Family of Fouls: Using Scaffolding to Teach Penalties to New Officials

lostThere is an old joke among refs about the three stages a young official goes through during the course of his career.   In the first stage, the rookie is nervous, not sure of where they are supposed to be on the field, unaccustomed to the speed of the game and terrified of making a mistake.  So, they call nothing.  A player could be decapitated in front of them and they would be loath to throw a flag.  After a year of working games and time spent diligently reading the rule book, the young official thinks he or she has “figured it out,” Comfortable recognizing fouls, they call everything! Hey that’s illegal: flag!  Oooh, another penalty: flag! Can’t do that: flag! Finally, after a few seasons and numerous discussions with trainers and mentors, the official “gets it” and begins to understand how level of play, type of game, time and place factor in the decision making process on whether or not to call a foul and what to call. They develop what we call game management.

For the most part, we assume that this is the natural progression that all officials must go through.  These things take time; rookies simply need game experience.   In areas where lacrosse is well established, rookies work youth games for the first few years.  But in developing areas, a first year official might well find himself on a high school game immediately.  We as trainers and mentors need to do a better job of preparing rookies to be successful on the field and to absorb more quickly the lessons they do learn in game situations.