I’ve advanced as a lacrosse official for two reasons. One, I’m fortunate to have a job where I set my own hours (thank you freelancing!) so each year I do a good number of games. Two, I work in lots of different techniques that I pick up from more experienced officials. Some of those techniques work for me while others don’t. I keep the ones that benefit me, and I hold the ones that don’t fly in my back pocket.
I’m always looking for useful nuggets of information whenever I work with a more experienced official or listen to a presentation at at training clinic or the USL Convention. I started out with very few nuggets, but now I have a whole bunch of them that I’ve tailored to fit how I officiate. It took me a while to find my reffing persona, but I finally zeroed in on what works for me.
I knew then and still know now that I am a young official. I’m turning 26 in March, and I’m not going to win battles of experience with officials or coaches that have been involved in lacrosse for longer than I’ve been alive. While I thought about using Just For Men’s Touch Of Grey to give myself a more wizened appearance, I settled on being a rules guy because it is difficult to debate any official who is correct on the rules and their application. Before heading out to Vail in 2012 for the Level 3 LAREDO camp I reviewed the rulebook and reminded myself that I needed to showcase an easygoing demeanor because I didn’t want to be the best rules guy who also came across like a d*&k on the field.
My work paid off and I did well at the camp, but one clinician told me something I had heard many times before, but it never clicked until then. He told me, “Gordon, it is better to be slow and right than fast and wrong.”
Up until that day in Vail I still reffed like I played. Fast. My coach always told our team that he wouldn’t get angry at us making a mistake so long as we made that mistake going a million miles an hour. Referees, on the other hand, can make fast and slow errors and no one really cares if we are hustling. They just care that we screwed up.
There are two common situations where I have rushed and screwed up. Providing one team with an advantage, disadvantaging the other team, or confusing everyone at the field.
- Situation 1 – Pointing/Saying The Wrong Direction
- Every official experiences doing this at some point each season.
- Correct your mistake as soon as possible. Point in the correct direction, say the team name + ball (i.e. “Red Ball”), then flick on your timer for 20-seconds of substituting.
- You do not want a quick restart when you incorrectly awarded one team the ball for two reasons. One, your partner is likely going the wrong way from where the ball is going after you correct your mistake. Two, teams are subbing their offensive/defensive personnel and when you clarify which team gets the ball, that personnel is not where they need to be.
- Slow down here. Acknowledge your mistake, and allow both team a slow and clean restart.
- Situation 2 – Blowing The Whistle When Ball Is On Outside Of The Net
- Yeah, this one isn’t good. Especially in close games because you look like you aren’t paying attention, even when you are super focused. But some shots hit the outside of the net in such a way that it appears the ball is inside the goal.
- I favor a delay between blowing my whistle and signaling goal for just this reason. If I blow my whistle, and run in and the ball is on the outside of the net, no harm as I didn’t signal goal as well. Inadvertent whistle, give the ball to the defense for next restart.
- Even better than staggering the whistle and goal signal is to wait a half second while you move closer towards the goal. If the ball is on the outside of the net then don’t blow your whistle and allow the play to continue.
- Save your “No Goal” signal for when you need to wipe off a goal, or for a borderline goal line call. There is no need to signal “No Goal” for a ball hitting the outside of the net, or for a ball that misses the cage entirely.
There are certainly other situations where rushing can cause an official trouble on the lacrosse field, but those are the two that I’ve run into and seen other officials run into. It boils down to this principle:
If you screw up, don’t make it worse by rushing. Take a deep breath, announce your mistake, award possession correctly, and let the teams substitute.