Proper Techniques of Game Management

By Lawrence Tomei

As an official, you have three important responsibilities: officiate a safe game, officiate an impartial game and officiate in a professional manner. To manage a game effectively, you need to consider all aspects of the game simultaneously. Fortunately, we are equipped with a number of tools — the most obvious being whistles, flags and
cards. Less obvious — but much more important — are your game management skills. The better officials associations teach their members to apply proper techniques of game management so they are more likely to bring the contest to a successful conclusion.

Effective game management begins with a clear understanding of what is expected from both teams and officials.
Coaches and athletic directors expect that officials will arrive well before the scheduled game time. Different sports
have different expectations. Varsity is usually 45-60 minutes prior; football, 90 minutes. Confirm where your crew
is meeting and the best routes to the game site. Make sure your officials agree on dress — both to the game and on the field or court. Business casual means different things to different people. Are you wearing long-sleeve or
short for the game?

Officials, too, have expectations for the on-site game manager. We expect someone will greet us and accompany us to the locker room. We expect that the venue is in playable condition and properly marked and equipment (e.g., scoreboards, down markers, game clocks, etc.) is in working order. Security should be visible and stay close. Medical personnel should be on site before the game begins and protocols for concussions should be discussed. Ground rules should be covered (e.g., procedures for weather-related issues). Background clearances should not be assumed.

The final expectation is sportsmanship. Sportsmanship remains a point of emphasis from the pregame locker room visit to meetings with captains, to post-game celebrations and handshakes.

Communicate. Effective game management begins with an email or phone call to the home team coach five to seven days before the scheduled contest. Confirm game site and time; special events (e.g., homecoming, senior night, etc.); media exposure (e.g., television, radio); and crew member names/positions. Communicate more. How you say
something is often more important than what you say. A simple explanation might turn cutting because your tone
gives an opposite impression. When reporting penalties, remain calm and controlled. Avoid confrontations and sarcasm and never demean coaches or players. Be loud enough to communicate but low-key enough to prevent confrontation. Do not expect coaches to agree with every call. Explain your ruling and perhaps let the coach vent a little. Be calm, be brief. Saying too much can get you into more trouble than saying too little. Remember, your goal is not to win arguments. The best way to get coaches and players to stop complaining is to restart the play quickly.

Communicate even more. Address a coach’s challenge but do not allow it to interrupt the flow of the game. Do not refuse to discuss a call. Suggest a charged timeout to expanded explanations. If a coach, even an assistant coach, has a question and asks in a respectful manner, it is in your best interest to keep the lines of communication open. Some coaches try to gain advantage and influence. Others will not talk to the officials regardless of the call. They let their
assistant coaches throw themselves into the fray thinking they will be held blameless for disrespectful actions. Not so. Head coaches are ultimately responsible for their players and staff. Make sure they understand that.

Effective game management begins well before game time. Inspect the field — don’t just walk it. Introduce yourself to the coaches and get their confirmation that their players are properly equipped. Read the sportsmanship pledge to the captains and make sure they understand that you will be looking to them to control their teammates. Look for safety hazards and communicate those immediately to the game site manager so they do not delay the start of the game. Ensure that special events and team introductions are started early. Finally, confirm that the rest of the team is ready: certify the table personnel; talk with the chain crew; and check that your sideline judges are ready.

Sometimes behavior requires more serious action. To establish good game management, your responses should be progressive in their consequences. For example, if a coach is out of control in football, a quick flag limits other options; a second violation results in ejection. Instead, talk it through with the coach. If he disagrees with your brief explanation, so be it. Restart play quickly and get the game moving. If he continues his tirade, your next option is a verbal warning: “Coach, that’s enough.” Do not threaten a coach or player. A first unsportsmanlike conduct call usually ends the encounter.

Again, different sports have different progressive responses. Be sure you know the full range of options to keep the game under control. Unacceptable behavior, such as profanity and racist comments, questioning your integrity or
impartiality, or threats demand immediate escalation of penalties and possible ejection.

Remember, your goal is to keep the game safe, fair and professional. Effective game management expects you to look the part and do your job. If you deviate even slightly from the expectations, you have opened yourself up to criticism. And if the key to effective game management eluded you in this article, it’s communicate … communicate … communicate!

Lawrence Tomei is the vice provost for academic affairs at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. He has been a
member of the West Penn Football Officials Association since 1994 and its president since 2013.

Turning Out Better Umpires

All of us know umpires, referees and sports officials who despite many years of experience still employ game knowledge, comprehension and application at a “rookie” level.  We regularly work with officials, who despite only one or two years experience, demonstrate abilities to analyze and abstract the rules into the situations which confront them. Finally, we respect those whose wisdom and judgment characterize their every movement on the field, their positioning and their calls.

What defines a rookie, a journeyman, a veteran, is not so much a number of hours in the classroom, a number of games on the field, or a percentage on a test, but is, in fact, observable points in the learning process.

A rookie approaches a problem searching for elements with which they are immediately familiar.  They restructure the problem into a friendly context.  The rookie official then selects and applies the rules to the situation in front of them giving a faithful and accurate judgment.  Many good officials rarely leave this level – know the rules, be in position, make the call, be consistent.  This principal of right and wrong is ingrained in the literal developing of an official.  By knowing the context and appropriate meanings of the game and rules this official applies what they know to the situation at hand.

The transition to journeyman occurs when an official begins to break down a problem into its essential parts and analyze the links between these parts.  Extraneous elements are quickly discarded and relevant information is identified.  A journeyman takes a position on the field in response to the form, pattern and “intent” of what is developing.  Unfamiliar situations are accessed “on the right track” or “the wrong track” instead of the “must be black or white” of junior officials.  The journeyman is also prepared to take the risk of making an error although experience will work to limit the extent of that error.  This official will attempt to clarify why a decision was made and understand the effects of each call, each position and each response.

So what defines a veteran official?  Certainly this official has knowledge, both from instruction and application.  This official understands the game, the rules and their intentions, and brings unique analysis to the play.  A veteran official is “characterized” by the tasks he or she performs.  They have attained the final two stages of growth: the ability to handle unique situations based on the often abstract information presented to them and the ability to accurately and effectively appraise a situation consistently.  By pulling it all together a veteran official brings a set of consistent standards to each game.  A veteran official carries a set of mental tools which can dissect the internal workings of every play and apply external criteria, unique and remembered “standards of excellence” that each veteran official brings to that play.  It is taking officiating and learning to the ultimate levels.

Years spent in classroom and on-field “behavior modification” is not wasted time but attempting to classify the ability of an official based on “so many hours and so many games” sets a dangerous precedent for the promotion of quality officiating.  There has always been and will always be so much to learn, to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate.  If officiating is to move to the highest level we must also be prepared to recognize, to foster and to develop training systems which also take learning to the highest level.

GHSA Development Staff

Five Characteristics of a Great Umpire

When young umpires get started in the game, the focus of most in trying to improve their craft is to master the mechanics of good umpiring. The self-talk that goes on inside the umpire’s head goes like this:

“a good umpire is always in position, anticipating the proper rotation and finding the best angles to see approaching plays. I’ll be judged on whether I have a consistent strike zone.  Keep my head height the same, track the ball with my eyes to the mitt and remember to have good timing. Let the play happen, see the play.  What is it? Now call it”

That kind of self-talk is essential to the development of an umpire. However, with experience, those concepts begin to become ingrained. That’s when the focus needs to shift. There are a lot of good umpires who can get the calls right and follow all the prescribed mechanics of good umpiring. An umpire who ‘wants to advance his or her career needs to realize what characteristics separate the best umpires from the rest. Most of those great umpires display qualities that go beyond calling balls and strikes or safes and outs.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the traits that great umpire possess.


One of the most important characteristics is presence. Like a lot of the intangibles of good umpiring, it is a quality that is a little hard to define. It starts with looking the part Appearance, as it relates to good physical form and a sharp uniform, is a part of that However, it goes further. How an umpire stands on the field prior to the start of the game and between innings, shoulders upright with head held high, never folding the arms in front of the body, gives an air of confidence and approachability that is noticed by players and coaches.

Base umpires who are in a good athletic position at the time of each pitch display a strong presence. Presence
involves looking people in the eye while communicating with them. It also involves keeping your cool in the middle
of a visit from an angry coach with the crowd calling for your head from the stands.

Grace under fire

Related to the last point is grace under fire combined with loyalty to your partners. We all want to work with the kind of partner who is easy to find when problems arise on the diamond.  Most of us have been in situations where we needed to get help from our partners on a rules situation, or to get more information on a call that might need to be overturned. Great umpires step up in those situations and show the courage that is needed to provide the required help. They also don’t throw their partners under the bus during the ensuing argument.


Discernment involves things like knowing when to let a complaint go and when to address it. Umpires need to know where that line is drawn. The situation in the game, who is making the complaint, how the complaint is lodged, tone of voice, etc., are all factors that go into making that judgment. Another degree of discernment involves how and when selling a call is in order. Not every close call needs to be sold with the same degree of intensity. Umpires don’t like to be shown up by players, and players feel the same way regarding umpires. For example, a hard sell on a strike three call when the batter is obviously fooled by a pitch down the middle won’t win you many friends for the remainder of the game.


There are a lot of things that can go on during a baseball game that aren’t necessarily a part of the game of baseball. Nonetheless, they fall under the jurisdiction of umpires. Usually, those issues involve sportsmanship, and umpire
awareness of what is going on is necessary for keeping order on the diamond.

Keeping a close eye on the behavior of players might mean taking your eyes momentarily off the ball. A player who just hit a home run might decide to make some gesture directed toward the opposing team’s dugout while rounding the bases. Or the player may decide to stand and admire the flight of the ball for a while before running the bases. An umpire who has great awareness will recognize that and address it with that player. A base umpire who sees something similar will let the plate umpire know about it between innings.

Consequently, the next time that hitter is up, if a pitch comes in under his chin, the umpire will be prepared to deal
with it properly. Or similarly, after an unnecessarily hard slide on the bases, or a hard tag that was uncalled for, awareness of who the perpetrator was will allow the plate umpire to attempt some preventive officiating. When the guilty party gets ready to hit next time, the plate umpire can inform the pitcher that throwing at the hitter won’t be tolerated. Those situations can be dealt with much more effectively when the plate umpire is prepared for them.


With all of those positive traits, an umpire may still not rise above the rest if he doesn’t have a sense of his own style in making calls. Style doesn’t mean putting on a show. However, how you look when making calls sometimes has as much to do with how you are judged than whether you got the call right or not. That is true of casual obvious calls, as well as those you have to sell with enthusiasm. Umpires who look like a robot or mechanical doll when making calls are usually subject to harsher judgment from players, coaches and fans.  Many umpiring clinicians suggest making calls in front of the mirror to see how you look in an attempt to find your own personal style.

GHSA Umpire Development

Six Common Report Errors

By Brent Killackey

When events of the day’s game require additional paperwork as part of officiating duties — whether there is an issue with game management, an ejection or a serious player injury — it’s wise to give the task the attention it deserves.

Done right, a report will enhance an official’s credibility. Done wrong, a report can leave an official with fewer assignments — or worse, called into a court of law. Here are six common report errors to teach your members to avoid:

1. Too vague. Certain words and phrases used on the field or court trigger an ejection and shouldn’t be used in polite company, but they belong in the report. Saying Coach John Smith used “foul language” doesn’t provide enough detail. Each person’s definition of foul language can be different. Best to be specific and reflect the actual words. Quote exactly what the coach or player said.

2. Too much. You’re writing a game report, not a novel. You don’t need to detail the whole game. Stick to the incident. If something happened that led to an ejection, that’s what the report should cover. You don’t need to get into earlier matters that didn’t result in a warning or other official reprimand. Anything beyond that risks that the important details get lost, and you could inadvertently include details that make the ejection look “soft,” especially if it raises questions about how earlier situations were handled.

3. Goes beyond the facts. Whatever you do, don’t embellish the situation. Far worse for a supervisor to find out your details didn’t match the video that turns up, than to find out you were a little quick on the ejection. The latter is understandable; the former is unacceptable and leaves you with no credibility. What happened, happened. Officials often feel worse about an ejection than they should. Some feel it was a failure of game management — sometimes, however, it’s necessary for officials to deal with a situation with an ejection. Stick to the facts. A good supervisor will have your back.

4. Use slang and colloquial speech. Straight-forward, professional language will ensure your report is taken seriously. Talking about how the coach had you in the “crosshairs” that night, and after the ejection, he “wouldn’t immediately hit the showers” and assistants had to drag him away “kicking and screaming,” doesn’t lend credibility to the report. Keep the wording professional and stick to the facts without resorting to creative language.

5. Speculate. It doesn’t matter that you think the coach was upset that day because his pitcher was struggling or his starting quarterback was out. That doesn’t matter in a report that should stick to the facts. Just tell what happened. And don’t make accusations either — noting that you think there was no hot water after the game because the coach shut it off doesn’t belong in the report. Now if the coach’s post-ejection tirade included, “You’ll have no hot water after the game,” and that’s what happened, that’s a fact you can share.

6. Failing to file it. Sometimes officials think filing the report could impact their career. After they cool off, they think they’re doing everyone a favor to let it go. But an incident will come to light, and the lack of a report will make the official look bad. Supervisors prefer to hear about a situation from an official, even if it’s minor.

After your officials write a report, encourage them as a last step to check with crewmates and run it past a leader in the association (maybe your group has a person whose position involves reviewing game reports to ensure officials provide what’s needed and nothing more).

Brent Killackey is Referee’s managing editor and a high school baseball umpire.

Officials: Two Ways to Advance, One Common Key

By Freddy Krieger on June 05, 2017

Some officials consider “advancement” strictly in terms of going from a lower to a higher level – striving for the striped brass ring of officiating competition at the highest levels, with the right stuff along the way they progress to their ultimate goal. These ever-improving fellow officials deserve the awe and admiration of both their peers and those cohorts looking up from the lower levels. From them there is a lot to learn. They have a lot to show and share.

An aspiring, hard-working official starts out working middle school ball and develops there. He or she advances in experience, rules knowledge, mechanics awareness and judgment, then progresses to be assigned at the junior varsity level. Then from JV to the varsity level. Then varsity to college . . . and beyond. Advancement of this sort yields a level always higher than the one mastered previously. But there’s one key thing that gets this official there: development. No one advances to any higher level without developing.

This kind of official has a lot to show, and a lot to share. How beneficial it is when those on their way up invest time and effort for the benefit of others: mentoring newer officials, serving as clinicians at camps, motivating in others that same passion for development that got them to the level they’re at. Regardless of status, all developing officials have benefitted from some who have advanced or are still advancing to levels higher than they’ve yet to attain.

However, others are fine examples of those on another route. Some might incorrectly consider this alternative a “route to nowhere,” but it really isn’t. This other way to advance merits the regard and admiration of those on their way up. If properly recognized this can be a satisfying alternative for those not so “brass ring-minded.” There is a way to advance while remaining at the same level. Both approaches and outlooks deserve the respect and encouragement of fellow officials, regardless which track they themselves have chosen or has been chosen for them.

This other track taken is equally admirable. The lights might be not as bright, the game checks not as fat, and the notoriety not as pronounced, yet this too is a loyal track to be trod. Advancing can also mean developing at the same level without moving up.

For sure, little is admirable about an official who stagnates at a certain level. With little hope of going higher, he or she just gives up and ceases getting better while remaining at the highest level he or she could progress. This isn’t good for anyone, neither coaches, players, assignors, fellow officials, nor fans. Officiating, it’s been said, is like being a fruit on a tree; either you’re ripening or you’re rotting. Let’s consider the why’s and how’s of advancing while remaining at the same level.

It could be by choice or by circumstances out of an official’s control (age? family or work schedule? physical limitations? been there/done that?) that an official stays where he or she is at, pursues development and excellence at that certain level, choosing not to accept either the opportunity or invitation to “step up.” Yet through continuing development, that official advances while remaining at the same level.

When done right, this track has that one important element in common with the first: development. It takes continuing development and enrichment on the part of this official to advance while remaining at the same level. It requires real progression in rules knowledge, mechanics, judgment, confidence, communication skills. Experience, rather than resulting in stagnation, leads to excellence at that level. The level may not change, but the passion for continued development is always at a high point.

For many this alternative has its own set of rewards. Advancement is realized in ways other than brighter lights, bigger checks and more notoriety. It might mean working with a better crew on more significant games. It might mean becoming the assignor’s “go to person” who is capable to handle the tougher contests that arise during a season, requiring special assigning consideration. It might manifest itself with accepting local association roles and activity instead of more games and a more taxing travel schedule. It might mean dedicating effort and time to mentor newer officials or to observe and constructively critique peers. While staying at the same level, one can help others advance while savoring the satisfaction of knowing that one is right where he or she is needed most, advancing while remaining at the same level. It’s not stagnation, it’s development. That official hasn’t reached the end of the road; he or she is still progressing.

When an official sets his or her goals, advancement should always somehow be represented on the list. If it is, continued development ought surely accompany advancement on the visionary agenda. But advancement doesn’t always mean getting to a high level. If it does for you, know that you’ve got many fellow officials who are there to support, encourage, and assist you while you’re on the way up. But while on that track, be sure also to take the time and effort to support, encourage and assist your fellow officials who, whether by choice or not, are on a different course. They’re likewise developing and advancing, but they are content and confident at the level they’re at.

When advancement is accompanied by development, regardless the road chosen and travelled, everybody benefits.

From <>