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Howdy ... 

Welcome to the Social Ref, a simple home for recreational officials. We hope you find the best ideas and techniques, that others have already learned.  

Cheating Robots ...

Cheating Robots ...

You might have a few fears getting started as a rec official. Messing up a big call. Freezing up at the wrong moment. 

The players on your field have fears too. Looking dumb in front of their friends, dropping a big pass with the game on the line, letting their teammates down. 

But they also have a "fear of fairness." That no matter how good they play, the game will be decided not by their effort, but by some weird rule, some random call (Tuck Rule), or some evil, biased ref out to get them. 

The movies reinforce this idea. Everyone cringes when Denzel is being cheated by the refs in Remember the Titans.  It strikes a cord in every fan who has felt like the umps are biased and the home team is getting cheated. "Call the game fair," the head coach begs, reinforcing the idea that your team would be winning if it wasn't for those dang refs. Of course once the refs get a stern talking to by Coach Yost, (and after a quick pep talk) the game turns around for the Titans. 

In real life scandals like Tim Donaghy, an NBA ref who bet on games he officiated, also tie into this fear. For a solid two years after the scandal, we would hear players respond to a call they didn't with some reference to Tim and the "fix being in".... and we didn't even run basketball leagues!!

My old college roommate would tell us the story of how he threw the winning TD pass at the end of his high school championship football game, only to have the refs call it back for an illegal forward pass. He swore he was not over the line, and just landed over the line after the pass was thrown, as he would re-enact the play hopping around in our tiny dorm room. Who knows what really happened.  

Feeling cheated in life, and in sports is a real thing. Some officials are so worried about seeming biased and one-sided that they will go to great lengths to avoid the appearance. They don't refer to players by their first name, and refuse to congratulate a player after an awesome play. They only interact with players in a robotic, distant fashion. Better to be a un-biased robot, then be seen as biased. 

But in actuality the bias argument will never go away. Sure, you should be careful to appear fair as you ref fair, but being a robot is no fun. Becoming a "ref robot" because of the fear of favoritism, is like never going to class in high school because you are afraid someone is going to make fun of you. 

I have never actually seen a biased ref in 18 years. 

But I actually have seen refs cheat players quite often. 

They cheat them by losing track of game info.

If you miss a point, if you miss a run, if you lose track of a down, or an inning, you have cheated a team out of what they earned. Not because your biased, or because you like one team and hate the other, but because you lost track of the foundation of trust ... your game info. 

Newbie refs think they earn trust with huge calls and big penalties. They think they earn credibility in the last minute of the game. 

Maybe think about earning trust and credibility starting with the first play of the game. How you move and hustle, how you handle the game information, how you give warnings and communicate.  Then when the big call, or penalty, or foul, or the last minute of the game comes around, that's when you cash-in all of that trust and credibility that you have earned

Many rec leagues have incomplete scoreboards, or no scoreboards at all. Ideas like game time, injury time, play clocks, scores, timeouts, innings, are all "Scoreboard Info" that need to be explained to players frequently, but normally aren't seen. They are hidden, kept by the head ref and announced when asked, or on a schedule the ref decides. 

The players are trusting you to keep track of that Scoreboard Info. 

Newbie refs spend so much time worrying about making the correct call, and being trusted or  yelled at about a big penalty or foul, that they don't realize they are actually cheating players when they lose track of basic game information. 

They skip an inning. They write down a 1 point instead of a 2 point conversion. They assess a timeout to the wrong team. 

Conflict and arguments crop up for static info like scores and game info and time-outs, instead of judgement info like calls and rulings and penalties.  

Heck one of the simplest problems we often battle with our sports leagues, is refs who run a great game, and then write the final score down BACKWARDS. The winning team goes to the website to check out the standings only to find they have literally been handed a loss. Of course we correct it and apologize, but what does that player or captain feel like when they see their hard fought victory recorded in bright lights as a loss?

They feel cheated. 

If you are to be a robot, be a robot with your game info and your ownership of the scoreboard. Create habits on how you announce info, when you announce it, and how you record it, the same time in the same way. Even the habit of how you triple check the final score of the game. 

Be like a machine with your information and earn trust and credibility by having your scoreboard ownership be accurate and reliable. Then you can use that credibility later when you explain the big call you just made, hopefully less like a robot and more like a Social Ref. 




When Advice Goes Bad ...

When Advice Goes Bad ...

Please try 15 games ...

Please try 15 games ...