Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thoughts on Officiating

It's easy to find things to criticize when it comes to officiating--particularly as much of the routine complaints are generated by heat-of-the-moment reactions to disputed calls. VFTD tries to avoid discussing officiating in that context but it's impossible to be completely impartial. That's one reason to conduct these posts in the off season. Another reason is the timing would allow for change(s) prior to next season.
Since most officiating related posts are critical I thought it might be worthwhile to be reminded why reffing--and making improvements--continues to be problematic. This is about reffing at the MLP level but may apply (in parts) across the board. Even though league-certified refs have a day of special training that's really no more than a basic foundation, a framework within which to understand the role. There's nothing like experience. Additionally, being familiar with the rulebook is not the same thing as knowing the rulebook and too few refs know the rulebook. Then there is the issue of refs discretion that tends to creep into the process when either the original rule is poorly conceived or institutional control becomes lax--or both. Beyond that field design can play a role in making the officials job difficult as can some zone theories of coverage responsibility and just plain poor communications.
I know what you're thinking--if this is my idea of cutting the refs some slack you'd hate to be them when I'm giving them grief. Au contraire, mon slacker frere. My point is that there are lots of pieces to the puzzle and it's very easy for things to not go as planned--or, more to the point, it's hard to operate efficiently and consistently particularly when you take into account how little time these crews of officials work together. Even on the pro field when you consider what officials in other sports go through the actual preparation and development time is marginal at best.
I'm not suggesting they can't do a better job. I'm saying that we need to acknowledge the limitations that currently exist in our sport and focus on things we can do to improve the situation instead of focusing on the failures that do occur. If there are limits--and there are--perhaps the best that can be done in the near term is to focus on things that can be done to make the job easier. And if we can't instantly endow the refs with more experience or assure regular, consistent crews maybe the areas to focus on are the rulebook and consistent practices when implementing the rules.

Next time a few suggestions.

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