The following article is a reprint from the December 2016 issue of USA Jr. Hockey Magazine.
Since then, the amount of games being played with tournaments, new additional teams and more arenas has put more and more pressure on the officiating pool that at any time.
We are asking more and more from officials to stay for that extra game and it is causing burnout with a lot of the officiating staff. For some, the passion of officiating and the joy that they had while refereeing these games has now turned into a job - and at the end of the day, we’re asking these officials to work overtime every single day.
Then you take the fans’, the coaches’ and the players’ lack of respect for the officials and that is causing many to leave the game because of the constant badgering. With less officials in the pool, that leads to more burnout.
Most of the feedback I’m getting out from the officiating ranks is, “We work our real jobs 40-50 hours a week, and then we come here to officiate, and all we get is screamed at for calling vicious injury-causing penalties.”
That leaves many officials second guessing themselves on why they started in the first place.
We need to bring more people, especially ex-players, to join the officiating ranks. If not, this sport of hockey is in big trouble.
Some of you reading this article have already seen the effects, as more games are being played with one official, which also leads to increasing cases of burnout.
As the officiating pool continues to nosedive and more games are being played, there is an enormous amount of work for the assignors and the officials who work for them. Assignors are asking for more of the officials’ time from them. Combine that with work and family life, and it can become very stressful and burnout starts to set in.
Yes, it’s that time of year where most leagues are heading into the middle of their season, and each game has a little more importance than the last, especially if means getting into position for playoff spots.
As an official, you are already working three to four nights a week and have found little time to take a break to be with family and friends.
Finally, you get a night at home and the phone rings. It’s your officiating supervisor. Another official has come down with the flu and needs you to fill in.
Knowing the supervisor has taken pretty good care of you in the past, you agree to do the game. Or if you are a new official, this is a good opportunity to get in good graces with the supervisor and possibly get a few more choice assignments.
However, always saying yes may not be good for you or the supervisor. Yes, the game is covered. On the other hand, what happens when you get to the arena and really do not want to be there?
You start thinking about other things you need to get done whether at work or at home. For most, it is a time management problem, which if unchecked can result in a build up of stress, which can cause serious problems during the game.
Along with the added pressure of an irate coach, fans, and disgruntled players and the constant pressure to make the right call, this can all lead to burnout.
What is burnout? It doesn’t happen overnight. Although it is hard to define in many ways, it is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that occurs when one’s expectations are out of sync with reality.
Burnout is a dreadful affliction that can cause physical and emotional problems. It turns positive stress (“good stress,” which stimulates motivation) into negative stress, which can easily damage physical and emotional health and possibly ruin a career and, in some cases, cost you your family.
Some key of the key indicators of burnout are:
-Not taking time to spend with family
-Feeling tired over long periods of time
-Increased anger towards participants
-Blaming officiating partner(s) for troubles during games
-Having trouble concentrating during the game
-Too busy to call a friend or read a good book
-No time to keep in shape
-Loss of confidence on penalty selection
-Emotionally drained after a game
-Inability to relax
What can be done? You may feel there are a lot of things beyond your control such as travel, partners, coaches and fans. However, how you deal with them you can control. If you are stretched to the limit with work and family, ask the assignor if there is something closer or just take the day off.
Some other tips: Stay in good physical condition, a good body has much to do with a good mind; Eat nutritious foods; Keep a positive outlook - don’t let people get to you; Focus on doing well; Take a break during the season - set at least one weekend away from the game to take the family on a mini-vacation; Enjoy the company of friends who you haven’t seen since the season started.
Finally, balance your family life, work, and officiating schedules. Do not take assignments on specials occasion like birthdays, anniversaries or other important family functions. So the next time the supervisor calls you for a quick fill, ask yourself - are you mentally ready? If not say so.
As an assignor for many leagues, I know I appreciate officials’ honesty when they say “No, I just have too much on my plate.” Sometimes saying no is the right call! *******
For those officials who are currently USA Registered or Members of National Ice Hockey Officials Association (NIHOA), who are interested in advancing to the junior and collegiate levels, we have have several tournaments starting in April each year at the midget and junior levels that will include secondary training on player safety, game management, and on-ice mechanics for all officiating systems.
After successful completion of the classes, you will be added to the staffs at the junior level to the United States Premier Hockey League and the Eastern Hockey League, which are the training leagues for the NCAA Division 1 Atlantic Hockey Association.
I will also add you to the staffs of College Hockey America, a Division 1 women’s league, and the following men’s leagues: the Division 2 Northeast 1 and at the Division 3 level, the New England Hockey Conference and the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference.
Eugene Binda is the President of Referees Crease LLC assigning and developing ice hockey officials in the East since 1982. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.