Education: Professionalism

Corny Galdones, July 2003

Some officials associate being skilled and competent with being professional.  Wrong!  Ability has little to do with professionalism.  Professionalism is about character and conduct.  It’s about what an official does off the stand.  Regardless of ability, an official who is a class act is far more professional than an official primarily concerned with one’s performance on the stand.  Separate from technical skills, the fitting personal characteristics listed below (not inclusive) must be cultivated to be professional.  All, not just some, must be exercised.  An official accomplished in all aspects is an admirable, true professional.

Law-abiding citizen.     This goes without saying.  No further discussion is necessary on this leading trait.

Trustworthy.     Like Diogenes, we’re looking for an ethical person with sense and integrity.  Know right from wrong and act accordingly.  You are counted on to do the right thing without being told.  Avoid situations that may be perceived to be conflicts of interest, improper, immoral or illegal.  Be responsible for your actions.  Police yourself.

Respectful.     Practice the Golden Rule, not the Gold Rule, i.e., he who has the gold rules.  Be nice to everyone on your way up because you’ll meet again on your way down.  Work with and not against your peers.  Look for and bring out the good (not the bad) in your working partners.  Treat subordinates as your equals.  Defer to superiors without being a sycophant.  Highly regard everything related to the sport.

Dependable.     Be independent but reliable.  Be low maintenance and require little hand holding or supervision.  Like them or not, follow the regulations and procedures of your governing organizations.  Be a team player who is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.  Pitch in when help is needed.  Get your task done and do it right.  Don’t aggressively seek assignments, especially choice ones.  Once you commit to an assignment, keep your word.  Don’t turn it back for a better assignment.  This action is not only frowned upon, you’ll fall out of favor with your assignors also.  Show up for your matches on time and prepared.

Sharp looking.     Having the correct uniform and appearance are not enough.  Be spic and span in your dress, grooming and demeanor.  Avoid accessories, jewelry, hairstyles and mannerisms that draw attention.

All business.     Administer and tend to all match details before getting involved in secondary affairs.  Take charge but be diplomatic and fair in your dealings.  Be polite to coaches and players but don’t schmooze or fraternize.  Limit discussions with the coaches and players to the match events.  No chatting, idle talk, or long conversations.  Better yet, refrain altogether.  Create rapport and a desirable reputation with coaches and players by doing a good job, not by socializing.  Performance, not association, earns these merits.

Impartial.     Base all officiating decisions on the court action and not on favoritism or knowledge of the players or teams.

Approachable.     Be open and accommodating.  Don’t be condescending, overbearing or aloof.  Don’t know it all, be high and mighty, or dominate the spotlight.  Be someone that others are not afraid or reluctant to engage in conversation.  Invite interaction.  Listen to what others have to say.  You may even learn and benefit as a result.

Supportive.     Be sensitive, encouraging and caring of others.  Show concern for up-and-coming officials and help them improve.  Protect and defend your fellow officials in public.  Don’t air out dirty laundry in public.  Negative or critical comments about an official should be made one-on-one in private with that person or up the chain of command, else not said at all.

Professionalism consists of a core of suitable behavioral skills that an official must develop and polish along with technical skills.  These two separate skill areas have to go hand in hand for one to be considered a complete official.  An individual’s talents will determine the eventual level of technical competency.  On the other hand, all officials are on equal basis for becoming professional.  It’s a matter of applying oneself properly in attitude and conduct.  Great officials are admired and respected not only for their excellent abilities, but for their classy professionalism as well.  Aim to be great. 

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