While at my very first LAREDO camp, a Level 2 in Orlando, FL, I was asked a very curious question by the lead clinician. I attended this camp after my second season, and I hadn’t been assigned as the Referee on many of my regular season games. While at this LAREDO I got one Referee assignment, which I found out later was to see how I handled the added responsibility. I don’t remember much from that game, but I did get one piece of advice and one question that radically changed my perception on being a quality lacrosse official.
The piece of advice was from a fellow trainee from Texas, who had the same amount of lacrosse officiating experience but much more life experience being in his late thirties. He told me, “Gordon you are a professional lacrosse official. You are getting paid to officiate these games and you should be confident on the field because you are a professional.” I had gotten paid for all the games I reffed the last two years, but that one statement restructured how I approached officiating. After that I decided I had to prepare in a professional manner if I was ever going to consider myself a professional official.
The question that really threw me for a loop came a few games after my Referee assignment. The lead clinician asked: “Gordon, what is your job when you are the Umpire?” I knew he wanted something a little deeper than just backing up my Referee, and I asked him for the night to think about it. Before being asked that question I never thought about what the Umpire was supposed to do beyond the regular responsibilities of the position. That night I thought what the clinician really wanted me to think about. I was at a camp designed to help me improve my on-field skills and advance in my officiating career so my answer had to be along the lines of overall improvement.
After thinking on the question I approached the lead clinician and told him my answer: “My job as the Umpire is to act like a Referee would act when preparing for and officiating a game.” It came out a little jumbled, but the core of the idea is that less experienced officials should find Referees that do the job consistently and with professionalism, and then emulate that Referee. It does not mean that I am going to usurp the Referee’s decision during a game with my own interpretation. It means that I’ve studied the rules enough so if a mistake is made I can come in prepared and confidently say how to fix it.
Whenever I’m assigned as the Umpire I work from the idea that I should act like a Referee and support my R at all time. I worked a high level high school game (NFHS rules) the year after my LAREDO 2. I was the assigned Umpire and the goalkeeper came out on a clear with the ball. My buzzer expired and I called “Failure to Advance”. I started running towards the goal to cover it as the new Lead Official, and there was an immediate whistle from my Referee. He had not given the goalkeeper 5 seconds to reenter the crease as per NFHS rules. I came in big blowing the play dead, stated that the goalie gets 5 seconds, and then awarded possession to the offensive team for a clean restart. My Referee was adamant that I screwed up the ruling, but I stood by it confidently and when we both dug into the rulebook in the parking lot I was proven correct. The moral of this story is I prepared for the game and I supported my R by correcting a mistake. One official might have made a mistake, but the crew corrected it and it was ultimately forgotten by everyone at the game. I probably wouldn’t have done this if I hadn’t spent the whole offseason and preseason preparing for always acting like a Referee.
The Umpire should support the Referee, but the more games I’ve done as a Crew Chief the more I see the importance of the R supporting the rest of the crew. Good leadership from the Crew Chief is done by example. The R’s I’ve worked with do things the right way. They are consummate professionals, know how to ease the pressure off the crew in a heated game, and expect a high level of officiating from themselves as much as the rest of the crew.
No matter if you are the Field Judge, the Umpire, the Referee, or the Chief Bench Official you are still an official on the game, and you should support your partners. After all, we’re the only ones on our side during the game.