The Love Letters: Keeping Your Focus as a Ref

Photo credit: Shirley Lu Photography

by Marcus Toomey

Don’t pick daisies.

I get it. I get the temptation. The score is 400-10. The Badass Murder Monsters All-Star Community Team is currently beating the Fluffy Kitty College Harry Potter Club and there isn’t a tackle to be seen on either side. You’re head reffing or Lead ARing or snitching or timekeeping or goal reffing. It doesn’t matter, the fact of the matter is the same. You’re bored.

Like, really reffing bored.

So you stare off into space. You joke without keeping your eyes on your assignment. You showboat as a snitch. You flirt with that hot person who’s also assigned to this game. You occupy your time and mind with everyone and everything but the cosmic blowout in front of you.

Please hear me when I say this: I’ve been there and continue to do the same thing. This past tournament I was more concerned with what I was going to get at Chipotle that night than I was where the beaters were (I finally tried the Quesarito, and it was amazing).

You can’t though. As a community, we have to consistently make sure that we hold ourselves to the philosophy and intentionality that makes the best teams the best teams.

We have to go full-on Pete Carroll. When Seattle Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll writes about game time situations vs. practice, he preaches the idea that “every moment is a championship moment”. Building habits from the ground up that encourage vigilance and focus helps us reduce two things that this sport needs to address.

The first is the way that lower tier teams handle these back breaking beatdowns. Seeing a ref taking a few plays off can only create frustration with the refs and disappointment with the lack of seriousness that is being shown to their team. We need the little guys to come away from these games wanting to play more.

The second is the serious reffing issue this sport is seeing. Creating an expectation that you do not always need to be locked in as an official could make things dangerous when things do matter much more. Whether you realize it or not, if you let yourself take plays off from focusing, you will lose focus in bracket games, day two games, and championship games.

We need you, me, and all of us as officials to make this generation and the next generation of officials better and more prepared to handle every game and every game time situation.

By all means, please make the occasional joke, have fun, enjoy the craft and science of being a good ref (something I will be a student of as long as I am in this game), but treat every opportunity to be an official as a chance to be better. Treat every ref slot as if it’s the World Cup final. Treat every team as if they have a serious shot. Hell, even treat practice like there is Olympic gold riding on the damn thing.

So keep it up, stay focused. Don’t just sit there with your stripes on and pick daisies.

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