The Wisdom of Dan Louie...
may not be on your list, and that is not a condemnation of either list, it
merely reflects the differences which we all bring to the table. My hope is that
we are in agreement on at least eight of the ten...and don’t forget to factor
in semantical nuances. We may be saying the same thing but naming it
differently. Here is an explanation for why I have ADAPTABILITY on my list.
like life, is not a venue where everything can be judged as either black or
white. The rules are important and yet they change as the rules-makers attempt
to remedy inequities, increase safety, or keep up with the constant growths in
athletic abilities. A hold is always a hold but do we always call it? A coach
who yells and screams at us is clearly attempting to influence our decisions but
to we penalize each violator? The resounding answer is. “Of course not!” We
judiciously apply the rules to keep the spirit of the game alive as well as rule
applications. Those who approach life seeking a rigid doctrine by which to live
often fall short of personal success and/or happiness. The same is true for
officiating. Whether we like it or not by the mere act of donning the uniform we
have accepted the challenge of having the Sight of the Delphi Oracle, the Speed
of Mercury, the Grace of Venus, and the Wisdom of Athena. This burden is thrust
upon us because those who participate demand it. To be a good official we must
momentarily rise above our egos, our prejudices, our ideals and work under the
guidelines specified in the manuals and books. To be successful we must be able
to ADAPT. Like defensive players we must be able to instantly process
information, pull up the appropriate file and react with the best possible
option. Outcome of the game in question we must use different philosophy than if
the outcome has been decided.
In a 7-6 game, I am never going to let a hold, which influences the play,
go undetected. 45-3 a hold which influences the play, but not the outcome, can
be dealt with by talking with the player instead of the foul.
Varsity level-I m very strict with the 25 second count and motion, false
start, etc. Lower levels I allow the skills of the players to dictate how rigid
I want to be. Youth games-I learned in my first season that 8-10 year olds have
a hard time staying in the same place for a second much less remaining set. So I
often give them much latitude in these areas. I haven’t had a delay of game at
the non varsity level in years-unless they clearly go beyond 45 seconds. To call
these fouls at these levels deprives the players of more playing time than to
merely let it go and then to notify the coaches that they need to work on it.
Players at the non varsity level are not as skilled as varsity and should not be
held to the same high standards.
I try not to ignore fouls which fall into the injury producing nature. I
will call the face mask, the fight, the clip, the block below the waist (in
youth games I make sure it was a block and not merely a player falling and
another player falling over him). Obviously this is done on a game by game
I ADAPT to the surroundings and situations. I have found that it is
easier for me to ADAPT to the poor personal skills of most coaches than to
expect them to truly act like rational adults during the heat of battle. I hold
to the tenet that they are going to act like idiots and it is my responsibility
to be the calm variable which keeps the situation in check. It is as important
to me as to when and how a coach criticizes me than the actual words used. I
will not tolerate swearing at me but I will often ignore swearing if not
overly loud and inciting. A coach comes to me on the sideline and says to ME,
“*$(#!@&^%” Dan, you missed the clip.” will receive much more leniency
than the coach who yells the same message so that others may hear. A coach who
bee lines towards me on his way to the huddle and says, “Get your *&$#^!
head in the ball game.” will receive a warning and a directive to proceed to
his huddle. Conversely, the coach
who after reaching his huddle yells at me in front of his players will have his
huddle moved 15 yards from it current position. Even here I have to ADAPT. If
the coach is right I give him a more leeway than if he is merely trying to
incite. Too many officials are quick to hit a coach when he has accused them of
inefficiency and the official knows the coach is right. I have to ADAPT and come
up with an alternative solution. “Coach, I may have missed it. You’ve let me
know now that is enough.” Or, “Coach, you’re right.
I missed it and I won’t miss it again. Now please direct your attention
back to coaching.”
Sidebar I had a situation in a
playoff game where the visiting coaches were very defensive from the pre-game
meeting up through the second quarter. What changed their behavior? There was a
play where the Linesman had ruled incorrectly. The coaches went ballistic and
were screaming that we were homering them. I went to the sideline and asked what
the problem was. They explained
their view. One of the coaches said, “Why bother telling them, They aren’t
going to change it. They don’t care.” I went to the Lineman, the Umpire, and
the LJ and asked what had happened...I truly hadn’t seen the play. After
getting all the information I went to the opposing coach and told him that there
had been an error. He was fine with it. I then went to the complaining coach and
explained that we were going to replay the down because circumstance made that
the only viable option in my mind. I reset the clock to the time the LJ thought
it should read and we went on as if the down hadn’t occurred. The visiting
coach was stunned and even apologized for their prior behavior. They didn’t
question another call made for the remainder of the game and they eventually
lost 22-21. I truly believe that my ability to be flexible, i.e. ADAPT, turned
this into a positive situation.
There are times when I am working with officials who are not on the same
level of commitment or expertise as my own and I have found the games go much
better if I ADAPT to their styles rather than imposing mine. I am not advocating
allowing a misapplication of rules but I am talking more about penalty
philosophy or mechanics which they may have instead of pushing mine.
My ego is not more important than the feeling that we are a crew and will
work together for the duration of the contest. If I have an inadvertent whistle
I need to accept the fact I errored and then ADAPT and move on. When I make the
bad call, and I realize it was a bad call I need to ADAPT and take the
appropriate steps. If the crew errors I want to offer information which may
alter the error but there are times when I have to ADAPT by letting it go and
getting back to the game.
Sidebar I worked a game where I
truly felt an official was making the wrong decision with a penalty enforcement.
He ruled that the foul was a dead ball foul instead of a live ball one. I went
to him and asked if he was certain he had all the pertinent information. He held
firm and I let it go....the officials directly involved ceded to the referee’s
ruling. I could tell it was a lost cause and moved on. I ADAPTED during the game
and then discussed it with others after the game. As in life, we as officials
sometimes have to accept that there comes a time when it isn’t going to be
fair or right. I read the verbiage and body language of all the officials and
ADAPTED to the reality that nothing was going to change and to continue to press
the point would only be to serve my ego and not the flow of the game. I didn’t
like it at the time, I still don’t like the results but we had to move
It is important that we ADAPT to the weather. Too often I have seen
officials taken out of ball games because it was too cold or raining too hard.
As much as we can prepare for bad weather we must ADAPT and not let it influence
our approach to the game. Don’t stand with hands in pockets to keep them warm,
don’t wear towels around your necks to keep them warm, don’t be reluctant to
go into the middle of the field because it is muddy and don’t verbally
complain about the environment. We’ve all played in these conditions and we
must approach this current phase of our involvement with the same enthusiasm,
dedication, and commitment as we did as young men.
We played in crappy conditions out of pride and now we work in sloppy
conditions for the same pride...to do the best we can at all times so as to
achieve that inner satisfaction which comes from a job well done.
Often we have to ADAPT to the idiosyncrasies of our associations. Who
gets moved up, who gets play offs, who gets college games, etc. Nothing good
comes from whining and backroom complaining.
Instead of taking potshots at those who are getting what I want, I chose
to become active in my association and became one of the decision makers. I
ADAPTED to the short comings which I felt were in my organization and worked
towards change. I have succeeded in areas and failed in areas-and I have
short, if we can’t ADAPT we can’t really become successful no matter what
other rewards are tossed our way. Bad officials get play off games, bad
officials get positive recognition from a variety of sources, and bad officials
even move into the upper levels of officiating. But good officials receive those
same rewards with added bonus of getting respect from peers, players, and
coaches. I will take the respect over a play off assignment every time.