After three long months of agonizing anticipation, I finally received official word last night of my promotion! YAY!! I DID IT!! Come winter, I will officiate my first Varsity games as well as higher level non-Varsity match-ups. It is likely I will be assigned predominantly Girls Varsity for starters since Boys Varsity games are a level of play to be earned over time. I feel REALLY good about myself and how hard I worked to earn this promotion. Its fair to say that I am experiencing "mixed emotions"-- a combination of elation, excitement and unbridled joy!
But that was last night. Now, its back to business. The promotion is not an end state. It is certainly a milestone, but it is definitely a continuation of a journey towards officiating mastery. When I received the email, I happened to be in a meeting with Carl, our association's vice president of training and one of the people who approve my promotion. He has seen me develop as an official since my applicant year in 2005. Carl congratulated me then steered the conversation towards areas that he felt I should focus on for improvement. He counseled me to find ways to communicate more effectively with coaches, to acknowledge their disagreements with my calls, while still maintaining composure, control, and approachability. He offered that experience will allow me to develop my own repository of statements, and verbal tools to address coaches in my own terms and diffuse heated situations that will arise. He forewarned me that coaches will see me as the "new kid on the crew" and use me as an easy target for their ire. The need to communicate with coaches is an area that I also noted and was pleased that Carl's suggestions mirrored that of other officials as well as my own self-assessement.
What did take me a bit by surprise, however, was Carl's suggestion for another area of improvement: reffing large. Reffing large refers to a style of officiating where officials like me who are short in stature ( I am 5'2), may be perceived as "weaker" and therefore compensate by combining mechanics, voice, posture, body movement to convey authority and conviction. In my first officials' camp, instructors demonstrated "reffing large" techniques, several of which I adopted. For example, I clench my fists and bang my hips somewhat dramatically when calling a "block". I shout "block" at the same time, using my voice for emphasis. While this approach helped me, Carl offered that I should temper this style going forward. He believes my attempts to "ref large" are not, in my words, as effective as I may believe.' Just focus on officiating the game, Barbara".
Confused? Yes, a little. I believed that reffing large was a necessity for me due to size and gender. Carl was the first official ever to discourage me from reffing large.... what changed? I am still female and still 5'2. I hoped that certain habits would be enhanced going forward, rather than discarded. How much of what I thought I knew about officiating-- no longer applicable? How much will I need to change in order to get my next promotion? Am I misunderstanding what Carl is telling me? Should I second guess my every move and every decision going forward? It would be easy to do so and dwell in self doubt, but I won't. I have at least one skill that I know will not change and has served me well- the ability to LISTEN.
Carl spoke for several minutes sharing his thoughts about the challenges I may face in the upcoming season. His wealth of wisdom garnered from 25 years of officiating, is a gift to me, wrapped in a half hour courtside session with one of the best officials in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is clear that I have come a long way and should enjoy the privilege that promotion brings. I also know that promotion is a temporary high. That the good feeling will be replaced with more frustrations and elations that new experiences and learning brings. Promotion is a new starting point. There are lots of games to be officiated, lots of fun to be had, and a whole lot of lessons to be learned in order for me to reach my next goal: full Varsity status.
I look forward to sharing each and every new learning moment with you as my journey continues.