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You've done your time. Ankle deep in muddy youth fields up
to eight hours in an afternoon. Expletives have been cast upon you by
grandmothers. Hell, you've had a box-man wearing a cowboy hat yelling,
"That pass ain't catchable!" You've been verbally prodded and
poked. You've called the games, attended the clinics, classes and passed
the test. You're ready, right? Stop, for just a moment.
You've done your time, too. Top varsity crew member. Big games. T.V.
games. You've had coaches chew your collar raw then shake your hand at
game's end. For years. And it's time. You're ready, right? Stop, for
just a moment.
Whether youth to varsity or varsity to NCAA, the advancement from level
to level involves politics and performance. And the question of your
time or your turn can only be answered by addressing them both.
Politics can and will make or break you. And while, advancement should
never come in the form of payback, it certainly happens. It is ongoing
and unavoidable. So, let's deal with it and go on. Surround yourself
with want you want to be, an official who is respected and admired. And
stay upbeat. Dissension within a group or groups ultimately rears
its head on the field. Stay away from that. Guard your integrity,
thereby insuring the integrity of the game.
Performance also can and will make you or break you. Rules and
mechanics. Rules and mechanics. Know them. Study them. And keep
studying them. Trust me, each time you pick up that rules book, you'll
learn more. Make the mechanics automatic. Your confidence in the areas
of rules and mechanics will allow you to focus on the field.
Before my second year, I sat down one evening and set up three areas of
focus that I believe have aided in my advancement. Set goals. Seek
feedback. Get seen. And in my sixth year, I remain committed to these
areas of concentration.
Set goals for yourself. But do so without losing local focus. One of my
goals is the NCAA field; however, I must keep my mind on two things. The
last game and the next game. Know how you worked the previous week.
Don't replay your mistakes more than once. See the play, make the mental
correction. Leave the mistake on the last field and take the answer to
My first year on the field, I was on the wing, covering a receiver down
field. It was a beautiful spiral. And I was watching it. By the time the
ball arrived, the receiver and defender were more tangled up then two
teenagers in the back seat of daddy's car. Something happened. But I
didn't see it, so I couldn't call it. I used that mistake. Made the
correction and went to the next field.
Seek feedback. Most state and local associations offer evaluations and
that certainly can be positive. And we all want an exemplary report.
I'll tell you what though, I learned more from an average evaluation. We
all have off nights. And I certainly do. It's okay. Don't make them a
habit. Use them to improve.
Don't rely on evaluations. Go further. Many youth-league associations
have no system in place. So what can you do? Seek and ask. If you're a
wingman, speak with umpires and back judges and referees about their
view of the play. How'd your back judge play that muff? How does your
umpire play a run right at him? Seek and ask. Speak with more
experienced officials at your chosen position. Keep in mind,
there's no need to do exactly as others (of course association mechanics
are not up for interpretation). Absorb the information and make it work
Get seen. Get on the field as much as possible. Keep your family
involved so they'll be prepared those first few years. When the phone
rings, take it and go.
If you're not on the field, work the chains. Time the games. Attend the
games. Meet the guys after the games. Go to the meetings. Attend the
clinics. Don't be annoying, be attentive and involved. And when
you keep the time or work the chains or perhaps sit in the stands, be
prepared. Have your uniform in the car and be ready to roll. My first
game, I was pulled from the press box when an official failed to show. I
was prepared. I've also missed a game because I wasn't. Be prepared.
Be careful when thoughts steer toward, "It's my turn. I've put in
my time." Stay positive and focused. Since my second year,
I've worked a college scrimmage, the chains at an NCAA bowl game as well
as Dolphin scrimmages. And in my off-season, I work the chains for the
Arena Football League. I'm having a great time. And learning something
more everytime I take the field.
So get out there. Have a blast. Keep learning. And know this, the
weekend you stop learning should be your last.
About the author - Ash Carmichael is a member of the Florida High School
Activities Association (FHSAA). Her football accomplishments
include: (a) First female to work a
varsity contest, Fort Lauderdale; (b) first female to work an
NCAA Bowl Game(Carquest 1997, Chain Crew). She is a Food writer
for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. She is married to Shawn
(12 years) and they have one son (Julian). Ash resides in Fort