The life of an official is not an easy one. Perhaps the first year or two are the toughest, but like the formative period in any one's life, these first years are all-important. The most important requirement is that you must gain experience. That means you have to work all the games you can find. Be ready and willing to work YMCA games, church and industrial league games and scrimmages. Somehow you have to get the feel of it, and the only way to do that is to officiate. The key is to be patient, and when you get your first interscholastic game, make sure you are prepared to properly handle the assignment.
Here are steps that have been designed to help an official.
• THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR STUDY. Textbooks are made available through your state association, such as rule books, case books, and officials manuals which contain many items of importance to officials. Game rules are generally complex and you don’t learn them without extensive study. Many experienced officials still average several hours each week of solid study of the rules publications. There is no sadder spectacle than an official who doesn’t know the rules. You learn the rules by means of thorough intensive study.
• ATTEND ALL RULES INTERPRETATION MEETINGS WITHIN YOUR REACH. They are arranged for the purpose of reviewing old rules, explaining new ones, and giving positive interpretations on the more tricky ones. It is also a good place to get acquainted with fellow officials, coaches and athletic directors.
• JOIN A LOCAL OFFICIALS GROUP. There may be one in your area or not too far away. Many of these local groups meet regularly for rules discussion and for discussing common problems. The state-sponsored meetings are important, but local groups must take over in a follow-up program of rules study and interpretations.
• SEE ALL THE GAMES YOU CAN, especially games worked by the most capable officials. It is one of the best ways to learn about the technique and mechanics of officiating.
• ALWAYS STRIVE TO IMPROVE. The game of officiating has no place for an official who doesn’t want to improve him self/herself. Here, you either get someplace or drop out; you can’t stand still. Give attention to such factors as rules examination grades, ratings received from schools and assistance from rules meetings.
• IF AVAILABLE, GET GAME FILE OF YOUR GAMES. Being able to review the games you've worked will greatly improve your mechanics, judgement, and overall persona of how your present yourself on the court. Were you in the correct position when a call was made? What could you have done differently? Do your calls show everyone you're confident in your decision? Little things that you may be unaware you are doing can be viewed and rectified in reviewing games you've worked.
Several other things go into the making of a good official.
When you start out for a game, plan to be there early. It is better for you to help the janitor open the front door than it is to rush in breathless at the opening whistle. The time preceding the game can be used to confer with fellow officials. Go over some pertinent phases of the rules. Talk over the general plan of administering penalties, positioning at key situations, and pre- and post-contest procedures. A good pregame conference is very necessary and a must.
During the contest, be in position. In your attitude toward players and coaches, be kind and polite but firm. It is a big order, and few ever fill it completely. But this is what it takes! Be firm but not overbearing. Be courteous and never rude. Be dignified but never cocky. Be friendly to players but avoid “kidding” on the floor or field.
With the contest at an end, your duties are over. It isn't your job to congratulate the winner, console the defeated, or offer advice to losers. It is businesslike for officials to leave the floor or field together, neither seeking out nor deliberately avoiding coaches. Make no statements and offer no comments concerning the contest to members of the press or radio. Shower, dress, collect your gear, and head for home; not because you are afraid or ashamed to talk to anyone, but the contest is over and your job has been completed. There is no need to hang around.
(Adapted with permission from the Missouri State High School Activities Association)