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Ten Years, Ten Mentors and Ten Lessons

Ten years of officiating has been full of love — be it the tough kind from a mentor, the brotherly kind from a peer or the solo kind from the game.

I started officiating lacrosse in 2008 when I was 20 years old, cutting my teeth in the Georgia Lacrosse Officials Association (GLOA). My officiating career and passion for training eventually led me to US Lacrosse, where I have the privilege of working as the men’s officials development program manager.

I am fortunate to have worked games in 17 states alongside hundreds of officials; many of whom are close friends and mentors. As I look back on 10 years of officiating, I’m struck by how quickly the time passed and by how lucky I have been to work with such tremendous officials.

No official is an island unto himself. Each one of us carries the lessons, mindsets, and mannerisms of those that came before us. In honor of everyone who helped me over the past 10 years, here are 10 lessons from 10 of my mentors.

1. Apologize when you make a mistake.
Ron Mallonee (GLOA), 1954-2004
Though Ron passed away before I could ever work a game with him, his accountability to the coaches and his partners resonates with me today. When Ron made a mistake he would own it, and everyone appreciated him for it.

2. Cut your thumb off.
Eric Rudolph (GLOA)
Directional signals look much cleaner and more professional when the arm is held at shoulder level with your thumb tucked toward your palm.

3. NFHS Rule 2.6.3
Mike Collver (GLOA)
An official may suspend the play of the game for any reason deemed necessary for the proper enforcement of the rules or conduct of the game. A great rule to memorize because it answers the question: “How can you make that call?”

4. Know the game, not the rules.
Jim Carboneau (EMLOA)
You cannot call a 10U game the same as a high school game. Know all the factors surrounding the game you are actively working, and apply the rules.

5. Never leave a man behind.
Herbert Phillips (GLOA)
Partners should look out for one another. We leave the field together, leave the locker room together, and make sure our cars start together.

6. Always give 100 percent.
Kevin Forrester (NILOA)
During a timeout at a US Lacrosse All-American Showcase, a coach said to Kevin, “This must be a treat for you — these kids are so good, you don’t have to work very hard, right?” Kevin said, “Players give 100 percent. Coaches give 100 percent. We as officials should give 100 percent. How can I look at myself after the game if I don’t give the same effort?”

7. Rules and Mechanics
Richard Tamberrino (NILOA)
As a second-year official at my first US Lacrosse Convention, I asked Rich to distill his excellent “ABC’s of Officiating” talk down to my level of inexperience. His answer: rules and mechanics. You don’t get to a high level without knowing those cold, and you can’t waste mental energy trying to figure out the right rule or where to be during the game.

8. So you’re a sheet guy, huh?
Sean Murphy (NILOA)
At a US Lacrosse Level 3 clinic in Vail, Colo., Sean asked me to take the crew through my pregame conference. I said, “Happy to. Let me get my pregame sheet.” He cracked a joke about my reliance on the sheet, and then let me know that using a pregame sheet was fine. Every official has his own way of preparing for a game, and you need to honor that. Be who you are, and you will always referee your game.

9. I want my missed called to be no calls.
Matt Palumb (NILOA)
There may be nothing worse than calling something you thought happened when it did not, in fact, happen. If you’re unsure about what you just saw or didn’t see, strive to hold your whistle or keep the flag at bay. It is far better to explain to a coach that you simply didn’t see something, instead of trying to justify a call that should never have been made.

10. Go tell ‘em you love ‘em.
Lou Corsetti (Atlanta Youth Lacrosse)
My family’s youth lacrosse program has a tradition before the start of the spring and fall seasons. We gather all of the players together where my father, Lou, explains his expectations to all of the players, namely that playing lacrosse is a privilege and they’ll be expected to be good sports on and off the field. The first mission that each of these players must accomplish is to go find their mother, father, or whoever drove them to the field that day, give them a hug, and tell them you love them.

Ten years of officiating has been full of love — be it the tough kind from a mentor, the brotherly kind from a peer, or the solo kind from the game. Above I named just a few people that have given me their time, expertise and friendship. To them and those unnamed: I love you all, thank you so much, and I can’t wait to see you on the field.

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