ALL IN: How I Set a Goal and Became a College Official
Long ago, I was a single mom who needed to figure out a way to pay for big things like rent and food and the extra things like lacrosse dues for my kids and the travel that being a Division 1 prospect necessitated. My kids were (and still are) the most important people in my life. Like most parents, I’d do anything for them to keep their lives on the path where opportunities abound, and give them the confidence to chase their dreams.
That all sounds great and I’m sure we can all get behind these things. For me, the reality was that I needed to make money. About 12 years ago, I began officiating youth lacrosse as a way to get some “me” time and make a few extra bucks to justify a purchase or two. I reffed youth games for the next few years and quietly went about my business, taking games here and there when I felt like it. At that time, it was never more than a way to make a few bucks and get a sweat in. Fast-forward a few years and my kids were legitimate D1 prospects and I was a newly single mom desperate to hold it all together, working full-time in corporate America and barely paying my bills. There were times when I would actually cringe inside when my girls asked me for something I hadn’t budgeted for or brought a friend home from school to spend the night. I’m not kidding when I say that more than once I truly didn’t know how I was going to feed another mouth that weekend. I began to think of all of those things I could do on my weekends “off” from my custody arrangement to make extra money. Unfortunately, watching College Gameday doesn’t pay the bills, so I had to go to Plan B. After evaluating my options that included working side-by-side with teenagers at the mall or telemarketing, I decided to renew my officials license. I prayed that someone would schedule me for some games and all would be right in my little part of the world. My goal back then was: Make enough money to get through the month.
I dug deep and dusted off my stripes and got busy studying the rules, which had changed a ton since my last foray into the officiating world. I passed my online test and began doing the fall tournaments. I walked off the field that first day back with a check for $400 for my work. I had done it! I’d made enough to make some headway on the mounting debt I’d accrued living alone for the first time in 20 years with kids. Right then and there I made a decision which from that day forward, is my constant, internal voice that says, “If you are going to do something, do it with 100% effort. If you do that, you can do anything.”
The first thing I did was ACKNOWLEDGE that I had a lot to learn. If I wanted to “move up” in the ranks, what did I need to do? Who did I need to contact? What did I need to learn? Where should I start? The thing about being a nice person, is that people will more than likely be willing to help you if you ask. I started off with my old (gray hair, but a totally youthful) mentor, Joe Stetka and a veteran of the game, Debbie Swiss. I asked them who I needed to talk to and they gave me the info I needed. They told me how to take the new tests, who was assigning games, etc. I am forever grateful for their kindness, friendship and willingness to help me. I slowly worked the lower level middle school and high school games LISTENING to feedback. I was willing to swallow my pride and admit I didn’t know it all and take pointers from more experienced officials who had a perspective on my performance that I didn’t have. They were watching me officiate, and as part of a team of officials on the field, my performance directly impacted theirs. I needed to check my ego at the door and listen to my teammates. I embraced this role with enthusiasm. Team Us! We will be the most succinct, honest, effective, fair team on the field. YES! That is the attitude I took immediately.
I thought I was a baller. I was 2 years back from my “retirement” from part-time officiating and I was making some extra money and having fun. I officiated in my local area and was well-regarded by my peers. I took a leap of faith and signed up to do a tournament in another state where I was going to bring home almost $1000 for two days’ work. Now remember, this is outside of my “real” job and I had 2 kids in college, one in private school, 2 still playing club lacrosse which costs a freaking fortune, prom dresses to buy, eyebrows to wax. You get the picture, I’m sure. My ride-or-die “officiating partner” and now-husband, Rick, and I set off to ref the tournament. We were paired with an official who had the highest ranking you can receive in the reffing world and she was good. I mean, really good. It was about 90 degrees all weekend, 110 on the turf, and I had no idea what kind of physical shape I needed to be in to make this weekend a success. I was ok—but that wasn’t good enough. These kids and parents deserved to have an official who knew to be in better position and one who was in shape enough to take on the full slate of weekend games. That was not me and our partner let me know that. OUCH. For the first few hours, I protested her criticism and thought she was just a hard ass. I didn’t like her. What I didn’t realize at that time is that she cared. She cared a ton. She took pride in her work and wanted everyone else to do the same. I cared, too, but had no idea that these games were going to be so much harder and faster than I was used to doing, or that there would be so many more fouls and penalties to administer. I decided then that failing that day in the heat was probably the best thing that could have happened to me in my officiating career. Thank, you, Jessica. I LEARNED that there is a whole big world out there and that I was never going to be a better official by doing games with the same people all of the time, in the same places, with the same teams. No matter what your business, you need to get outside of your comfort zone, your department, your company, and observe and learn from others who are doing it differently or better than you. That humbling experience is one I will never forget and it sparked a fire under me that is still burning.
Over the next 2 years, I decided I was one day going to be a college lacrosse official. At that time, I wasn’t even being assigned varsity level games, unless they were really bad teams. My goal was a lofty one, which required me to buckle down and do it all over again--ACKNOWLEDGE my weaknesses, LISTEN to feedback, LEARN from others. Lucky for me, by this time, my trusty ref partner and husband, Rick, took this challenge on as well. I like to think he just wanted to spend time with me, but it was really fun that he agreed to the challenge and was also enjoying what officiating brought to our lives. We set out to increase our ratings and learn from the best people possible. Through our travels to clinics and workshops, single games and tournaments, we have met the most wonderful people who have been more than willing to embrace our journey and give us the support and feedback necessary in any achievement. “Red Card Ron” as I affectionately call him, has been a consistent source of support and knowledge for me since I set my goal and shouted it to the world. Voicing your goals is an important part of achieving them. For me, it’s essential. Once I put it out there in the universe and invited others to help and support me, there was no turning back. Rick and I traveled to North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and South Carolina over the next 2 years learning and learning some more.
Last year, I was assigned some lower level college games as an assignor needed to fill an opening in the South. I was absolutely petrified. Two of our very best ref pals, Melody Turner and Bill Cole, were there for me with texts, support, calls, on-field advice. I made it through those games and my collegiate rating goal seemed all of the sudden, very attainable. Like anything worth achieving, some more hard work was required. I had to get my body in shape. I can honestly say that a few years ago, I could not run a mile to save my life. That had to change, so I signed up for a charity run to Florida (why just train to run a single mile when you can train to run to Florida, right? See my blog about running to Florida to benefit the Ulman Fund (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/yep-its-true-i-ran-from-baltimore-key-westand-changed-lauren-faby/). I proved to myself during that trip that I was indeed capable of being NCAA-fit and that my kids were all wrong for picking me last for all of our family sporting events! This was another facet of learning and listening—learning about my body, listening to it when I needed to rest it and when I needed to push it.
Rick and I signed up for the Collegiate Rating Clinic at Limestone College this fall. We had done it! We had plunked down the cash to achieve our goal. Were we ready? Our tribe said so—Melody, Bill, Red Card Ron—but they loved us. Were they being honest? Only time would tell. The first thing we needed to do was pass the NCAA Fitness Test. I drew the short straw as you can pass with a slower time if you are over 50 and wouldn’t you know it, I am 49 ½. Oh well, Rick is 61. We both had something to prove to ourselves. We had prepared. We spent the hours in the car on the way to the Rating Clinic quizzing each other on penalty administration procedures and rule interpretations. We had given ourselves the best possible chance by being prepared the best way we knew how to be.
We were each scheduled to ref 4 college games, with evaluators holding clipboards on the sidelines dissecting our every move. Were we in the right positions? Were we quick on the foul whistles? Did we demonstrate correct carding procedures? Did we reset the shot clock timely? Did we communicate effectively with players and coaches? There was just so much to get wrong, or right, depending on your attitude. We received our game schedule that morning and Rick and I were officiating the first two games together. That could be a blessing or a curse as there is always a chance we may have to correct each other’s calls or foul setups. We decided as usual that no matter what, we each needed to do the best job we could. We held a pre-game meeting with our partner, Ken, who was just about the most fit person I’d ever seen. He confided in us—he had never done any sort of college game, was not familiar with the mechanics, etc. He was there to get a recommendation to go to another clinic to get a college rating (Rick and I had achieved that earlier in the year and that’s why we were now eligible) and this would be his first attempt at doing a college game. We embraced his fear and put it to ease. We told him we had his back, explained the way we would plan to cover the field, the execution of some of the procedures he was worried about and we all shook hands and took the field. We did a great job! We worked as a team, called some difficult fouls, administered some cards, and moved onto the next game. Later, Ken told us that we allowed him to relax and he was very thankful that we were paired to be with him on that first game. We INSPIRED him. Taking the time to help someone and look outside of yourself and your own needs is an essential part of being a good teammate. In business and in life, it’s probably one of the most important part of any relationship. I am thankful everyday for those people who put their own insecurities and goals on the backburner to help me achieve mine. I am trying to pay it forward everyday and Ken’s call to Rick and me a few days later reinforced our commitment to inspire others.
Three days later, after Rick and I had each checked our emails about 1000 times waiting on our results, we both got the following message from our Clinician:
“Congratulations you have received a Collegiate rating”
I have been the recipient of praise and awards for my work in Strategic Marketing and Communications, but I can honestly say that receiving my Collegiate Rating was more fulfilling than any other professional achievement to date. Hard work and perseverance cannot be underestimated. It took about 10 seconds for me to let it sink in before I announced to Rick that I would be going for the next level, Collegiate Select Rating, as soon as I am eligible. You see, having a goal is amazing and achieving it is even better, but I need to see what ‘s NEXT for me. What is your professional path? What are your individual goals and how do they fit into the overall plan for your life? Setting milestone goals are essential. I’m getting a massage tomorrow to celebrate my Collegiate Rating—and I am doing it during business hours and not apologizing for it! All of the sudden, my next goal seems even more realistic since I grinded this one out with the hardest work I’ve ever put into anything, other than parenting of course!
My goal crushing process is what I like to call ALL IN. Acknowledge, Listen, Learn, Inspire, Next. If you think about it, it applies to pretty much anything in life that’s worth achieving. Be honest about your goals and tell people about them. Don’t be embarrassed if they’re lofty or if they’re super attainable and may seem insignificant to someone else. They’re your goals! No matter what they are, own them, make a plan, and be ALL IN!
P.S.- Catch me on ESPN!
Lauren Faby, CCXP is the CEO of Lauren Faby Consulting, helping companies re-humanize customer experience through culture and communication. She is a member of the PRSA, CXPA, The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, and is a Certified Trainer for US Lacrosse. Keep up with Lauren at http://www.laurenfaby.com or contact her email@example.com.