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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.  

Game Flow vs. Day Flow

Game Flow vs. Day Flow

Part 1 of the "Newbie Reversal" Series

New Social Refs need to spend time un-learning ideas and communication habits ingrained deep within their reffing brain. These default factory settings often need to be wiped clean before a new set of habits and rules can be built and refined. 

But new refs also need to pay attention to ideas they already know, that need to be rewired because they are simply reversed. 

One of these ideas is the game flow vs. day flow reversal. 

Beginning referees do not pay nearly enough attention to the way their existing game flow is trending:

  •  They are slow to realize when a player keeps yelling out the wrong info, and just assumes other wont pay attention. 
  • They don't pick up on anger and frustration building between teams or players (mainly with regards to trash talking and taunting)
  • They don't pick up on players who are playing unsafe until its too late and don't use warnings to impact their style
  • They don't notice when a team is picking on another team - running up the score, pushing limits, and creating a situation where one team feels like the ref no longer has their back. 

Then they always seem surprised when tensions escalate, or a shouting match breaks out, or a team that feels like they are getting treated unfairly, erupts - sometimes over a very minor play that works like a "straw breaking that old camels back."

How could they be arguing over a play that easy and obvious? 

But it was obvious that a blowup had been building over the course of some time. 

Instead, the rookie ref overemphasizes the "Day Flow" of their shift: how games feel in terms of closeness and competitiveness. Often new refs think that Day Flow has some kind of importance for predicting future games, and how much energy, attention, and engagement they will mentally need for the next game in the shift. 

In reality, focusing on the Day Flow is like trying to predict the next number on a roulette wheel based on the last 3 spins. 

The games in your shift often have little correlation to each other, in terms of how much mental and physical energy each one will consume. 

Umping Softball on a Sunday, the first 2 games are blow-outs. Game 1 has a team leading by 10 runs early and winning by 8 at the end. Game 2 is a laugher, with one team jumping out early and winning 20-1. 

This second game presents a big danger to the new ref. They begin sensing a Day Trend or a Shift Trend that doesn't really exist.  They start relaxing on their habits, slacking off on their engagement and movement, and info delivery once the game is 15-1. Then by the time game 3 rolls around they are not ready for a challenging game.  Their system has gotten weaker and sloppier because of the blow-out, even though no one probably noticed. 

A veteran Social Ump assumes that game three is going to be tough and challenging, just because of the law of averages. The new ump is already thinking about what's for dinner after the shift, and gets caught in a tough game they should have easily seen coming. 

You can guess how game 3 ends up.... 

After the home team puts up four runs in the bottom of the 5th we enter the top of the 6th inning ....

Tied 12-12. 

Final Score 17-14 after 7 full and challenging innings. 

Rookie refs should pay much closer attention to the flow of each particular game, and waste little to no energy trying to impart trends over the full day that are seldom there. 

Sure maybe certain days flow a common way because of playoffs, or everyone being angry at the refs because the field has a problem and opened late, or traffic stunk on the way to the stadium. Maybe the weather just turned for everyone.

But, assuming a day trend based on your last game or two is a sure-fire way to get stuck in a situation where a game sneaks up on you and catches you under-engaged and unprepared. 

One of the most consistently worthless ideas surrounding assuming an outcome is the idea of "Team or Player Recon" - basically having someone else warn you or give you input about the teams coming up and their level of play or experience. 

Personally, I have found this to be one of the biggest wastes of time and energy. 

Players or even teams that I need to "Watch out for" because they were a "problem in the past" rarely create any kinds of issues. Teams I assumed that would be a cakewalk because of their schedule or record, instead turn out to be a handful. 

Who knows how those teams reacted on a given day to a different set of refs or umps. 

Who knows how they will react to you? 

A fellow Social Ref, swore to me that a recent Flag Football first round playoff shift was going to be unique because the "teams were so bad. Trust me," he claimed. "I reffed these guys all season and they are horrible."

My two games with these "horrible teams?"

The first game was 35-35 with 40 seconds left until one team scored. Then the other team finished off the game with 4 consecutive hail mary's!

The Second Game, a 20-20 tie until 2 minutes left when one team scored to go up 8. The other team scores back with 20 seconds left and misses a 2 point conversion to tie the game and send it into overtime with the final score 28-26. 

Both games were great fun, but also incredibly challenging and draining. 

My Social Ref "spidey sense" didn't let me fall into such an obvious "Recon trap," and instead the losing team leaves the field in the 2nd game saying that was the most fun they had all season ... and they lost!

It's human nature to want to gather recon ... background info on how easy or hard certain teams are and how much "trouble" they might give you.  Maybe your brain even says this research is important and valuable to being a better ref?

In reality you determine and impact the "trouble" teams might give you from the first play of the game. Are you proactively in control of your game, or is past history and assumptions?

Lose the unnecessary Recon, and go into each game with an open mind, assuming it will need your best, and that you can actually impact how the game flows.... no matter what another ref says about the teams, and no matter how your games have gone earlier in your shift.  

The easier your day has been, the more your ref brain should be telling you to get ready for a tough one. Use that brain power to stay on top of ideas and trends that develop within each game, and don't let your brain be fooled by a Day Flow or the blow-out game that just happened. 

 

 

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When Advice Goes Bad ...