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Barbara Bleiweis
Barbara Bleiweis
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The Road To Varsity: It Begins with a Game Plan and a Great Mentor

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The excitement of my recent promotion is still fresh and my enthusiasm for upping my game this season remains unabated.  All I can think to myself is, "BRING IT!"  But before I step out on the court December 1, I must prepare a game plan that spells out specifically what I need to improve upon and what I want the outcome of this season to be.  In addition, I need an experienced set of eyes and ears, a MENTOR, to help me succeed.  Officiating is, after all, still a team effort.

 Last season, my association piloted a Mentor-Protege (MP) Program. This program teamed a non-Varsity(protege) official with a top tier Varsity (mentor) official. Over a 12 week season, the mentor would help the protege improve his/her officiating skills by working games together and/or observing each other from the bleachers. Frequent post-game discussions would take place where the protege would benefit from the mentor's feedback, guidance, advice and experience. One possible outcome of the program would be for the non-varsity official to be better positioned for promotion the following season. Such was the case for me.

In discussing the MP program with other participants, I noted a commonality amongst the more effective MP teams:

1) Both Mentor and protege chose each other.

2)Protege initiated first meetings and goal setting.  The protege already had a series of goals in mind before they met with the mentor.

3) Mentors were available via phone, email and in person.  Talk therapy played a huge role in the learning process.  Protege spoke with their mentors frequently and after each game to discuss game situations, how these were handled, problems that arose.  I spoke with my mentor after each game.  We spent 30 minutes or more discussing issues and tips on how to deal with similar situations in the future. My mentor followed up with detailed emails summarizing our discussion.  My mentor often sent me text messages as well with words of encouragement.

4)Involvement and oversight by association leadership.  The MP program was overseen by the Vice President of Training who sought feedback during the 12 week pilot.  Knowing that there was support from the association was key to its success.

5) Scholastic Game assignments.  This was the most challenging aspect of the MP program because the assignment of Varsity (mentor), officials to games takes into account a host of considerations that are independent of the protege's needs and schedule. In my case, I was fortunate to be able to officiate Freshman/ JV games that preceded the Varsity games in which my mentor was assigned.  This allowed my mentor to observe me at least 4 times during a scholastic match-up and see my improvement.

Knowing what makes a successful Mentor-Protege relationship will help me continue on the road to Varsity with confidence. This year, the MP program has been expanded and I am teamed with an outstanding mentor once again.  I have begun drafting my goals for this season ,will review these with my mentor and report back to you after our first meeting.  Wish me luck!