C’MON, REF! Tips for Life and Business from Between the Restraining Lines
Updated: Jul 11, 2019
I joked on Sunday that I was possibly entering the Witness Protection Program. I was only half-kidding. You see, I am a lacrosse official and I was fresh off of a full-day of games. Most people reading this will have a gut reaction to that statement—“oh, you’re one of them”, “wow”, or “really?’. Really.
I got into officiating 10 years ago, basically because I am an undiagnosed, ADD-type and my kids had me at lacrosse tournaments from 8am-dark most weekends. I couldn’t bear watching other people get their workout in while getting paid while I sat in one of those crappy, bagged sports lawn chairs all day eating chicken from the same vendor week after week up and down the East Coast. I decided to go to the Dark Side and I love it.
Last Saturday was particularly trying. It was an advancing tournament, where one team in each division would be declared winners. There were some college coaches in attendance. I’ll go out on a limb and say there may have been some spectators who may not have happy lives and are using their children’s sports to quell the daily grind of an unfulfilling home life. Yes, I actually just said that, but I know from past experience, so I’m not judging. I had to card two coaches during the day, had a parent follow me to our officials’ refreshment tent questioning calls, got yelled at repeatedly, and developed a total of 4 blisters in the 13.4 miles I ran in my 6 games.
On my way home, while I was pondering the meaning of life on I-95, it occurred to me that we can draw a lot of similarities between my experience as a lacrosse official and success in the workplace. Here are some of my thoughts:
1) Admit when you are wrong or don’t know something.
It’s hard to tell someone you’re wrong or not functioning at your very best. You need to be honest and own it. If you aren’t prepared for a meeting, shame on you, but tell someone you need help, and ask your teammates to step in. Apologize to them and then thank them. If you don’t know the answer to a question, do not fabricate answers just to make a sale. You will eventually be found out and people want to do business with those they can trust to always be honest and have their best interests in mind. Do you think sports officials admit they are wrong? YES WE DO. I have zero problem admitting that I administered a penalty incorrectly, was not in position to see a foul, need to look in the rule book for a rule clarification. I have had many coaches tell me they appreciate my honesty with this. We are all human and cannot possibly be 100% right all the time. Young people, I am talking to you! Use your inexperience to ask questions and get clear on expectations, products, and services.
2) Be a student in your field of expertise.
This may surprise you, but lacrosse officials are required to renew certifications every two years, have annual fitness and rules testing, and required rules interpretation classes. Many of us attend our annual convention for additional educational opportunities and seek out clinics and feedback to improve the service we provide for safe, competitive events. I would encourage all business people to do the same. LEARN and LEARN some more then give back and teach others. You can always learn something to add to your knowledge base that will help you do your job better. Take a public speaking course, learn a new technology, shadow someone in your company so you can speak intelligently about another aspect of your business. I promise you will not regret it. You’ll probably meet some good people in the process, too! (That is a shout out to my Jersey Girl clinic partner-- you know who you are!) Hey, parents, you are also free to learn the lacrosse rules, too! (wink, wink)
3) Be a good teammate.
Could you do your job all on your own from start to finish? Would you get paid if it weren’t for the people in accounting? Do you like it when you go to the doctor and your insurance card works? If so, thank your HR staff. None of us operates in a vacuum. Be aware of all of the cogs that make up your machine. Appreciate them. Anticipate their needs and try to help when you can. Look, I get it. Many of us are just trying to get through the workday so we can get our kids to their games after work in time for us to yell at the officials (kidding!!). Take a few minutes for a gut check—can you do something today that is a light lift for you but would mean the world to a co-worker? In my lacrosse world, when I show up to check-in for a tournament and there are snacks in our tent, or the organizer brings water refills over between games, or the timer at our field holds the game 2 minutes so I can run to the spot-a-pot, it’s like a slice of heaven for me. I bet if you think about it, there is one small thing you can do to brighten someone’s day today.
4) Most importantly, be respectful.
Ugh, where to begin? Do you berate the barista when your Starbucks latte is lukewarm and yell at her asking where she was trained? Do you tell her she sucks at her job and demand she be removed from employment? I didn’t think so. If you do, please stop reading this because you are not my people. Parents and coaches do that to officials everyday. Kind of makes you think about your behavior, right? You may think you are justified in your frustration, but what are you accomplishing by tearing someone down in front of their colleagues at their workplace? Managers, if you have a team member who is underperforming, I urge you to sit her down and speak to her like a human being and be supportive. Is there something going on behind the scenes of which you are not aware? Is her husband an ass? Is her child sick? Is her commute killing her? Is her favorite Jo Malone scent backordered? (Extra points for you boys that understand this) I think it’s pretty safe to say that employees do not set out each day to do a crappy job. Creating a workplace where employees feel safe to be human is not easy, but necessary to attracting and retaining top talent. Let me tell you—and I am not the kind of girl who is easily intimidated—I even thought about hanging up my whistle after last Saturday. People who will no doubt run into me in a swanky restaurant or church and say hello at some point in the future were the same people demanding to see my credentials at the semifinal game last weekend (BTW my extensive credentials are up to date). Your words cut deep. Thankfully, I have already weathered a nasty divorce, so I’m not easily defeated. Your employees may not be a badass like me. Treat them kindly, support them, allow them to see your weaknesses and wear them like a badge so others aspire to achieve and fail along the way like you did. You won’t regret it.
So that’s it for today. Onto the next event! If you see me out at a game, say hi, but just make sure you tell me you loved my blog post before you ask me about a call!