Video: Five-star offensive tackle Walker Little at it again
Officials have a tough job - see here.
Let's face it, most of us coaches have a difficult time treating the people in black and white with the proper respect and dignity that they deserve. I think that high school football must be one of the hardest sports to officiate, especially if you are a side judge or line judge (the two on the sidelines). They have to deal with all of the players, coaches and staff members literally breathing right down their backs! And forget about being responsible for the chain gang, no thanks!
I learned early in my career, from a mentor of mine named Perry Krosschell, that we should treat the officials the way we want to be treated. Coach Krosschell is a Christian man, and he believed that his faith was just as important on the sidelines on Friday night as it was on Sunday morning. That faith led the way he treated officials, and the way he directed his staff and players to treat the officials.
It is very difficult to treat the officials the way we would like to be treated when not in the heat of the moment. I'm sure most of us have felt "screwed by the officials" at some point in our careers, if not a few times. Our emotions can get out of control, our judgment can get out of control. Mix that with the emotions of our coaching staff brethren who all saw the same errant flag, or non-flag, mixed with a whole bunch of emotional teenagers, mixed with a raging fan base in the stands, and it is easy to see why coaches can lose their cool.
But does it help? Have you ever seen a crew get together after a call, and pick up their flag because you yelled at them?
Sure, we've all seen that a few times. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that we have seen officials pick up one flag for every 76 times they get yelled at - maybe even 176 times.
I spoke with the San Diego County Football Officials' Instructional Chair Steve Coover about how coaches can do a better job on the sidelines of communicating with officials.
How should the communication begin on game night, and how do we address them? Mr. Official? First name?Coover:
"Communication starts early, and at various times and locations, including the locker room, on the field during pregame and at the conference between the head coach and the referee. Officials on the flanks will also introduce themselves and coaches are usually given a game card with the names of the officials. Officials can be referred to by their first names, while coaches should be called ‘coach' or ‘coach Smith'".Is it okay for assistant coaches to speak to the officials?Coover:
"Head coaches are provided more opportunities to communicate with officials while assistant coaches should be cautious when directing comments to officials. Head coaches can help by being the main communicator for their team."How should we go about bringing up a concern during the game?Coover:
"Be specific with information to the officials when you are pointing out a rules violation. Simply yelling ‘he's holding' will not provide much in the way of helpful information to the crew. Provide the number of the offender and any other detailed info that would help the crew observe the correct player and action. Be patient with the officials as they relay the information to the rest of the crew. It may take a play or two before an opportunity to communicate presents itself."
Football is an emotional game. The officials should always be under control emotionally. Head coaches should do their best when upset and presenting their case to the referee, to do so within the team box, never out on the field. Being on the field to complain about a ruling is an unsportsmanlike act subject to penalty and sets a bad example for the players and fans. Referees should recognize the need to conference with the head coach in this situation and go directly to the team box for the conversation.Will a rules violation that a coach brings up lead to the officials correcting that? Coover:
"The result of such a conversation will not be a reversal of a call unless a rule has been misapplied. But it is important to be heard, and officials will do well by acknowledging that they've heard and understand."A final piece of advice for coaches?Coover:
"Never allow your comments to become personal attacks on the official. References to the quality of a call, or lack of a call, is not personal. References to the official's skill, ability or character is personal."
There is some great insight here for coaches directly from an official who has been around the game a long time. Most head coaches are great communicators. Remember to keep that line of communication open and respectable with officials.
Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.