Dead Ball Officiating: “When the ball is dead, be alive!”

TOOne of the biggest mistakes newer official make is to assume that once the play is over,their job is done. Almost all of our training is geared towards identifying fouls and positioning on the field during play.  However, what truly separates the  rookies from the veterans is the attention and focus during a dead ball.  Here are some tips for making yourself a better dead ball official: be aware where you are in the game, keep the game moving, anticipate what needs to be done and stay focused!

Harold Buck in his 2010 US Lacrosse Convention  presentation, “The  10 Commandments of Lacrosse Officiating,” noted that live ball officiating is reactive, while dead ball officiating is proactive.   It is the dead ball situations where you really control a game rather than simply react to what the players and coaches do.

“When the ball is dead, be alive!” 

It is important to be present. Just because the ball is dead , doesn’t mean nothing can happen.  It is precisely in these dead ball situations that players talk, taunt or fight.  When the ball is dead, be alive! (Note: came across this phrase on LaxForums, thanks Snake Eyes) This is particularly true after a key goal , a run of goals or a  big hit.  Often times a coach will call a time out to regroup his players.

geting the goalieGet in between Mixed Colors

Once the play is whistled dead, make sure all residual activity from the play has stopped. It is a good idea to get in between the two teams as they cross in front of the substitution area, football officials call this getting between mixed colors. Teams will often run across the field to congratulate their goalie.  be sure you watch as the teams  pass through each other.

It is important to know where the teams locker rooms are and how the players get there.  If players head out of the same gate, you want to maintain a physical presence between them to avoid anything from happening.

Officials stick check


The crew should meet  away from the benches. Chat quietly and do not point. Talk to each other and reassess where you are in the game.  Discuss the level of play, the tone and intensity of each team.  Identify what they are doing offensively and defensively  and what you need to be on the lookout for.  Keep the lines of communication with coaches, players and table personnel. If you are conducting a stick check, do so as quickly as possible and be sure to keep an eye on the field.


Be sure you know where the ball is and where it will be restarted.  If there is a penalty how much time remains?  If the period has ended. will there be a face off?  Review the score, remaining Time Outs, and possession arrow.


Know where are you in the game.  If the game is close and you are at the end of a period, the end of the fourth quarter or in overtime, Time Outs are crucial. Be sure the bench side official is listening for them! Be sure someone has an eye on the clock!

Set the Field

lax ballFind the ball, get it into the right spot, and tell the keeper where the restart is.   Count players.  Do not start the game out of a dead ball without the correct number of players.

Is the player with the ball  in bounds? Are all other players five yards or more away? If you are close to the special substitution area, move the player five yards in to the center of the field.


flag downIf there is a penalty, both officials have important jobs to do and should do them quickly.  One official reports to the table while the other sets the field.  Often times a team will simply trot out there extra man team or man-down defense.  If there fouls on both teams (5 on 5) or two fouls on the same team (6 on 4) you must be careful to double check.  When you partner returns from the table, the field should be ready!

injury trainer


Do not tend to an injured player. Give the trainer room to work. If the injury is severe, you may allow the teams to go to their sidelines.   Coaches may substitute freely   This is, for all intents and purposes a free time out for them.  Players do not need “to take a knee.” Confer with each other away from players. Be sure you identify how you will restart: and where.  Was the ball loose or in player possession?

Keep the Game Moving: TIMER ON!


On horns, time outs and in-between quarters, you must be aware of the clock and get the game started promptly. Use your 20/100 second timer!  If a horn is blown or the face off official reaches center x with the ball, TIMER ON! As soon as players reach their sidelines for a TO. Flip the switch to 100 seconds.  When the timer goes off or the team that called the TO is ready, TIMER ON! This is a perfect example of preventative officiating!

Officiate the Entire Game

A crew of officials can live with a missed offside call, but a missed late hit or off-ball high hit brings a game down quickly. A dead ball incident can be just as devastating to your ability to control and manage a game. Officials must remain vigilant and in control the entire game. During the dead ball, someone should always be watching the field and players at all times. Work just as hard at officiating during a dead ball as you do during a live ball.