My call: Improving your performance as an official

Officiating panel
Author:  Brent Espeland, Director, Sport Performance and Development, Australian Sports Commission
Issue: Volume 5 Number 2

Fairness. Integrity. Accountability. These are the key features that the sporting public expects of its officials, as indicated in research conducted during the Year of the Official. How does this impact on the way in which you undertake your responsibilities as an official?

Structured sport could not be conducted without officials. You know that, and most of the coaches and players appreciate it too. But that does not mean that its enough for you to turn up and do any sort of a job and expect everyone to be grateful. You must be fair to all participants. You must maintain your integrity, sometimes in the face of major criticism and in very trying times. This includes communicating decisions in a fashion appropriate to the circumstances. And you must be accountable for the decisions you make – they must be based on a sound knowledge of the rules of the sport and be applied consistently.

As an accredited official you have a responsibility to your sport and yourself to ensure that you do your job as well as possible. As an accredited official, you will have completed a competency-based training program that means that you are considered qualified to carry out an officiating role in your sport.

However, at the initial accreditation stage your development as an official has really only just begun. In order to remain abreast of advances in your sport and in officiating generally, you should constantly be seeking opportunities to update your knowledge and skills. There are many ways in which you can do this.

Structured learning via sport-specific courses or through local education establishments is one aspect of professional development, but not all learning has to be undertaken in a classroom environment. There are often conferences or seminars that you can attend, you can subscribe to professional journals, or you can network with other officials in your own, and other sports, to gather information from your peers.

Equally important is receiving constructive feedback on your performance in the competition environment, from a mentor or fellow official. It has been said that there is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice, and yet being able to receive advice about performance is crucial to achieving and maintaining high standards. It will be easier to receive advice on ways in which performance can be improved if the advice is coming from someone you respect, so find a fellow official or mentor that you respect and ask them to provide regular feedback on your performance, if such a system is not already in place in your sport.

Read, watch, listen, practise, and absorb, and you will be well on your way to maintaining officiating practice that will assist you to achieve fairness, integrity and accountability.

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