Every single time you officiate, you encounter situations you can learn from and others that you want to forget on the drive home. Whether it's a distasteful exchange with a coach or player, a missed or close call or poor mechanics, you have a decision to make. Do you keep that event in your "bag of experience" to be drawn upon the next time you encounter a similar situation, or would it be better to "turn the page" and leave it in the past?
It could be argued, of course, that you learn from all experiences - positive and negative. But what is there to be learned? And how is it being taught?
"Are you blind?"
Most officials have been accused of faulty eyesight from time to time by a coach, player or fan. Usually you shrug such comments off as simple partisanship on the part of the accuser. A wise official, however, will take a moment to review the situation before moving on: was I in position to make the call? Did I pause, read and react? Was my mind on my game?
Unless a coach has "chronic-whiner syndrome," you would do well to see if the complaint has any merit. If the coach has generally accepted your calls - even those not in his or her team's favor - the coach may have seen a flaw this time that caused the coach to pipe up. Rewind the call in your mind's eye. Confer with your partner at the next dead ball. Determine if you did things right. If the coach wants to discuss the call with you, you'd do well to ask, "Coach, what did you see on that play?" The response will give you an immediate point of reference for comparing your view of the play and defuse the situation.
It is never acceptable, however, to let a coach get personal in the complaining. Personal comments can quickly drill into one's psyche, and can stay far too long. Hear the coach, reassure the coach, then say "play ball" when calls are questioned. If you kicked some aspect of the call, figure out how to correct the flaw and carry on. Become a better official from it.
"You can't make that call!"
More problematic are situations in which a coach knows the officiating mechanics and rules and calls you on a mistake after a perceived bad call. If you, for whatever reason, find yourself out of position and having to make a call or botching a rule interpretation, the coach may be entitled to more leeway.
Your best approach is to let the coach express his or her feelings in a non-destructive manner, assure the coach you heard and understand the complaint, and let the coach know it's time to continue. Before calling for action to resume, clear your head with some positive thoughts. That play is over, another one is coming and you need to be ready.
After the game, spend more time in review of the play. Ask yourself why you were out of position or how you confused the rule. Talk to your partner. Get back into the rules and mechanics publications to fortify your understanding of the situation. Turn a negative into a positive.
Controversy and questioning are a part of this avocation. When they arise, they can make you better or worse. What you do with them is up to you. Stand your ground, don't accept personal attacks, but be open and honest enough to discern when there is room for improvement.
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