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Working with Officials

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

For some coaches, “working the officials” is part of the game and something done to gain an edge. However, yelling at and harassing referees does not accomplish this goal and is totally unacceptable in education-based athletics.

Most officials are honest, ethical, and hard working. They really don’t care which team wins and they toil in their craft because they love the game and want to stay involved. Sure, an official may miss a call, but do you sincerely believe that yelling at him is going earn a favorable call later in the game? This is counter to how honest and ethical individuals operate.

In any profession or field of work, who performs better when they are yelled at and berated in public? No one! Individuals thrive and succeed when they are acknowledged for good work. Constant criticism is not the answer and it does not bring about better performance.

In addition, a coach is a role model and you really have no choice in the matter. The moment that you accept the position in an education-based program, you become someone athletes will seek to emulate. This means that you have to set a positive example for your athletes and also for the fans. They will follow your lead based upon your interactions with the officials.

Does this mean that you can’t ever question a call? No, you can. But you must do so in a calm, polite, and professional manner, and not by creating a scene. The outcome of games is not determined by a single or even a few calls—even if it occurs late in the contest.

Furthermore, it is vital to remember that games can’t be played without officials. You need these individuals, who actually don’t earn very much for their efforts, to proceed with a contest. With everything considered, how you approach and interact with officials is absolutely critical to developing a good, positive working relationship with them.

Instead of focusing on officials during a game, your time should be spent on providing your players with suggestions and corrections. This would be a much better use of your time and energy. After all, teaching your athletes and helping them improve is what you are hired to do.


David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach.  In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the Nastional Association for Sport and Physical Education.  He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association's Athletic Director of the Year.  Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country.

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