Officiating is a demanding hobby that requires officials invest significant amounts of time, effort, and finances in order to improve. Many officials express a desire to get better in different ways:
- If I attend a clinic I’ll improve.
- If only my assigner recognized how good I was I wouldn’t just be working youth games.
- I have to get better if I’m ever going to get to the college ranks.
Consciously or unconsciously, officials often compare themselves to fellow officials. Many assigners actually rank officials, because it doesn’t work to have two low-ranked officials working one of the most competitive games in an area.
So how do you move up the ranks and earn better games? Establish specific, measurable, agreed, realistic, and time-bound goals.
Otherwise known as SMART goals, they follow a model allowing for regular self-evaluation across a period of time. The desire to get better is a fine desire to have, but it is too vague to be of any use.
To truly improve, SMART goals are needed, and because officials have different goals at different stages of their careers, here’s a realistic look at goals for three different officials.
The Second-Year Official
This official made all of his rookie mistakes and came back for another season. After a steady number of youth and junior varsity games, he wants to make the jump to varsity assignments. But he has trouble using the play-on correctly. What is a good SMART goal for this official?
S – To employ the play-on mechanic successfully in all relevant game situations.
M – Record in officiating notebook each correct and incorrect use of play-on after each game.
A – Double-check with partners after each game to see if his notes are correct.
R – Other officials employ this mechanic correctly, so it is possible to do.
T – Accomplished by the end of the season.
This will result in a roadmap to successfully employ the play-on mechanic.
The Sixth-Year Official
This official has steadily risen in the ranks of his association and has been to the playoffs the last three years, including two consecutive trips to the semifinals. He likely will get a championship game assignment, but his problem is a tendency to over-call a game. What is a good SMART goal for this official?
S – To loosen up on the field and be less officious in the first quarter of games.
M – Keeps track of flags thrown in post-game journal and game context for each penalty.
A – Informs more experienced partners about his goal before each game; asks for post-game critiques.
R – He is in control of the flags he throws.
T – Achieved before the playoffs so his penalty threshold is more appropriate for that level.
This should help pinpoint the games where he threw flags he wanted back and identify why he chose to throw them to avoid those reasons in future assignments.
The 25th-Year Official
This official is near the end of a long career and has some physical issues that restrict his mobility. He enjoys watching games and especially enjoys helping newer officials improve. What is a SMART goal for this official?
S – Become a Certified Observer and observe 20 games by the end of the season.
M – Establishes a number of games to observe.
A – Discussed with his assigner that he cannot cover the field well, but can give good advice.
R – Understands his physical limitations and that he has experience to share.
T – Twenty games means at least 40 officials benefit from Ed’s observing by the end of the season.
This official will have clear and defined objectives that he can strive to reach to help mentor other officials.
Kerry Fraser in “The Final Call: Hockey Stories from a Legend in Stripes” was asked what his favorite game to work was. His answer? The next one.
Every game you work is an opportunity to advance your skills. Writing down your top three or four specific, measurable, agreed-upon, realistic and time-bound (SMART) goals before the season begins puts you in great shape to achieve something you can measure.
—Gordon Corsetti is the manager of the men’s officials education program at US Lacrosse.