Adjusting After Being Told You’re Wrong

I never considered myself a rules guy until other officials started asking me rules questions. Many of the questions I was asked made me dig into the rulebook even further, which helped enhance my knowledge of the rulebook. I did not become knowledgable on lacrosse rules by just studying the rulebook though. I learned a painful lesson early on in my career that it pays dividends down the road to accept when I am completely wrong on a rule.

A few USL conventions ago Rich Tamberino told me very clearly that rules and mechanics were the the only things I should worry about as a less experienced official. Everything else was secondary to knowing the rules cold and having my mechanics on lockdown. After hearing that I became a better student of the rules and I became more open to rules discussions where I was left defending my incorrect interpretation or understanding of a clear rule. Over the last four years of reading the rulebook regularly and having really great discussions with several of my local officiating colleagues (big shout out to Andy, Jeremy, Topher, and Greg!), I was able to get rid of my personal feelings of stupidity when one of my friends showed me how wrong I was by pointing to the correct rule.

I learned first hand that it wasn’t being wrong that I had a problem with. It was realizing that I was wrong in public and experiencing a little shame and humiliation. Until recently I was unable to separate these two concepts until I listened to a TED talk by Kathryn Schulz:

What Kathryn explains is what every official experiences as an umpire or field judge when we have the correct ruling for a rare situation, but the Referee overrules the ruling in favor of his own incorrect one. Well, I bit it hard in my playoff game last night, and in the spirit of embracing wrongness to further rules knowledge here is the situation:

Team A is up by a ten-goal differential a few minutes into the 2nd half. My crew and I started a running clock in our game because the Georgia High School Association specifies a running clock with a ten-goal differential and not the twelve-goal differential from the NFHS rulebook. As the Referee I calmly and confidently told the table personnel that the clock will not stop unless there is a time out, and that penalties go to running time which is time and a half, and the penalty time does not start until the next whistle to restart play.

One of my partners asked if the rulebook said time and a half, and I replied “Yes – penalties go to running time” becauase I had always understood that running time penalties means time and a half penalties. While I stated that with confidence to my crew their little bit of resistance to my ruling had me questioning myself after the game. So I went to the one place that hasn’t failed me yet, the rulebook:

NFHS Rule 3.1.2 – After the first half, any time the score differential reaches 12 goals (10 for Georgia) or more, the clock will only be stopped for a team time-out, official’s time-out or an injury time-out. Should the score differential be reduced to fewer than 12 goals (10 for Georgia), then normal play will resume. All penalties that occur during a score differential situation will be running time. In this situation the penalty time begins with the next whistle resuming play.

After confirming that I was 100% incorrect with our local rules interpreter. I emailed my partners telling them that I screwed up and that the correct application is to keep the penalty time as their normal time, but that the time runs along with the game clock.

Now my partners were nice, and they told me that in a blowout game that my misapplication of running time rules wasn’t that big of a deal. In the grand scheme of things I did not effect the outcome of the game, but as a rules guy it bugs me that I was wrong. Still, as I learn every game I’m never going to be 100% right on everything, but if I accept being wrong when it’s pointed out to me I can adjust and not make the same mistake going forward.

So big thanks to Brian, Jody, and Bill for giving me a heads up that I still need to keep studying the rulebook!


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