1. Set Attainable Goals
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your officiating career. It takes time to develop, learn and refine the craft of officiating. Wherever you are in your career, set some attainable goals for yourself. Never had a playoff, the big cross-town rivalry or the big championship game? Pick a goal that is going to help you get to one of those games, and soon enough you will be crossing off one goal and setting another one.
2. Be Honest with Yourself
Self-awareness is a really important quality to have when it comes to assessing your officiating ability and potential. Sit down and write down all of the things you think you do well and not-so-well. What are the things on that not-so-well list that you can work on improving? Focus on one or two weaknesses at a time and, once you do them well consistently, move them to the other side of the list.
3. Seek Feedback
Feedback is the most powerful and yet most under-utilized tool by officials seeking to improve. Don’t be afraid to ask your partners, assigners, organization leadership or other associates for feedback. Sometimes it is very difficult to be honest with yourself without feedback. If you don’t set out to get feedback, you will be setting out to advance without a map or signposts to help you find your way. It also tells others that you care and you are willing to listen, improve and take advice. Oftentimes, that will lead to bigger and better things for you.
4. Work Your Tail Off
So you have set some goals, realized what you need to work on and confirmed it with feedback — now what? Hard work pays off, and by showing that you are working hard, you will benefit when it’s time to advance. Assigners know that their officials are not perfect. Given a choice, many assigners would choose someone that’s not perfect but works hard at improving over someone who is happy with status quo.
5. It’s Out of Your Control
Unfortunately, sometimes decisions made by leadership are completely out of your control. There may be 20 officials ahead of you that are working just as hard as you, and you can’t control that. There may be travel implications that affect the ability for an assigner to put you on a game that you deserve. The only thing you can do is understand that, live with it and continue to work hard. Eventually that game will be moved closer to your house, and then hopefully you will be the first official considered for that big game.
Charlie Obermayer is the senior manager of officials development at US Lacrosse and an active collegiate official.