Time Served?
by  Ash Carmichael













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The following article was written for, and published on eReferee.com

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 the next.

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 for you.

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 Lauderdale, Florida