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Referees Are Not Always Tested on the Field

By Rodney Kenney, National Assessor

One attribute that is key to a successful refereeing career is a POSITIVE ATTITUDE. When we talk to referees who are not successful, it doesn’t take long to discover why. They say, “I never get the better games,” although they are assigned to the same type of games as everyone else in their grade. They are also the referees who believe they are always right, and the comments from the assessors are always wrong. They consider themselves above all junior referees and tell the assignor that they should be doing the center instead of the “less qualified” people who are being assigned. The attitude of “I have been refereeing for 15 years and don’t need to go to any clinics,” or “the players are getting worse . . . they are out of control,” are some of the comments you hear from them. They always seem to have problems in games and blame everyone else, the assistants, coaches, and players for the trouble. Never once do they reflect on what they may have done to cause the problems in the game.

This negative attitude turns off fellow referees, assessors, assignors, and administrators, the people we depend on to support our referee careers. Refereeing at all levels, from entry to level, is a team effort and a positive attitude can make your refereeing career a success, while a negative attitude can cause it to be a failure.

You may never know when you are being tested for better assignments; the following is an example of such a test. A new National referee was invited to the Olympic Development Program tournament finals. He was the highest-rated referee there. When he returned from the tournament he was asked how he did, and he replied simply, “fine.” Pressured further about the games he received, he said he did two fourth officials, and three assistant referee assignments. Questioned about the lack of high-level assignments, he said that all week the other referees at the tournament also questioned why the highest-rated referee did not get better assignments. He said he told them he was just pleased to be there for a week and felt that if that is what the people who sent him wanted him to do, that was fine with him. He smiled and conceded, “Oh, I also did the final in the middle,” which was the best assignment in the tournament. 

Yes, they were testing him, but what were they testing him for? Obviously it was not his refereeing ability, but rather his attitude, both on and off the field. The test was whether he would he represent the Federation well.  Would he be a good role model for younger referees?  They found the right man and have since assigned him to many pro games and other prestigious assignments. What can we learn from this example? We learn that each assignment is not only a test of refereeing skills, but also of a positive attitude and approach. Accept each assignment no matter what it is, and always do your best. If you are as good as you think you are, success will come with the assignments.

A positive attitude can sometimes see you through times when your skills are not quit what they should be or when you move to a new level in your refereeing career. Assessors want to know that you understand your weaknesses and can accept constructive criticism with a positive attitude and will work to improve your refereeing skills. Referees want to work with other referees who have a positive attitude and are not afraid to ask for help to get better. Just remember, “You can fail on your own but you can only succeed with the help of others.” Refereeing is a team effort, be part of the team.