A Q&A With Tim Rolfing
Tim Rolfing is a member of the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) Associate Board in Minnesota. He is also a member of the Upper Midwest Lacrosse Officials Association and spends some of his time officiating high school and youth level lacrosse. As a member of PCA, we caught up with Tim to ask him about his experiences as an official.
Tell us about your officiating experience and why did you decide to become an official?
As a youth, I was involved in many sports and enjoyed competition. As my own children became involved in their own sports, I continued my involvement by serving as a youth coach. I was able to give back to youth in the same way I was mentored and coached as an athlete. Finally, I was also able to serve as President of a Youth Athletic Association and High School Board. All three of those roles (athlete, coach and administrator), provide a different perspective of sports. Once my own kids moved into high school sports with their own coaches, I wanted to continue to be involved. I decided to try officiating. I got involved with lacrosse because my kids played the sport and I wanted to better understand the rules. I also knew the sport was growing exponentially and they did not have enough officials in Minnesota.
What are the trends you are seeing in the world of officiating?
Unfortunately, youth sports are growing and the percentage of new and retained officials are shrinking across most sports. It does not seem to be limited to any single sport. However, the ability to attract and retain new officials past two seasons is becoming harder. In a recent article in the National Federation of High School Athletic Associations, only two out of every 10 high school officials return for a third year. If this trend does not change, high school athletics will. While officials site reasons such as pay, demand on time, and lifestyle changes to accommodate game schedules, poor treatment of officials has caused the most turnover. Conduct by fans, players and coaches keep many officials from coming back.
What simple steps would you implement attract and retain more officials?
In addition to rules and formal training, I would recommend implementing a mentorship program within each official’s association. This would give junior and newer officials a veteran official to lean on during those first two critical years. I would also recommend that state high school leagues pay for a veteran official to observe newer officials to provide feedback during or right after a game. While there may be sensitivity to paying an extra official, it can become valuable to help educate younger officials learn how to handle all kinds of scenarios. In the long run, it may prevent some of the turnover that is becoming more common and the cost to constantly recruit and train new officials.
What recommendation would you give to coaches and administrators?
For one season, get out from behind the bench as a coach and become an official. Even as a youth official, it will only take one season to give you a whole different perspective. There are multiple perspectives to every play in a game. If more coaches became officials, they would appreciate those perspectives. In the end, coach and official relations may even improve simply from the mutual understanding and respect of becoming an official.
"The objective of a referee is not to get mentioned. I tell a lot of young referees that not being mentioned is king. If you can achieve that, that then it has been a pretty good game."
– Alan Lewis, former Irish cricketer and rugby union referee.