Please try 15 games ...
You have more skills to be a rec official than you think.
Many people will never attempt to be a ref or umpire, even though they posses the raw skills that will make them great.
They believe that because they don't understand some rules, or certain signals or procedures, that they should not ref. The media and sports networks further this idea.
Back when I was young and there were like 4 total TV stations, there was a Saturday afternoon baseball game of the week. One of the commercials was always "You Make the Call" which showed some freak play that occurred once a year, and asked the viewer for the correct call. I always got the call wrong, because the play was so bizarre.
They were always some strange plays involving obstruction or interference or players crossing on the base paths as a cat ran on the field and Tommy Lasorda threw a fit, or something like that....
You never saw a "you make the call" asking "hey at full speed can you tell if this is a fair or foul/ a ball or a strike/ safe at first or out.
Because well, those plays were boring. They weren't exciting enough to try and stump the viewer. Those plays were probably 90% of all the calls, yet the segment always went for the crazy 5 - 10% of plays - the outliers - the ones that would be confusing and tricky and might grab your attention because they were so uncommon.
So its probably not surprising that 25 years later, ESPN was still taking the same approach when talking about officials:
Cool a test about football officiating ! Finally the refs get some love on ESPN! But wait a second, why is the test about the most OBSCURE on-field rules? How about just the normal rules that someone who might want to be a ref someday would use every game several times?
There are 2 main times a ref makes the news. The first is when an outlier rule comes up that's super rare. From "You Make The Call" to ESPN's recent quiz, the media is always fixated on the rare 5% and not the common 95% of being an official. So its not surprising that many people who might make great refs someday are scared off, because they don't know the 5% -
Guess what? Nobody does ...
When that crazy play does crop up once a month - no one else will know what the right call is either. So go with your gut, make the call, and smile.
Perhaps it makes for good entertainment when a TV doctor has to diagnose some bizarre rare disease to save the day, but real doctors probably spend their days diagnosing the flu and asthma over and over again. Just like refs and umps spend almost all of their time making simple calls at first base, or strikes and balls. They need to be ready for a crazy play once and a while, but its not the job, especially for a recreational official.
If you have hesitated to give officiating a try, because of this intense focus on the "obscure," don't worry and don't wait to try 15 games. 80 to 90% of your time will be focused on the same consistent calls and info habits, and not crazy outliers.
Other times people are afraid to get started because they aren't raving fans or past players. They assume that only people who have watched or played the game for years and years can best officiate. Certainly understanding the flow of a game from a players perspective can help, but here is a secret:
For recreational officiating, the best Social Refs are those with great communication skills and backgrounds in coaching and teaching, not just veterans who have played and watched the sport.
In some cases, people who have 5 or 10 years of playing experience can be hampered as an official, because they are so tied up in what they THINK is right and wrong, including the "un-written rules" of the game. When you hear a phrase like "I was just letting them play," that's often someone who is too wrapped up in a sport as a past fan or player to make a call that the situation demands.
So please don't let a lack of experience as a spectator or player prevent you from trying your first 10 games.
Do you do well in defusing conflict? Can you teach concepts and rules to new players who are confused? Can you communicate game information and decisions clearly and easily? Are you o.k. in letting someone else win the argument and get the last word?
These concepts are far more important than being a veteran fan or player. Great teachers and communicators can adapt to new systems, be they technology, business, or a co-ed flag football rulebook.
Again the media will make it seem harder to try, because the 2nd main way a ref makes the news is when they screw up badly. You seldom see a news story that Joe Smith reffed his 1000th game without any huge mistakes or problems. New stories focus on 2 kinds of screw-ups:
1) A huge conflict between a player and a ref or ump
2) A huge mistake that a ref or ump made
If you can combine the two - A ref made a big mistake and then got into a huge argument with a coach or player - well that's Internet click-bait gold, so much so that you might even make the top 6 news stories at ESPN:
This is a 1% story, but its the only kind of story that will break through the new clutter.
How about the college basketball ref who recently made SportsCenter, not for reffing another solid game, but because he crossed his arms and turned his back on a player. Did he show the player up? Sure did. Was it worth running on a loop and being a front page news story? Only if your job is to sell conflict and controversy.
Refs make the news when they fight, or mess up, or mess up by fighting.
You can see why if you only used the media as your guide to whether you should give officiating a try, you might be filled with some pretty skewed ideas:
You have to master all the obscure rules, and the only time you will get noticed is when you fight or mess up.
These ideas are crap ... but they are also 5% and 1%'ers. A true Social Ref knows that the most rewarding part of the job is not getting recognition, but fading into the background of a great game. At the end, the players will come up and shake your hand, and the look in their faces will show that they do appreciate you, even if they rarely say it out loud.
Don't get distracted by the way the news treats and talks about refs. Don't think you have to be a raving fan or a long time player. If you have the raw skills and the desire, don't wait any longer to try 15 games. Your local leagues need your help. Get started today, and let us know if we can help.