How To Get A Postseason Assignment and Make The Most Of It
How do you get a postseason assignment?
What skills are important when doing those big games?
How do you stay at the top when you’ve arrived?
What is the BEST ADVICE for an official at any level trying to be selected to the postseason?
You should never expect it. It’s a privilege to work it.
Find a mentor, someone who can look at your performance and give you feedback, both negative and positive. That’s the only way you’re going to get better.
Find somebody you can trust who has been there. Try to pick his brain and follow his footsteps.
Do due diligence throughout the regular season.
Have great play-calling accuracy, complete your homework on and off the court, and prepare yourself accordingly.
Focus on the things you can control.
Work on mastering the rules and stay focused on mechanics until those become second nature.
How do you PREPARE for working the postseason?
Read the rule book again to be sure that when you go to the tournament that you don’t screw anything up in front of God and everybody.
For the most part I try not to do anything different. Try not to do anything special because now you’re going to be out of your comfort zone — out of your normal routine.
You don’t want to change anything that you’ve done all year long that got you to the postseason.
If it’s your first time, ask for advice. And when you ask people, listen to them.
With the postseason, one thing that you need to consider is making sure that you’re still fresh.
What ADJUSTMENTS are needed from the regular season to the postseason? Do you call a postseason game any differently between the lines?
Try not to make adjustments between the regular season and the postseason. Try to work every game at every level as if it were a championship game. That should be your mental approach to each game. If you don’t work the entire season as if it were the postseason, you won’t be ready for the postseason when it comes.
As far as calling the game, you're able to do things the same every time you officiate. The difference is you want to be a little more understanding that there’s more at stake.
Players are going to be emotional. You might have to be a little more understanding of that, but you certainly don’t want to get run over by that emotion.
You have to understand that the impact of your calls will have a little more gravity in the postseason than in the regular season.
You can’t change your philosophy of what you’ve been calling, because teams have been accustomed to how you’ve been calling it all year long. If you start changing what you’re going to call and what you’re going to let go, teams get confused. That’s where the consistency really comes into play.
There’s a reason why you got selected. Just referee it exactly how you did during the season and everything will be fine.
If you try to change it too much, then you are changing what you've done the entire season to earn that spot.
If you see a violation or a foul, then make the call. If you're not 100 percent sure, err on the side of allowing the players and the teams to make the determination of the outcome of that particular rally.
The most important thing is to eliminate as many variables as possible where things can go wrong. Have really good communication with your crew.
How do you handle the PRESSURE?
Most pressure is self-imposed. But where did it start? Lack of preparation? The best way to avoid pressure on the field is to control as much as you can before the game with your preparation and your knowledge.
When you're focused on doing your job, the pressure will fade into the background.
Another quote from somebody talking about officiating: “The pressure is an honor.”
If you can’t handle pressure, you’re going to be out on the court for one-and-a-half hours, and that will be the worst one-and-a-half hours of your life. You have to enjoy the moment, enjoy the experience. If you let the pressure get to you, that’s when you start to make mistakes.
The people who move forward are the ones who maybe handle it better than the other guys. Make your call. You can’t do anything about it anyway. If you screw up on a play, you go back to zero and try to make the next play your best play.
As a referee sometimes you get three calls in a matter of a second or two. If you feel like you missed the first one, and you stay in the moment of the first one, you could miss two more. Stay Focused!
As an official, there are going to be people who criticize your performance. You can’t please everyone.
What have you LEARNED from working the postseason?
You learn a lot about yourself — that you can handle that kind of pressure on the biggest stage.
It’s commitment and dedication. You just can’t live on your last year’s performance.
It’s not the be-all-end-all of your life. You are thinking how you worked your whole officiating career to get to this point. It doesn’t change your life. It doesn’t change who you are as a person, or who you are as an official.
What are the RISKS for an official’s career working the big, high-profile games?
Everyone wants the big games, and it comes with a lot of responsibility. And part of that responsibility could mean that we don’t do something right, and we get embarrassed.
There’s a risk that you could make a call that is not the call that you want that could cost a team. That’s obviously magnified when you get into the postseason but you can’t go into a game thinking that way.
There are risks every single night. You screw up and they think you’ve lost it.
If you’re afraid to take that risk, then you don’t work the big games.
If a call or situation gets mishandled, it can hurt you. On the other hand, if the crew handles the game seamlessly, that can be a benefit as well.
What’s your risk? That you’re really not that good? Then you’ll find out. You won’t get another tournament game. That’s your risk. If you don’t want that risk, then goodness gracious, you’re not a competitor. Don't even imagine that mind-set.
Is your primary MOTIVATION at the beginning of the season to work the postseason or does something else drive you?
Your primary motivation should be the love being out on the court. Some officials think that this is therapy for them. Everybody needs a disengagement from life sometimes, officiating is that.
Every year, you should want to work the highest level. Are you disappointed if you don’t make it? Not always, because things have to bounce right for you, and when you’re working a lot of games, not every year is going to be a great year. But at the start of the season you’ve got to set goals, and those goals should be a tournament or a state championship game, whatever you may be eligible for.
You can’t control who selects you, and so you have to find satisfaction in knowing that you did the best job you could. Also, be honest with yourself: maybe you didn’t deserve the tournament selection. You could say, “What can I do to improve as an official so that next year I can get rewarded with the postseason?”
You should set down goals every season, but my goal every game is to service that game as well as I can, and hopefully get to the postseason. Obviously you might be disappointed if you didn’t get a postseason assignment, but you should work toward that end and hopefully your work speaks for itself.
You should feel so blessed to have the opportunity to work with some of the best officials in the state and officiate games with some of the best teams doing something you truly love at the highest level. That should be more than enough motivation.
When you are working the postseason, you are probably working with some top tournament-tested officials. Is your job easier as a result?
It could go either way. It depends on your crew chemistry. In the postseason, you should have better performances because those are people who have also earned a spot to be there.
Typically, everyone’s got a lot more experience, so there’s less of the jitters. Also, typically you don’t have to worry about issues of professionalism, like getting there on time, and being prepared. The people that don’t do those things get weeded out.
Working with some great officials, you are able to pick their brains after the games. After the game you talk and you’re able to learn from them and draw on their experiences.
Yes, You’re there because you referee the same way as those guys do. You don’t have to worry about that third on the floor.
Are you COACHABLE or do you do most of the coaching when you reach those games?
As you become a playoff veteran, you are sometimes in the tweener spot where you're both coachable and doing the coaching, working with guys who get to the tournament for the first time.
If you’re not coachable, you’re not going to stay. That’s when, to you, you’re bigger than the game. In all sports, that if you have that kind of attitude, the game has a way of kicking your butt. There’s a fluky play that never happens if you have that attitude that you know it all.
If you're the referee in the game, always have everybody interject in the pregame, especially over rules. There’s a handful of rules that people interpret different ways, and make sure we’re all on the same page. Try to make everybody feel comfortable in the pregame. Talk about officiating the Primary Coverage Area, and everything should go OK. It’s a team game.
Sometimes in a first-round game, you might have younger officials with you, make them part of the assignment and provide good strong leadership to them. You might do some more coaching in that game. Working with a more seasoned veteran, you might need to be more coachable. It will vary from game to game.
Everyone should be coachable. If you see a play one way and your partner(s) sees it differently, it can be good dialogue.
How do you train yourself to STAY MOTIVATED after you’ve reached a postseason level? How do you avoid a sense of entitlement?
It’s the pride and wanting to get back there again and again. It can be exhilarating and exciting. You ask yourself, am I really going to do this game in front of a huge game with a large crowd?
You always want to go back. The second honeymoon is so much better! You want to experience the parts that you didn’t realize that you were supposed to experience.
When you feel entitled, if you make one bonehead call, you will be humbled quickly, believe me. Officiating is something where there is no entitlement. Once you have that perfect game, you need to retire right then and there.
The minute you think you’ve got this job figured out, it’ll turn around and bite you. There’s no way that you can get cocky, because the minute that you do, you are going to get knocked down.
You see a lot nowadays. It’s a totally different world of entitlement. Always understand and remember that you did not get any assignment by yourself.
One of the worst things if you feel entitled: “Hey, I’ve made it … I can mail it in now.” But you have to always strive to be a better official because each year it is going to be different teams and players
You have to accept that there are no guarantees. As hard as you work to be the best at what you do, someone else is working just as hard and wants the same thing you do.
Don't have a false sense of modesty, If you don’t get a tournament assignment this year, but a guy who hasn’t had one before does, be happy for him/her...Call that person and congratulate them! Don't go home and feel sorry for yourself.