You are not alone

Basketball officials talking
Author:  Tony Wynd, Manager, Coaching and Officiating Unit, Australian Sports Commission
Issue: Volume 6 Number 2

Officials are often on the receiving end of abuse from athletes, coaches, spectators, parents and others. As an official when you are continually faced with a barrage of abuse either verbally, or even more alarmingly, through physical intimidation, it can be a challenge to get back out there and perform as an official.
We know officials are responsible for the competition environment and are required to make decisions by applying and interpreting the rules. This can be challenging enough without the added impact of abuse on their performance. Mentoring can play a critical role in the development and retention of our officials.

Many sports have adopted the use of mentors to assist officials in their development, which in turn aids in the retention of officials in their sport.

To be able to seek guidance from an experienced official or peer, or to have an officiating performance reviewed can be of great benefit. Just having a person’s presence at a competition in a mentoring capacity, can be enough to reassure officials who have felt like they are trying to do things on their own with no support.

Either combined with a coloured shirt program, or as part of an official's induction, the use of mentors to shadow first-year or inexperienced officials has also been used by sports. This allows officials to develop the confidence to make decisions on their own. Officials have the support of a more experienced official not too far away who can assist if the situation arises, provide feedback on how the individual is progressing and to allow the official to develop and refine their skills.

Mentoring can range from a structured formal program implemented by governing bodies, clubs, associations, to informal mentoring that occurs as a matter of course as people seek feedback from others. 

The important factor for the official being mentored is to know that they are not doing this on their own. There is someone they can go to who is interested in their development and can provide support.

Mentoring is not new, but it is effective. Skilling your mentors in their role can only enhance the officiating experience. Being able to provide quality feedback in a manner that empowers the official and allows them to develop in their own time and style is a skill that mentors need to have.

At all levels of sport from high participation through to high performance, mentoring is a rewarding experience for both officials and mentors.

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