The Wisdom of Dan Louie...


Poise, as you will see by the time this entire activity is over, is really a combination of several components of my list; but it is important enough to me to warrant its own life. The need for poise is self-evident.  To properly enforce the rules we need to be under control to ensure that we discharge our duties in a manner which creates the most positive atmosphere possible.

This is an emotional game and we must keep our emotions in check at all times.  To me poise is an aura which I try to project to create an illusion that I am detached from the emotions of the game.  If coaches players, and/or other officials sense that I have lost my poise then I lose the ability to sell myself as a professional.  I try to keep working at the same pace from opening kick off to closing whistle...even when the game heats up.  I don’t want to rush my ready for play merely because we are late in the game and a team is driving...haste can lead to disaster.  Communicate with all participants in the same, calm voice, regardless of game situation.   If a coach is unhappy and verbalizing his displeasure I must allow it unless it crosses the line of sportsmanship. I am not going to personalize nor inflame the situation by yelling or trading quips with the coach or players. 

        If I have to throw a flag I am not going to “aggressively” throw it nor am I going to “stare down” the coach nor the player...I am a firm advocate that our body language tells volumes about us. Making a spectacle out of this situation only serves to notify the participants and the crowd that we are losing control. 

Poise also means that our movement on the field is with purpose and void of herky jerky actions which might indicate that we are getting caught up in the game.  Do not confuse hustle with being the headless chicken running in circles before it finally rests on the ground.  Crisp signals, whether TD, Inc pass, etc. are also good measures of our poise.  Delay that signal just a count to ensure that you are calling what you have seen and then give it with authority...again, this is a case where speed can kill. 

Poise is also the ability to admit we are wrong.  If we make a mistake and it is brought to our attention we need to correct it on the spot; don’t wait to discuss it in the locker room.  Taking critiques is also a measure of our poise . How many times have we discussed a situation and began to feel defensive because we don’t want to appear to be wrong or uncertain.  When mistakes are made, correct them and then forget them until after the game.  

Sidebar-I once had an early whistle in a play off game. Very early in my career and I was very excited about receiving this assignment. Here is the situation. I go downfield to cover eligibles, I look back and the QB throws a pass which hits the ground. I come back blowing loudly and giving Inc.  Ref, with HUGE smile walks over and asks what I have. I say, “An incomplete pass.” He replies, “Great call EXCEPT the pass was backwards.” OOOOPPPPPS!  We replay the down and the coach of the defensive team is all over me because his team was about to recover the ball. After the game the coach, who lost, came up to me and said, ‘Nice job. I thought that after the early toot I would get some pay back call. But you called them the same before and after.” The rest of the crew, all very seasoned, also complimented me on the way I let it go and moved on with my game. One, a Pac 10 (Pac 8 then), and later NFL added, “Yeah, I thought I would see deer eyes out of you the rest of the night but you held your own.” Poise prevented a bad situation from becoming a terrible one. 

Paying attention to the little things. Sideline control, ball mechanics, counting players, being aware of the time, to name a few, are examples of the poised official.  A good way to show loss/lack of poise is to ignore these items and then brushing them off with, “Well, there not really that important.” They are important or we wouldn’t have them in the rules/mechanics books. 

don’t know anything about basketball officiating. Recently I  watched a very good football official working a college basketball game. He was clearly head and shoulders above his partners because he carried himself with poise throughout the entire contest. His tempo never changed and he did not get caught up in the game. This is the best compliment we can give an official we are say that he looked poised and in control. We have no idea of the heat he may have felt from the game and his demeanor was one of professionalism.  

So, here is my check list for Poise:

1.      Don’t rush signals-delay and think

2.      Communicate in calm manner ENTIRE game

3.      Throw flag deliberately but not aggressively higher/faster is not better

4.      Move fluidly and under control cut my angles at 90 degrees when coming from the sideline into the dead ball spot.  Don’t leave the line and then come back because I misread the play.

5.      Be aware of clock status in case there is confusion

6.      Do not yell from field of play to the sidelines or the crowd

7.      Jog or trot to sidelines for discussions, don’t walk and keep my head up and maintain eye contact

8.      When I error, correct it, forget it, and move on

9.      Admit errors and don’t try to excuse or justify them

10.   Keep same pace/tempo ENTIRE game