During the first day of games at the Vail LAREDO 3 I was working with another trainee and our crew chief, Tim Markham. Tim gave me one of the best pieces of officiating advice I had ever received when we were off the field during a lightning delay. As soon as we suspended the game Tim made a beeline for the nearest covered building. My partner and I waited under the tent for a few minutes to get our gear situated and then went over to where Tim was standing. Tim told us that if we, as the game officials, did not seek cover in a lighting delay we were not being good examples to the players, coaches or parents. He impressed upon me that it was my job to always put safety first and lead by example.
I was at a recent tournament that was suspended due to lightning. Everyone cleared the fields and sought whatever cover was available. As I made my way to where most of the officials were congregating I saw a bunch of youth players shooting on a goal. I walked over to them and told them that we were under a lightning delay and to get off the field. As I continued to make my way across the complex I saw more players and even some coaches running shooting drills or just passing the ball to each other in the middle of the fields. I once again marshaled everyone off the fields. I saw more players away from cover with their sticks in hand and I was tired of yelling so I went up to their coaches to have them get their players under safe cover. Here are the excuses I received:
- “They’re just being kids” (which is why you need to be an adult)
- “Their sticks are plastic” (the head of the stick is, but not the shaft)
- “Their sticks are made of wood” (stop splitting hairs, it still makes them the tallest object on an open field)
- “I didn’t see any lightning for a while” (because not seeing it means it isn’t in the area)
- “They’re all thirteen, I can’t control them” (I’m sorry, but aren’t you their coach? You can control them during practices and games but not during a lightning storm?)
After all of these excuses I put on my most commanding voice and ordered every player and coach holding a stick off the fields. Since the people in charge of these teams were not going to put the safety of children first I decided to do it for them. I am more sad than anything else that coaches who repeatedly yell at me to keep the game safe would turn a blind eye to players holding metal sticks in an open space during a lightning storm.