The Wisdom of Dan Louie...

Adaptability

This 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 donít 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. 

 Football, 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. ďOf course not!Ē 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.

Examples:

1.      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.  

2.      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 havenít 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.  

3.      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 determination.  

4.      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, ď*$(#!@&^%Ē Dan, you missed the clip.Ē will receive much more leniency than the coach who yells the same message so that others may hear. A coach who bee lines towards me on his way to the huddle and says, ďGet your *&$#^! head in the ball game.Ē 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. ďCoach, I may have missed it. Youíve let me know now that is enough.Ē Or, ďCoach, youíre right.  I missed it and I wonít miss it again. Now please direct your attention back to coaching.Ē  

a.       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, ďWhy bother telling them, They arenít going to change it. They donít care.Ē I went to the Lineman, the Umpire, and the LJ and asked what had happened...I truly hadnít 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 hadnít occurred. The visiting coach was stunned and even apologized for their prior behavior. They didnít 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.   

5.      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.  

a.       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 refereeís 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 isnít 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 didnít like it at the time, I still donít like the results but we had to move forward.  

6.      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. Donít stand with hands in pockets to keep them warm, donít wear towels around your necks to keep them warm, donít be reluctant to go into the middle of the field because it is muddy and donít verbally complain about the environment. Weíve 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.  

7.      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 ADAPTED. 

In short, if we canít ADAPT we canít 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.