Improving Officials
Blog: From the Director, Officials
Posted Friday, April 29, 2011

Tomorrow night in East Lansing is the 32nd annual Officials’ Awards & Alumni Banquet which honors the contributions of MHSAA registered officials to high school sports over 20, 30, 40, 45 and 50 years.

Singled out for special recognition will be the 2011 Vern L. Norris Award recipient, Robert Williams of Redford.  See our news release of April 4, as well as this nice post on April 14 by The Detroit News’ Tom Markowski.

As we honor these dedicated veterans, we are reminded of the need to recruit their future replacements – young men and women who we will need to approach sports officiating with as much commitment and passion.

The largest hurdle we face in recruiting and retaining officials is the poor treatment they too often receive from the observers to the contests. The participants are usually fine, but those in the stands often misunderstand the rules and/or the difficulty of making the calls as action flashes by.  They expect officials to start out perfect and then improve.

The absolutely most effective strategy for improving sports officiating is to treat young, learning officials with patience and encouragement so they can develop into mature, master officials everyone hopes to see at every contest.  People like Bobby Williams.


# gw
Friday, December 30, 2011 4:52 PM
Jack's last article cited these reasons for "poor treatment" of officials by observers of the contest: "those in the stands often misunderstand the rules and/or the difficulty of making the calls as action flashes by. They expect officials to start out perfect and then improve." Whereas these may be somewhat valid cause, the outright reason for the harsh criticism of officials is primarily fueled by a sense of bias and favoritism that turns otherwise normal fans into rabid fanatics. Until a sense of understanding of the fact that not every call or no-call will go in favor of the observer's favorite team, such unsportsmanlike behavior will continue to run rampant regardless any understanding of the rules or expectations of perfection that might otherwise be gained. Truth be told, the officials are, in all instances I've ever been involved with, the only purely neutral, non-biased individuals in the equation. That lack of partiality is too often lost by anyone not understanding this reality of the contest. How can this reality be reinstilled into those in the stands?
# gw
Friday, December 30, 2011 4:53 PM
I couldn't agree more with the comments above. As a rookie official I was surprised to see how differently the action looks from a few feet away as opposed to fifty feet away. I also encountered numerous fans who did not really know the rules that were very eager to behave disruptively. Despite these challenges, I have enjoyed my officiating experience very much and will continue to encourage people to become registered officials.
Friday, December 30, 2011 4:54 PM
Spectators do not realize that some rules are different for the college and pro game. Game sites could put out a do you know the HIGH SCHOOL rule in programs to challenge and educate the casual high school fan.
Friday, December 30, 2011 4:55 PM
We've been working hard to educate our spectators as to proper behavior and expectations . We've created a banner that lists these expectations.We use time-outs and other breaks in the action to "catch" people behaving properly and reward them with a free popcorn or something else. We also use this time to have our announcer read tid-bits of information on sportsmanship. On the back of every program we provide an article on sportsmanship or a quiz of the rules of the game so they can check to see how well they know the rules. I'm curious to see what everyone else is doing to foster a feeling of ownership as far as our behavior at contests goes.
# gw
Friday, December 30, 2011 4:56 PM
This comment by Pat Forde (quoting Roy Kramer) from this month's Referee magazine seems quite relevant to this issue:
"Quit screaming about the officiating . . . 'It's amazing how much better the officiating is when you don't care who wins. When we do care, we start seeing ghosts -- bad calls against Our Team, which turn into agendas against Our Team, which turn into a vast league-wide consppiracy to bring dOur Team down . . . (I'm) going to go out on a limb here and declare that regardless of who your team is, the refs aren't out to get them. And the calls do tend to even out.'"

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