The Unwritten Rules Every official knows the importance of the rules of the game. Regardless of sport, there are some unwritten rules you should follow as well.

1. When you “think” you saw something, YOU DIDN’T.
There are times you will be focused on action in your coverage area but something on the farthest edge of your peripheral vision will draw your attention. “Gee whiz,” you’ll say to yourself. “That looked like a foul, but I didn’t see the whole thing. My gut says it was a foul. Better safe than sorry. I’m gonna call it.”
Missing a call is never a positive thing. But most assigners, coordinators and observers will tell you that failing to call something that did occur is more acceptable than calling something you aren’t absolutely positive happened.
Gut feeling is a valuable officiating tool. Many times your instincts will guide you in the right direction. But your eyes trump all. See what you call and call only what you see. Period.
2. The CAPTAIN is not always the team leader.
For whatever reason, the so-called team leader or “captain” can sometimes be anything but a player that will help you to defuse a situation and respond positively with other players during a game. That player can often be the one causing problems for you and others. When that’s the case, make every effort to demote that captain. Tell the coach that you need another player to serve as captain because the current captain isn’t doing his or her job. Or tell the captain that he or she will no longer be serving as the leader for his or her team for that game because of his or her actions. Just because a player attends a captains’ meeting before the game doesn’t mean that he or she will be the player with the best sportsmanship.
3. Keep the game MOVING.
There are few officials who want to be on the field or court for a really long game. However, there are some games that are just going to be longer than others. That football game that features two teams that throw the ball on every down and have porous defenses can result in a 63-60 shootout that legitimately takes every bit of three hours to finish. What is not acceptable is for officials to be the cause of a game going long. Do everything possible to make a dead ball live again or to get the clock running as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean neglecting important duties or rushing teams. It does mean being efficient with recording substitutions or enforcing penalties, hustling to your next position and getting the next play started or the next pitch thrown.

(This feature was published in the 6/13 issue of Referee Magazine.)

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