but with a new partner we must always be cautious. Consider how you would feel if the comments you are making to another official would be made to you.
Here are some examples of comments I heard given directly to another official on my crew in our locker room immediately after the game.
“You need to get out of officiating immediately and stop working with you son before you ruin him also.”
“Have you considered taking up bowling or another hobby to get you out of the house. You shouldn’t be officiating.”
“I worked multiple state finals games and if I had been working the game with you tonight I would have walked off the floor to get away from you.”
“You are fat, slow and appear to be stupid with some of your calls. Why are you here?”
Not much help offered in those comments and not much change of an official improving based on the feedback. While there are times that an official is struggling and appears totally out of place, there is a way to talk to them that doesn’t insult.
“You seemed to be really struggling tonight. Is something wrong? I thought your foul reporting was very good and your eye contact with me was great. However, I encourage you to practice your signals in front of a mirror to make them more crisp and easy to see. Go watch some veterans work the floor to see better positions to work in game situation.”
There is always something positive that can be said to a fellow official. That one thing can give them enough to listen closely to a longer list of negatives. Don’t make them bad or dumb, make the negatives their actions or inaction. An evaluation is a personal contact by nature. Use words that don’t put the negatives on their person.
Your attitude during an evaluation is also critical. Don’t be angry or exasperated as if you have no patience for them or the situation. Regardless of how bad the experience may have been, your words and attitude can help create a space for the other official to learn and perhaps, over time, improve. Remember, you were a rookie once too!
If your local association is using observers, be sure to pick top rate people. Just because they worked at “state” or had many big games doesn’t mean they can help evaluate, train and develop officials. Too many observers simply compare everyone to how good they believe they were. They sometimes have agendas over how they moved up or why their career ended early. Pick people to observe and evaluate that were always involved in learning and trying to get better themselves. Find people that were interested in finding and mentoring new officials. Those are the officials you want developing the next crop of officials.
Sometimes wearing the stripes feels like we have stopped being human. The fans, the coaches and the players seem to have lost respect for us. The worst insult of all, however, is if fellow officials don’t respect us. Use your words to help other grow, not to diminish.