Keeping Up with Differences in the Rules

            Often, officials are assigned many different games, sometimes within the same day. Routinely refereeing different levels of competition can create frustration and confusion in an official’s mind when it comes to making appropriate decisions. Whether the games are recreational, competitive, high school, club, or college, there will be nuances between each rulebook that the officials are expected to follow.

            Officials must be aware that misapplying a rule due to unawareness or failure to follow the variations and interpretations associated with the rulebooks of the games they officiate can lead to serious consequences.

            So, how do officials prepare and keep track of the major differences, which helps them reduce the misapplication of rules and the embarrassment that goes along with it?

One option would be to have with them, in their bag or another device such as a cell phone, the current rule books of the sport(s) and copies of any tournament, league, and local rules of the competition where they work.

            Upon accepting assignments, it’s essential to review any rule differences that may apply to the game(s).  During each pregame, engaging in discussions about these differences with your partners ensures a unified understanding and helps prevent miscommunication.

If rule variations have been a problem in the past, the time to address these issues is before the game starts. In soccer, for example, modifications such as the length of each half, substitution rules, and dealing with tie games are some of the variations that officials will encounter.

By taking a proactive approach and preparing thoroughly, officials can effectively handle rule variations. This not only prevents the misapplication of rules but also steers clear of frustrating, confusing, and embarrassing situations.