Troubleshooting Guide for Officials

Discipline There's a right way and a wrong way to penalize players, coaches and fans. You must maintain order and respect during the game. You should not tolerate poor sportsmanship. Sometimes, it can be frustrating watching a coach or parents tolerate poor behavior from kids. A player who mouths off to his or her own coach is a disheartening thing to watch. Resist the urge to get directly involved in player-coach, parent-coach or player-parent situations. Observe what goes on, but do your best to stay neutral. If a coach has lost control of the team, all you can really do is penalize appropriately on the court and follow through with a report to the league director.

Running Up the Score You'll come across situations in which a "win at all costs" mentality takes over a coach and team. Lopsided scores usually cause problems for officials. If you sense that one team is running up the score by keeping starters in or using a pressing defense during a blowout, there's not a lot you can do. You may want to carefully mention the situation to the coach. Remind the coach that humiliation has no role in youth sports. Then, observe the actions and report the coach to the league director.

Pushy Parents and Coaches Players and coaches often live vicariously through their players. The pressure to win -- even at the youth level -- can ruin a contest. Character building and athletic development are the goal of youth sports and sometimes parents and coaches need reminders. Work with the league director to ensure that all parents and coaches know the true spirit of youth sports. Avoid on- court confrontations.

Problem Players In many ways, players are the easiest of the participants to deal with. They want to play! Sometimes, though, a rough or cocky player can turn an otherwise normal game into a problem. It only takes one. Recognize any signs of trash talking or showboating. Ask the coach to address the player. If it continues, penalize the player appropriately. If the player wants to stay in the game, the player's attitude must adjust, not your standards.

Lack of Support One of the most frustrating moments in officiating occurs when you've done something you feel is right, yet don't feel supported by coaches, parents or league administrators. You must understand that not all participants are going to agree with you. The most important level of support comes from the league director. Understand that the league director position is often that of "official" too. They must judge what happened and make a ruling. If you think the league director doesn't support the officials, try to deal with the situation professionally and seek that support. Never back a league director into a corner ("Suspend that coach or I'll quit!"). While you're an important part of the equation, the league will go on without you.

Pre-game Jitters It's okay to be nervous before a game! Some of the top-notch NBA and WNBA officials still get those "pre-game butterflies." Just like players, officials care about their performance too. Turn your anxiety into a positive source of energy. If you worry about upcoming "bad" calls, they'll probably happen. Tell yourself that no matter what happens, you're going to do your best and do what you think is right. The rest will take care of itself.

Schedule Conflicts Be flexible if game locations or times change. Often, the officials are the last to be informed. While you don't want to be treated disrespectfully, understand that things can and do change. Roll with it. Also, if you have a schedule conflict in which you can't make a game assignment, notify the league director and officiating coordinator immediately. Don't wait until a day before the game to tell someone you won't make the game because it's your spouse's birthday. If you get the reputation of turning back a number of games -- especially at the last minute -- you're not going to get called for games.

Facilities The youth level presents unique facility challenges, especially for officials. You're not likely to have access to a palatial, secure locker room. Many times, you won't even be able to grab a shower after the game. Know that in many cases, the buildings don't have the rooms to accommodate those needs. You should expect a secure area for your valuables, but if none is present, leave all personal items locked in the trunk of your car.

Table personnel Scorers and timers are an important part of your team. Good ones are like gold. Bad ones can make for a long day. Many times, scorers and timers are kids themselves. Be patient, meet with them before the game and offer advice and assistance. In the rarest of cases, if a scorer or timer is so poor that the game is negatively impacted on a regular basis, it is within your authority to have that person replaced. Most of the time though, problems with the clock or the score can be corrected with minimal concerns. Take your time because ultimately, you are responsible.

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