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Is This Officiating Crew Good?


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I originally posted this in the Officiating sub-Forum, but noticed that almost all of the activity was by other officials. The post is written for non-officials, so I moved it here in hopes of getting more looks.

So, you go to your local school’s game Friday night. You see the officiating crew, but it’s unlikely you know anything about them. Are they good? Mid-pack? Novices thrown together for the occasion due to the shortage of officials? Here are some things to look for that observers see a lot, unfortunately. There are lots of little nuances that someone trained in officiating can spot, but you’re not going to appreciate. But here are 10 things you can notice from the sidelines, the stands, or perhaps even on TV or streaming, that will tell you whether this is a good crew that pays attention to detail or not. They are, in no particular order of priority or frequency:

1. Do the wing officials “square off” their forward progress spots? Proper technique, other than in goal line situations, is to trail the play up the sideline to the forward progress spot, and then move in perpendicular to the sideline. If that wing official’s route to the spot looks like a banana, that’s a sign of lack of attention to detail that doesn’t bode well for other calls.

2. Does the crew make timeouts look like a local officials’ association meeting? Everyone on the crew has a specific job to do during a dead ball interval. That is not the right time for the crew to all get together and chew the fat.

3. Is the sideline clean? IHSAA officials are under a very clear mandate to properly manage the sidelines. This means no coaches on the field itself at any time, except during charged or injury timeouts, and no one in the 6 ft. “restricted area” when the ball is alive. All coaches are fully aware of this. If the crew is lax in its enforcement of this directive, it’ll likely be lax in other areas as well.

4. Is the goal line covered? Goal line officiating is probably the greatest challenge for a 5-person crew. There is a complex set of mechanics associated with goal line officiating, but they all boil down to one thing: having someone on the goal line in a position to rule on a TD. It’s not easy, and it’s not always possible. But if a kid scores on an off tackle run from the 4 yd. line, and the wing official signaling the TD is at the 2, that’s a real problem.

5. Watch the two officials under the crossbar on a scoring kick (try or field goal). Are they talking to one another before the snap (they are supposed to be identifying eligible receivers and communicating that to one another)? Do they have to look at one another before signaling the kick? They shouldn’t. If the kick threatens an upright, and is above the top of the goalposts, does only the official on that side signal the kick? When both officials signal, do they do it in unison? Attention to details like these spills over into other areas of officiating.

6. Proper use of the beanbag is another such detail. Does the back judge use a beanbag to mark the spot where every punt ends, even if there’s a fair catch, or the ball is downed by the kickers? When the ball is fumbled, do the officials mark the spot of the fumble with a beanbag? Do they refrain from using the bag for marking the spot of a fumble behind the LOS? If a kick was “first touched,” did they mark that spot?

7. What happens during penalty enforcements? All 5 crew members have specific duties during the administration of penalties. Are all the officials moving with purpose? Or is administration left to the Referee and Umpire, while the other 3 crew members just sort of wander around?

8. Does the crew hustle? I see a lot of walking around some Friday nights. That sort of body language can be interpreted as lack of engagement, which can be fatal to your credibility. Good officials avoid it like the plague.

9. How many whistles blow at the end of the play? On most plays, two are plenty. One is better. Too many whistles means too many officials watching the ball … and not paying attention to other responsibilities.

10. How does the crew handle the ball? Proficient crews use well-established ball handling procedures designed to get the ball back in play as efficiently as possible. It’s done with a minimum of delay, and the ball doesn’t spend any time on the ground.

Realistically, you cannot evaluate the crew’s performance in many areas without formal training and a better vantage point. But these 10 things to watch for will give you a pretty good idea of what you’re dealing with as a crew.

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@BobrefI have a question about whistle timing. It seems that some crews tend to blow the whistle really late. Like the play has naturally ended and 2-3 seconds have gone by and then the whistle is blown. Almost like they're all looking at each other saying "who's gonna blow this whistle?"  Is there a protocol, etiquette, or philosophy behind that? Not upset or anything, just curious.

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Not all coaches will agree on this one. I personally love when an official tells us, "That was a tough call here is why I made my decision."

Or even better, "We may have missed that one." To this statement my response is always, "To this point we have coached a perfect game. We expect the same from you." So far they always get the sarcasm.  

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40 minutes ago, CoachVeatch said:

@BobrefI have a question about whistle timing. It seems that some crews tend to blow the whistle really late. Like the play has naturally ended and 2-3 seconds have gone by and then the whistle is blown. Almost like they're all looking at each other saying "who's gonna blow this whistle?"  Is there a protocol, etiquette, or philosophy behind that? Not upset or anything, just curious.

See leather. The ball becoming dead causes the ball to become dead, not the whistle. 

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49 minutes ago, CoachVeatch said:

@BobrefI have a question about whistle timing. It seems that some crews tend to blow the whistle really late. Like the play has naturally ended and 2-3 seconds have gone by and then the whistle is blown. Almost like they're all looking at each other saying "who's gonna blow this whistle?"  Is there a protocol, etiquette, or philosophy behind that? Not upset or anything, just curious.

The cardinal rule is that you do not blow the whistle without actually seeing the ball dead, i.e., out of bounds or down in a runner’s possession. Don’t see the ball, don’t blow the whistle. Some crews have more whistle discipline than others. Keep in mind, the only time the whistle makes the ball dead is when it is blown inadvertently. 

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1 hour ago, DumfriesYMCA said:

Very bold of you to give us the ammunition on how to critique refs lol 

What I’ve given you is also a way to recognize a proficient crew when you see one, regardless of whether people are b*tching about foul calls or no calls. Crews are going to be critiqued by everyone anyway. I’d just like to see them critiqued fairly.

Edited by Bobref
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3 minutes ago, Bobref said:

The cardinal rule is that you do not blow the whistle without actually seeing the ball dead, i.e., out of bounds or down in a runner’s possession. Don’t see the ball, don’t blow the whistle. Some crews have more whistle discipline than others. Keep in mind, the only time the whistle makes the ball dead is when it is blown inadvertently. 

Option teams love it when they blow the whistle when the dive is tackled without the ball!

If I saw crews with lazy or poor mechanics it seemed to make me more critical of them.  They lose a little credibility.

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Just now, Ballhawk said:

Option teams love it when they blow the whistle when the dive is tackled without the ball!

If I saw crews with lazy or poor mechanics it seemed to make me more critical of them.  They lose a little credibility.

This is a point I try to hammer home to officials on the way up. By doing things the right way, you can earn the benefit of the doubt, which makes life on the field so much better.

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2 minutes ago, Bobref said:

This is a point I try to hammer home to officials on the way up. By doing things the right way, you can earn the benefit of the doubt, which makes life on the field so much better.

Totally agree Bob.  It's like selling a call as an umpire.  Being sure of yourself and using the proper mechanics lessens your chances of being challenged.

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This is fantastic. 

I can say, as a broadcaster, I'm *always* watching the wing officials to determine the spot and whether a touchdown has been scored (I usually don't announce a "touchdown" until I see it signaled, so a slow wing official tends to lead to a little bit of a dramatic buildup on the call). The guys who banana it or make a habit of squaring off a half-yard (or a yard) short of where the ball is spotted can be frustrating. 

Sometimes, it's hard to tell in a pile if the ball has been fumbled - a beanbag being tossed *definitely* helps indicate that for me. 

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6 minutes ago, crimsonace1 said:

This is fantastic. 

I can say, as a broadcaster, I'm *always* watching the wing officials to determine the spot and whether a touchdown has been scored (I usually don't announce a "touchdown" until I see it signaled, so a slow wing official tends to lead to a little bit of a dramatic buildup on the call). The guys who banana it or make a habit of squaring off a half-yard (or a yard) short of where the ball is spotted tend to be a bit of an annoyance. 

Yep. When I'm in the booth writing, looking at the wing officials foot helps me get a yard marker about five seconds early for the spot. (Stat taking should be covered in a required sports writing class for all journalists)

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50 minutes ago, CoachVeatch said:

@Bobref @Impartial_Observer thank you gentlemen. I was genuinely curious was to why it seemed to take so long to blow the whistle in our last game. I guess I do prefer to have the whistle be a fraction late than too early. 

 

47 minutes ago, hhpatriot04 said:

I think Bob is also showing how much officials have to watch in any given situation, so it's possible to understand why a call is or isn't made.

Thanks, but I and all the other officials contributing on these issues simply feel that the more educated coaches, players, fans, media, etc., are about officiating, the more appreciated officials would be. Usually, the people most critical of officials are also the most uninformed.

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3 hours ago, DumfriesYMCA said:

Very bold of you to give us the ammunition on how to critique refs lol 

Reminds me of a scene with one of those traveling road shows and they hit a town where the crowd just doesn't appreciate the show and all of a sudden a volley of tomatoes comes in.  Then another heavy wave and a third heavier wave.  As the performers rush from the stage, being pelted by even heavier waves of tomatoes, the head actor questions, "Where the hell are getting all of those tomatoes from?"

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1 hour ago, CoachVeatch said:

@Bobref @Impartial_Observer thank you gentlemen. I was genuinely curious was to why it seemed to take so long to blow the whistle in our last game. I guess I do prefer to have the whistle be a fraction late than too early. 

I would much rather have a play with no whistle than an inadvertent whistle. When you have one there’s not a hole deep enough to crawl in. Plus it’s going to hit you in the pocketbook after the game. 

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1 minute ago, Impartial_Observer said:

I would much rather have a play with no whistle than an inadvertent whistle. When you have one there’s not a hole deep enough to crawl in. Plus it’s going to hit you in the pocketbook after the game. 

Do you remember your last IW? Of course you do! I remember mine.

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10 minutes ago, Bobref said:

Usually, the people most critical of officials are also the most uninformed.

^^^Yup.  

It may be a byproduct of my profession (whole lotta "rules" for what I do), but over the years I've found myself enjoying learning the rules and mechanics more and more.  I mean, most of us learn the basics to lesser or greater degrees over years and years of being around the sport and/or through Sunday broadcasts (which can be completely contradictory to NFHS rules), but how many casual fans, or even some (many?) coaches, really have a strong grasp of much more than the basics?  Often it is just the little things, like spotting forward fumbles (which I'm glad I un-NFL'd myself from just last Friday).  But that could be a big impact play one way or the other if it were to be wrongly interpreted.  I know if my job depended on my team being successful (that is, I'm getting paid to be a coach), I think it would be imperative to know the book as well as I'd expect the person officiating my game to know it.

TL;DR version... I've noticed I've become less and less critical of all you fine officials the more I learn.  There is a lot to know and most of you all do a much better job than you're ever given credit for. 

(Speaking of which, if any of y'all're doing GS @ HH tonight, be sure to remember that a GS fan really, really respects and appreciates refs and was highly complimentary to the dedication to your craft that you all put in... you know, just sayin maybe keep that in mind once the game starts.) 🤣🤣

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3 hours ago, Bobref said:

What I’ve given you is also a way to recognize a proficient crew when you see one, regardless of whether people are b*tching about foul calls or no calls. Crews are going to be critiqued by everyone anyway. I’d just like to see them critiqued fairly.

You've also identified the traits of good officials. I had no idea, but it is a profession with standards. Thank you very much for this post!  

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2 hours ago, hhpatriot04 said:

Yep. When I'm in the booth writing, looking at the wing officials foot helps me get a yard marker about five seconds early for the spot. (Stat taking should be covered in a required sports writing class for all journalists)

Because of my years in newspapers, I still keep my own stats while doing PXP. 

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