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HOW TO:  “Stay In the Game” During a Blow-Out

by Brian Goodlander

THE BASICS – We have all been in the situation when we are officiating a “no-contest” game. One team is clearly superior to the other team and the score is not close.  The game is not competitive or the least bit interesting.  Your mind begins to wander.  You start thinking about your plans for after the match or what happened at work earlier in the day.  You start to look at your watch more and more frequently; constantly amazed that time has moved so slowly.  That is when it happens.  Out of nowhere, some unexpected situation occurs that stirs you back to consciousness and requires that you make an important snap decision.  You may have seen the situation but you did not really comprehend it and you run the “instant replay” in your mind and find that you do not have enough data for a good replay.  In a panic, you look at your fellow officials for help and find that they are equally unengaged.  You have to make a decision!  Every referee has experienced this situation and every referee struggles to find ways to “stay in the game” and maintain their attention and focus on the competition you have been assigned and paid to officiate.

WHAT YOU NEED – Open mind, new mechanics, improvement areas, open communication with partners.


  1. Have an Open Mind – The key to officiating any match, especially blow-outs, is to keep an open mind about the game.  If you go into the game expecting poor play or a non-competitive match, you may be surprised by the level of competitiveness.  Coaches have a similar problem with players.  When facing a team they expect to beat easily, players tend to lack focus and do not play with their normal level of intensity.  Once you are in the mindset, it is very difficult to break out of it.  Officiating is no different.  If you show up for a game, expecting poor play and poor skills, you tend not to bring your “A-Game”. If you are surprised by the level of competition, it may take you quite a while to get your game back to the level where it should have started the game.  It is never wise to judge the game before you have been working it for at least the first third of the match.  Have an open mind about every game.  Expect the unexpected.  Start every match with the proper focus and intensity.
  2. Controlled Experiments – If you do get a game that is clearly a blow-out and one team is dominating the play, it is very hard to keep your intensity and focus high.  What do coaches do during these games?  They try new things.  They use different defenses and different attacking formations.  They move players around.  Again, nothing is different with officiating.  Use the situation as a chance to try out new things.  You may want to keep your mind and body in the game by performing a few controlled experiments.  Try a different mechanic or style during this match that you would not typically attempt in a more competitive match.  Work on your weaknesses.  For example, if your last assessment said that you need to work on your player management skills, you may want to try some things out that are examples of player management (i.e., talking with players, asking the captain to help you manage his problem child, etc.).  Maybe your fitness is not where you want it to be.  Use this match as an excuse to work harder and press yourself more physically since you will probably not need that reserve at the end of match.  This might be the perfect situation to try out a new whistle or other tool of the trade.  Obviously, do not go overboard and do something that is too extreme and jeopardizes your ability to officiate the game, but these are great situations to work on new things with little risk.
  3. Involve Your Partners – Perhaps you are doing well in this blow-out situation and are staying focused but you notice that your partners are not.  In a situation when you can normally depend on your partner, he is not where you expect or providing you the information you need in this game because he left his game in the locker room.   Find ways to get him re-engaged.  Do something slightly different, maybe a subtle humorous face or motion that only he recognizes.  This will make him smile and also look for more of these situations.  He may even participate in your little private game.  Remember, don’t go too far and don’t lose focus on the real game.  Get your unfocused partners back in the game and get back to officiating.  If this doesn’t work or isn’t an available option, speak with your partner during a break or half-time.  Tell them they are not doing their job and that they need to bear down.  Give them some hints about how you are staying focused.  Help them stay in the match and help you work well as a team.


  • ____  Open mind.  Don’t pre-judge the match.
  • ____  Controlled experiments.  Try some new techniques.
  • ____  Partners.  Keep them involved.


Last Updated on Saturday, 20 February 2010 15:08


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