Mentoring moments make the difference for officials

Two officials talking
Author:  Sharon Phillips
Issue: Volume 6 Number 2

Ever encountered a sports problem that you just didn’t have the experience to solve?  Finding a mentor may help.
Mentoring is the foundation of the Australian Sports Commission's (ASC’s) National Officiating Scholarship Program.  This year 16 individuals from 11 sports will benefit from the program.  Each has been partnered with a sports leader who will guide, advise and support scholarship holders in achieving their goals.

What that means in reality will differ from relationship to relationship but National Officiating Scholarship Program mentors agree that “quality time” is the greatest currency they can offer their protégés.

Australian international basketball referee Sharon Arnold has been paired with Canberra’s Drew Meads.  The Melbourne-based Arnold says there are many challenges associated with agreeing to become a mentor in such a program. 'First of all my biggest hurdle is dividing my time with all the other projects I have taken on. I have 160 other referees at my local association that I am also responsible for. The computer is my best friend and Drew and I mainly use this to chat and discuss his progress and any problems he might be having.

'On the next SEABL roster he is coming to Melbourne for three games and I am officiating with him at Frankston, so that is really important for me to see personally how he is going.'

Arnold says the best example she can set for Drew and other referees is to focus on her own continuous improvement. 'For me to keep helping these people I must keep on working hard myself ... this makes it easier for them to believe in what I am trying to teach them.'

Mentor and Football Queensland Director of Referees Alan Kibbler, goes a step further saying that while finding time to be effective is one challenge, a second is 'knowing when to get help to deal with issues that are not my area of expertise. It can be so easy to slip into a role of ‘all seeing, all knowing’ expert and therefore not get the mentee the best available assistance'.

Kibbler is mentoring scholarship holder Sara Hodson and says the first step is to set some pre-determined goals that are achievable, measureable and affordable.  He says while there is a degree of hands on involvement with Hodson, much of his effort is directed at producing and driving a program to offer the best opportunities, appropriate learning contact and review and reassessment of the program to ensure pre-determined goals are met.

Australian international Archery Judge Ed Crowther has already spent quite a bit of time with mentee Karen O’Malley. The pair spent three days at an international seminar and exam in New Zealand in November and at the Australian selection trials for this year’s World Championships in March.  As a retired secondary school teacher, Crowther admits to keeping O’Malley on her toes, making sure that she is kept up-to-date with new rule changes/interpretations, ensuring she has opportunities to attend in-service courses and monitoring her responses to compulsory case studies.  “I fire questions at her whenever we meet re rules, knowledge and application,” Crowther says. 'I observe her in action at events and provide her with feedback.  But above all, I judge the success of our relationship on feedback from Karen. I have told her that the most important thing is for her to drive the program, not me.'

Everyone needs some help now and then, so when looking for a good sports mentor, make sure it’s someone you respect, who has time for you, is honest, isn’t afraid to give you constructive criticism and understands that in the new style of mentoring, you drive the process.

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