We all rely on the generous time given to us by our volunteers, not least those who take up the post of official, whether it be umpire, referee, scorer, timekeeper or assistant.
What can we do to help develop their skills and encourage them further?
When an official is a member of the club, we owe it to them to treat them with the same level of care as we do our players and coaches.
I feel it is therefore important to engage with our club officials and give honest feedback. This should be done in a calm and neutral manner away from the game situation. I am not saying after every game we should grab the official and subject them to an interrogation. I am merely suggesting we make it good practice to assess and review on a periodic basis. This is as important for your junior member who may be a newly qualified level one official as for a mature official with many years experience.
Recognising this may be a significant culture change for your officials is essential to avoid them feeling somewhat victimised! The conversation needs to be sold as a two way discussion and an opportunity for them to discuss any concerns or ideas they may have. For example if they are having discipline issues with particular players or groups you can support them by addressing this behaviour directly with the members involved, thereby making the official’s task easier.
My framework for assessing* is as follows:
- Self assess – the official rates their own performance
- Observer assesses – another official from the club (or external) rates their performance
- Team player assesses – a member of the playing side assesses.
* all three don’t have to take place at once
The assessment questions to be the same for all parties using a scale of 1 to 10
- Overall performance
- Signalling and communication
- Judgement and decision making
- Consistency in decision making
- Conflict handling
- Handling of external factors (e.g. spectators, pitch inspection, adverse weather)
Once you have the written assessment/s you can use this as the basis for any discussion. Offer support in any areas of weakness that may be identified and praise in the areas of strength.
Why not consider introducing an “official of the year” award for your next annual awards night and judge the winner on feedback and improvement made?
Without officials we would have no sport, so let’s nurture and support those we have.