Mixing The Cocktail Of A Great Referee

Quite the dichotomy. . .

flikr.com Teodora Atanasova

The only two tools a referee needs in order to be successful are humility and confidence. Often, both tools are needed at the same time for the same situation. Knowing how and when to properly use each tool is the one thing that makes good referees into great ones.

The Need For Confidence

It takes a certain kind of person to make a living getting yelled at everyday. That’s where the confidence comes in. Confidence in knowing I’ve studied enough film and read my rule book thoroughly to properly apply the right rule in the right pressure situation.

Failure to do so means I could get suspended for a wrong ruling. It happens to NCAA football referees often. It happened to a NCAA basketball referee I personally know last season.

Confidence gone sideways is arrogance. No one likes an arrogant referee. Fans wait for that person to be wrong just so they can knock the arrogant person down a few notches. That’s where the humility comes in.

The Need For Humility

Three years ago I had a protest in a Division 2 softball game. NCAA softball rules allow umpires to bring a rule book onto the field in order to properly resolve an official protest. While I didn’t make the call that ended up being protested, I took the lead, being the strong umpire I know I am, and made the call according to the rule I felt supported our position.

I was wrong.

My assigner was VERY upset at the crew. There were two ways to react to that failure. I chose to learn from it and be better. It took a level of humility I didn’t know I had to go back with the same coaches and replay the game.

It takes humility every day to keep the monster of arrogance from convincing me I already know the rules. I don’t need to study them AGAIN.

Humility gone sideways is the other way to react to failure. It’s capitulation and surrender. I can’t show weakness on the court. It means I’m not doing my job. Coaches and players smell the weakness and will exploit me. That can’t happen.

So where is the middle ground?

Being Humbly Confident

Where most potentially great referees fall apart is mixing this cocktail the wrong way. Too much confidence means being arrogant and unteachable. Being too humble means lacking the inner strength to thrive under the bright lights.

Logically, it seems the two ingredients don’t fit together. However, people can see those who have found the right measure of each. They are the referees players and coaches are thankful to have on the court. They are also the ones fans never remember.

I can’t mix the drink for you. I only know how I like mine, but don’t ask me to describe it. It won’t make sense to you. It’s almost like the bartender (played by Lee Lawrence) in Ford Fairlane attempting to mix the perfect sambuca milkshake. He never quite gets it right for the main character, but it’s good enough for Ford to keep coming back for another.

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