It almost feels like a Shakespearean tragedy. If you do your job well, nobody even realizes you were there. Officials generally don’t become well known around a league unless they make a call egregious enough to burn their image into a player or coach’s mind. The pay can be minimal and the glory hard to come by. So how do we entice more qualified individuals to sign up?
ESPN’s Quint Kessenich recently came up with some ideas on how to improve the quality of officiating at the college level. Among his suggestions were pay raises, physical fitness tests, and asking college officials to stop moonlighting at high school and youth games. That’s all well and good at the Division 1 level, but what about developing lacrosse communities more concerned with quantity than quality. How can individuals be enticed to take up what can often be a thankless job.
Don’t bank on former or current college players to fill out the officiating ranks. Just because someone knows the game does not meant they know how to preside over one. For instance, a major fundraiser my college team conducted was the operation of a high school winter league. All members of our squad were asked to officiate at least a couple of games throughout the season. Most of us were terrible refs (especially me).
Furthermore, in developing lacrosse areas most former players are offered a coaching gig the minute they set foot in town.
I’m about to give you the ultimate officiating recruiting tip. It’s a tip that seems so simple you’ll kick yourself after you read it. Yet, surprisingly, few leagues actually pursue this route.
Some people are hard-wired to be officials. Perhaps they were born with thicker skin allowing them to repel the barrage of insults thrown at them by parents and coaches alike. Maybe they’re drawn to the role of the unsung hero. Whatever it is, there are plenty of rule-oriented individuals already donning the stripes on other fields and in the gym.
So start recruiting. Go to high school basketball games and talk to the refs as they are leaving the court. Let them know there are opportunities to make some cash during the spring. Baseball umpiring is a pretty specialized position, so a large amount of football and basketball officials have open agendas in the spring.
There’s my idea. Got anymore Lax Nation?