I officiated 31 games in 10 days while working the youth and men’s club festival games in Denver, Colorado. I officiated every age level from U11 to 55+, and worked nearly all of the games with partners I had never worked with before. The sheer amount of games gave me a great opportunity to work on two adjustments to my officiating:
- A more relaxed flag throwing motion for less flag height
- A single, strong whistle to stop play
The refs that know me are probably going, “Gordon wants less height on his flag toss?!?!”. Yes I do, and here is why: I’ve been working closely with Gus Morris who runs SOPTI, the Sports Officials Physical Training Institute, and he came down to Marist high school during this past season to watch me officiate the Georgia Tech/Minnesota game. While Gus has never officiated a lacrosse game he has a great deal of experience as a Head Linesman in the SEC. The biggest critique he had for me was that my flag toss was so high that people in the stands were noticing, and being noticed by fans is rarely a good thing for an official. His comment conflicted with a piece of advice on flag throwing I received early in my career: “launch the sucker!” More than a few Georgia refs will tell you that I took that advice to heart. This was necessary advice when I started off because I barely got the flag above my head back then. According to Gus and a few other lacrosse officials I was going too high for normal penalties. A garden-variety slash does not need a super-high toss, but a high and late cross-check after a shot could probably use some height. A huge toss for a regular penalty is like overselling a moving pick. It’s wasted motion that puts the official on center stage instead of the players.
In all of my Denver games I tried to keep a measured flag toss, and only launch it if the situation required me to. Habits being what they are I completely forgot about throttling back in my first game, but by the last ten games I brought my height average down. It’s going to take more repetitions in the fall before I consistently throw more relaxed, but this was a good start.
The second adjustment was harder to nail down due to laziness and a full season spent not consistently blowing a strong whistle to end plays. I got into the bad habit of “tweet, tweet, tweet, …tweet, TWEET” to end play-ons or flag-down slow whistle situations. The proper mechanic when starting or stopping play is to blow a loud whistle for at least a full second, but I got lazy ending those plays and kept on tweeting my whistle until players heard me and stopped moving. For 31 games I tried to be conscious of the situation and always have a strong whistle to end play. Unsurprisingly, players stopped on the whistle more regularly because they heard a longer blast of sound and didn’t have to interpret “tweet, tweet, tweet.” I did tweet the whistle if my initial blast didn’t get their attention, but the longer blast was more effective at stopping everyone.
Both of these adjustments had to be made in the offseason over the course of multiple games because they were major changes to how I ref. I was not about to worry about my flag toss or play-stopping whistle leading into the playoffs. There was no need to change anything at the end of the season because what I had been doing was working. Officials need to use the offseason the same way as players – identify the big or small things about our game that need adjustment for next season, and then work on them in offseason games.
Some Photos With New Ref Friends!