top of page

Tis' The Season That Never Ends

Congratulations! We all made it though another season. Was it just me or did this one fly by a little faster than others? Well, I suppose this season went by faster than last season since this is only my second season as a referee. There are many many more to come.

We have all heard it many times before, and we will continue to hear it for the rest of our career: be a student of the game. But what about the off-season? It can be argued that this is when you dive deeper and harder than any other time of the year. Let’s face it, are you really concerned about studying the rules book during the season?…or at week 4? Probably not. Depending on how active you are on the court, between games, your full time job (or your retirement activities), kids, household chores, and normal adulting things like paying bills, grocery shopping, and taking poops, I am sure that your desire to study the rules book wains during the season.

So what better time to relax, refresh, and realign with the game you love so much than now? Take a couple weeks off. Let your mind unwind. Shake off the tension and the stress from this past season and reset. But remember that like almost everything in life this is a perishable skill. In other words, use it or lose it. Even knowledge, skills, and abilities that have become second nature can use a good dusting-off before they are employed in front of a live studio audience again. Use this time wisely. Because, without a doubt, the new season of fast paced scholastic volleyball will be upon us before you know it. And if you are officiating club ball, then you might need a little more time to settle back into the “NFHS way” of doing it. I don’t know about you, but if you are a multi-code official the PAVO rules comparison has quickly become my go-to reference for reinforcing rule knowledge and technique.

If you are anything like me you probably have some sort of journal or record book that you use to keep track of your season. If you are thinking to yourself, “wow, Mike, that is a really good idea,” and you want to know where to start then get in touch with me and I can give you some ideas based on what I… track. If you are in your first season then there is no better time to start than now. I didn’t start until after my first full NFHS and USAV season. I had to do a little research to get past matches and information, but it was totally worth it. I liken it to a dive log. If you are a diver, your dive log contains all the important information of your diving history: where you dove, what type of gas used, dive time, total bottom time, and total time under water, among other stats.

Having a journal or record book makes this first part easier: self-reflection. Self reflection is a fantastic place to start this little post-season journey. And no better place than by taking a look at this past season. Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • How do I feel about my officiating this season overall?

This is the time to determine if you are you happy with how the season progressed. It is also a good time to reflect on overall job performance. Don’t get too in the weeds on this one. We are just warming up. Make a note like, “I really enjoyed this season and felt fulfilled and satisfied with my performance,” or “this season was really tough for me to stay motivated overall. It wasn’t my best season, but I am determined to improve.” This will help get those self-reflection juices warmed up and flowing for more critical reflection.

  • How many matches was I assigned and was I able to officiate more or less based on my availability and schedule?

Sometimes life gets in the way. But wait… does life get in the way or is it just LIFE that is life-ing? We all have obligations outside officiating. If you say that officiating is all you do then you have cracked the code and need to write a book on it. But we all have bills to pay, families to commiserate with; dogs, cats, and birds that need to be fed; jobs to attend. The key to this questions is simple: did you strike a reasonable balance between officiating and everything else? If so, how can you maintain that balance? If not, then how can you improve on it for next season? This might mean taking more games. It might mean taking less games.

  • What are some areas of strength (both subjective and objective)?

This is where you get to pat yourself on the back. What are some things that you did well this season. For some, it may be whistle technique. For other it may be signals. And still other is can be rules knowledge. Maybe you had a dust up with a coach or player that you handled well, or handled confrontation well during the season. Maybe it is a combination of these… or some other things entirely. Maybe a coach, player, or brother/sister official complimented you on an aspect of your officiating that you were consistent with all season long. Your strengths noted here are attributes that you want to, at the very least, continue to maintain for the up-coming season.

  • What are some areas to improve (both subjective and objective)?

If your first thought is, “pshhh, I did great. I don’t need to improve anything,” then go ahead and hang up your whistle. Doctors, lawyers, pilots, and just about anyone else in a career that requires constant adaptation, learning, and improving can call their occupation a “practice.” I suppose that is why they retire; because they finally got it right. Take off the kid gloves. It has been mentioned to me several times during my onboarding that if you are not open and receptive to critique and input then this is not the place for you. Super-duper honesty time. Did a coach, player, or fellow official mention something to you that you can improve? Did you hear the same heckle from the stands from different spectators throughout the year? Now I am not one to listen to the peanut gallery, maybe, just maybe, there is a little merit to it if you were hearing it all season.

  • How did I navigate the internal and external challenges I faced this season?

Internal challenges can be some of the best ways to shape and improve yourself as an official. When a person has enough self-awareness to recognize, analyze, and confront internal challenges then the potential for growth is much greater. Think about it: if you can truly recognize and espouse an internal challenge then you are in a better position to overcome that challenge. For instance, maybe you are a little soft spoken or introverted on the court. Officiating is an inherently extroverted position. You have to stand up in front of a whole bunch of people in the course of your duties. Not only that, you have to interact with coaches, players, other officials, and staff. Recognizing that this is a challenge for you, and genuinely espousing that it is, can help you overcome it. Something as simple as rehearsing a pre-match conference with your chicken and duck can help you be more confident on the court.

Likewise, external challenges can also help you grow. Did a player or coach confront you about a legitimate rules violation but you were not 100% sure of the rule? Did you witness a rules violation and fail to act on it when you should have? Did you relent to an overzealous coach just to maintain peace or the status quo? External challenges can be some of the most difficult to overcome, because they routinely effect more than just you; they effect the people around you.

This can be just the beginning of your self reflection. The ball is yours. Dig deep and really get that critical thinking hat on and evaluate the season. Start from the beginning and progress to the end. What were some high and low points of the season? What was your favorite part or match? Reflect on your partners and their techniques. What did you like or not like?

Taking time for self-reflection is essential for improvement. And now that you have beat yourself up then patted yourself on the back… then beat yourself up some more… it is time to dust yourself off and prepare for the next season. It surely doesn’t have to be done now, but the last thing you want to do is wait until the night before your first match to read up on the rule changes for the new season.

As the next season approaches start getting your mind right. Get pumped and motivated. Remember why you are here and doing what you are doing. You love it. It is fulfilling. You are part of a great team of people that have the same desires and drive as you do.

Getting back into the swing of something after an extended hiatus can be daunting, but you can start with simple that will never change like your uniform. Make sure your uniform is ready. That mean clean and complete. Zip it up in a garment bag and keep it wherever you keep it. My complete uniform (including shoes and socks) and equipment always stay together and in the coat closet during the off-season. Then I take my uniform and equipment out of the closet and it stays in my car for the remainder of the season. One less thing to worry about. Keep all your equipment in one place. Do you need it for anything besides officiating volleyball? Where else are you going to use that net chain?

Once the tangibles are taken care of you can focus on the not so tangibles… nawledge! It is a good practice to read the rules book from cover to cover at least once prior to the season starting. Refresh on some of those game procedures that you struggled with and reinforce the things that are steadfast and persistent. Keep an eye out for those rules changes and make sure you understand them as well as have the ability apply and explain them using the language of the rules book if the need should arise.

Photo courtesy: IHSVCA

Finally, practice and refine those physical skills that are necessary for the game. They are your bread and butter! Knock the rust off your signals. Use a mirror. Your dogs, cats, and birds won’t cut it for this one. You need feedback. Honest and real-time feedback. Hand your significant other a rules book and tell him or her to critique your signals. How is your whistle technique? Don ’t go blowing your whistle around the house like my 3 year old that thinks its the greatest toy to ever grace God’s green earth, but a couple sharp blasts will give you the confidence to know that you still got the air in your lungs.

Remember, you have a whole family cohort of referees with varying years of experience. If you need to tap into some advice, guidance, or knowledge, there is always someone around to help you out. Wether you are a first year or on your fifteenth season, a good referee is always learning.

See you on the court,

Questions, comments, or feedback about this post or any other post? Is there something you want to read about? Send your email to me at

15 views0 comments


bottom of page