As an official all you have is your reputation. Screw it up and say goodbye to assignments and your career. Here are eight sure-fire ways to ruin what you worked so hard for.
1. Be high maintenance. The men and women who assign you to games and evaluate your performance have jobs to do, deadlines to meet and their own series of constituents to answer to. Do you realize that every time you make their lives harder and their days more frustrating, they're remembering the source of their anguish? Supervisors and assigners are looking for people who are low maintenance. Everyone wants someone they can trust, someone who will be on time and someone who will get the job done. Making your supervisors' lives easier fortifies your reputation while doing things that they find annoying works against it. Get your reports in on time, be punctual, return phone calls and do what needs to be done even when you find it a pain in the neck.
2. Talk too much. Do your best to keep your opinions to yourself, especially when you're out in public. Criticizing someone else's work is tacky and it reveals more about you than it does the subject of your conversation. Officials, athletic directors and coaches all travel in the same tight circles so when you let a "Between me and you ... " go, know that it is the furthest thing from being just among friends. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything -especially about another official.
3. Create problems off-the-court. Remember you've chosen to be an official, so don't pretend you're not in a visible profession. Yes, your free time is your own but don't be so naive as to believe that what you do away from your assignments won't impact your reputation. Like it or not officials have great visibility. People know who you are and when you're out and about how you act will get back to the coaches, ADs and supervisors." Those photos on Facebook and the tweets you make will affect how people see you.
4. Fraternize. Officials are human and like interaction. It is natural to want to talk with folks that you see on a semi-regular basis but remember your responsibility is to oversee a contest in an unbiased fashion. When officials enter a gym, they should survey the area, note where the coaches are sitting and find another spot. Be careful not to give the appearance of fraternizing. High fives and fist bumps with coaches and ADs get noticed and as innocent as they can be, they get interpreted.
5. Look terrible. Certainly by now officials know to keep your uniform in such a way as to communicate your professionalism. It extends off the court too. Showing up to your assignment with your ripped concert T shirt and flip flops may make you feel hip, but don't expect folks not to gossip about your sartorial statement. When officials walk into a venue, they must look professional and once you put on the uniform you are in charge so it is important to send the right message. Everything an official does communicates something. Make sure it's communicating professionalism.
6. Don't treat people right. Whether it's a team manager showing you to the broom closest that will double as your dressing room, the waitress at the restaurant where you're getting your pregame meal or the new official working his or her first assignment, no one appreciates mistreatment. Using "Please," "Thank you" and "Excuse me" goes a long way and their absence goes even further in people's memories. If you're a jerk to people onsite, that'll get back to people. Changing in a bathroom is not the ideal environment, but that doesn't mean it's OK to be rude to people. Being rude will get you remembered for all the wrong reasons.
7. Be all about the money. All officials have to write checks for clinics and association dues every year and they all know the realities of today's economy. Officials are all in the same boat and very few are getting rich officiating. Cherry picking assignments or complaining about paying dues is classless and it will cost you more than the amount you write on your check.
8. Be arrogant and unapproachable. The matches aren't about officials; they're about the players, coaches and institutions involved. Emotions run hot and high and sometimes people need to vent about what's going on. Let them, to a point. Coaches want officials who are approachable and coach friendly. More and more communication has become crucial and being standoffish is unacceptable.