I used to hate training classes. Alright, hate is maybe too strong of a word. I was more strongly disinterested in going to an officiating class my first two years of reffing lacrosse. I made a critical error in thinking I knew all I ever needed to know about lacrosse and officiating. Heck, I had played for 10 years and I had reffed youth for five – what more was there for me to learn?
I didn’t start taking training classes seriously until I got a horrible evaluation at a training clinic after my second season. According to the evaluation I was rarely in position, had terrible judgment, couldn’t signal correctly, and displayed an attitude of “I’m awesome, bask in my officiating glory.” That evaluation forced me to reevaluate my entire preseason preparation, which necessitated becoming an engaged learner in class.
My third year I came prepared to the three training classes in January. I had read the rulebook three different times and had noted every question I had about the rules and their application. I spent three weeks typing out the entire 2010 rulebook into Word so I could search by keywords and phrases (I didn’t know NFHS members were given access to a PDF version at that time). Then I dove into the mechanics manual and tried to internalize every place I had to be at and everything I had to do while reffing a game. Year three was when I took doing a good job seriously.
I take my preparation seriously so I can have fun during the game. It is amazing how much more enjoyable I found officiating lacrosse when I knew exactly what I was supposed to do and when I was supposed to do it. I spent less time worrying that I was out of position or incorrectly applying a rule because I had prepared so thoroughly before the season and before each game. I started getting into the correct position and displaying the correct mechanics by default, which freed my mind up to focus more on game consistency, proper judgement, and common sense in handling crazy situations or angry individuals.
It is hard to apply common sense judgment when you are equally concerned with where you are supposed to be as the Lead Official on a contested end line play. This is why so many first and second year officials feel overwhelmed. They have to think through everything. I believe a well-prepared second year official can perform better than a fifth year official who has not reviewed the rulebook, mechanics manual, or the Points Of Emphasis in a year. One demonstrates a desire to improve and do as good as job as they can that day, and the other thinks they already know how to do everything and can slack off a little.
If you think you already know everything about lacrosse and officiating you should retire. It is a matter of personal pride for me that I know the rules and the mechanics and the changes in each for every year. But I don’t allow myself to think I know it all, because the week I don’t review when to wave off a goal I will run into that situation at a key moment in a game and I will have to guess, and I hate guessing!
As a youth or adult official attending a preseason training class you should show up with a few questions already written down. I put question marks in my NFHS and NCAA rulebooks every preseason as a reminder to ask the more experienced officials in my association how to handle my question. If you do not have questions you are lying to yourself, and if you do that long enough you will run into a situation that you don’t know how to handle that you could have figured out by actively reading the rulebook and asking your instructor questions.
Take a lesson from my first two years of willful ignorance and disdain for preparation. I got more game assignments my first two years because I could run fast and knew the basic rules, but I started getting better game assignments starting in year three when I demonstrated that I cared enough about being a professional lacrosse official and could apply the rules and mechanics with consistency in every type of game. Ask yourself this year if you have been performing up to your potential. If you don’t think you have then ask yourself how you can better prepare for the classroom training sessions and your individual games.
Prepare well, and you’ll start having more fun out there.