At the urging of my director, who had spent many years as a collegiate football official, I began officiating volleyball many years ago. He encouraged me to take up the whistle and said I would learn a lot. It has to be one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever listened to. Officiating sports on all levels has helped me develop my transferable skills. Here are four of the many skills I have learned from officiating.
1. Conflict resolution and the ability to disagree agreeably.
As an official, you must learn to deal with conflict. Sometimes, you and a coach may not agree on your interpretation of a rule. Calmly explain your position, defend your ruling and realize not everyone will agree with you. Don’t take it personally. Instead, learn to disagree, agreeably.
Some prefer Chevy to Ford, others Pepsi to Coke. It’s not that they dislike you; it’s just they don’t agree with your call. If you propose a wonderful program you’ve invested your heart and soul in, and your director turns you down flat, remember it’s not personal.
2. Know your subject thoroughly.
To an official there is nothing worse than a blown call. Post- game, officials process scenarios, discuss with other officials and ask for interpretations to help us understand the rules. Once you’ve missed a call, you will never want to be unprepared again. The same goes in your professional life. Once you’ve faced something unprepared, you’ll never want to do that again. You’ll want to be well-versed in the budget of the department, the rules for hiring employees and the steps to leasing equipment.
3. Ability to communicate quickly and efficiently.
K.I.S.S. usually is referred to as “Keep It Short and Sweet.” Ministers, teachers and officials subscribe to this adage. As an official, you have to quickly and succinctly explain why you blew the whistle and ruled as you did. You are most powerful when you can do this in less than one sentence. In the professional world, you will be viewed as confident and well-versed on your topic when you have attained this level of expertise. Practice this skill.
4. Understand you must always be learning.
Every year brings new rules to every sport. Officials are given a list of new Points of Interest (POIs) to review and put into place. As you continue to grow in officiating, you soon realize there is so much you don’t know. Suddenly you’re reading every referee magazine, publication and rule book comparison document you can get your hands on. In your professional life, you must always be improving your skills and learning. Set goals each year on what you want to improve. It could be employee relations, team building, efficiencies in systems, or your goal might be simply learning the names of all student employees and their majors who work for you.
I encourage our students to take up officiating to make some extra money to pay their bills. It’s not an easy job and most students have learned it’s important to have thick skin in officiating. Secretly, I hope they will learn the transferable skills I have learned from officiating as well.