“If you like having every close decision you make criticized, if you like doing your job surrounded by thousands of people ready to blame you for mistakes other people make, every one of them believing they can do your job better than you can, and if you don’t mind the only response you get for a job done absolutely perfectly being silence, then maybe you would like to be an umpire.” 

- Ken Kaiser (Planet of the Umps)

 

When I referee men’s club games I am sometimes asked: “Why aren’t you playing today?” The short and funny answer is: “I’m not getting paid $50 bucks to play, but I do get paid to ref.” The more truthful answer is: “I don’t want to play.”

I rarely give out that second answer because I get many perplexed looks. Few understand why I prefer blowing a whistle over playing. Truth is, if I never picked up a lacrosse stick again for the rest of my life, I would still be happy.

You see, I love lacrosse, but I never really liked playing. And that is a significant distinction.

From eight to twenty-two, I had trouble enjoying lacrosse. I had a blast with my teammates, and I rejoiced when we won games, but there was a darker side that I never liked.

I never fully enjoyed the game because I was so self-critical. My mind magnified every mistake as being the worst mistake ever made on a lacrosse field. I had fun, sure, but I was also plagued by self-doubt and a deeply critical inner-voice. As I grew older and played in more competitive games, that self-doubt turned into anger. Eventually, the game stopped being fun.

Then I found officiating, and a whole new world opened up!

An odd hobby for a self-critical person to engage in? Most definitely. Mr. Kaiser accurately points out that silence is, “the only response you get for a job done absolutely perfectly.” I certainly do not receive external praise for my officiating when I step onto the field. That said, officiating lets me cultivate a more positive internal dialogue than playing ever did. 

Every game becomes an opportunity to be self-critical without being self-destructive. I step on and off the field with a calm and relaxed mindset. I am the calm center of the storm.

To me, the best part about officiating is that I only judge myself on one metric: Did I give the teams everything I had?

As one of my mentors, Kevin Forrester, told me: “The players give 100%; we give 100%.”

The second best part about officiating is that we are undefeated! Sure, some argue that officials can only lose games, but I reject that negative way of thinking. I prefer empowering officials. 

In my job I try to help every official realize that, regardless of how anyone else perceives their performance, if they walk off the field knowing they gave their very best effort, then they won.

Gordon Corsetti is the Manager of the Men’s Officials Development Program at US Lacrosse.  

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