Being good in Officiating is a strong motivating factor to remain in the sport and if officials see that they are not progressing, this can discourage their involvement. Effective officiating relies upon knowledge, skills and experience. Learning and development requirements cannot be overlooked and training programs must be relevant. Sports official training is necessary to pass on the required standard of technical knowledge, including the rules and customs of their sport, but also to acquire the mental and personal skills that will help an official interact more effectively with others. Decision making ability, communication, and self-confidence are key skills that an official must develop.
Conflict and risk management
Officials have a duty to take reasonable care to avoid injury to participants and this includes keeping up to date on the rules of the game, particularly rules relating to safety aspects.
Insurance is not risk management! Insurance does nothing about risks a sport official face. Insurance is an important strategy adopted as part of risk management.
Sports officials (and sports association) should adopt other measures to attempt to eliminate or minimise the risk occurring in the first place. Should a risk arise though, insurance can reduce the personal liability of a sports official (to the extent of the cover provided).
Is an official covered by an association’s insurance policy?
Some sports have national insurance schemes that may provide cover for an official. Most sporting associations have insurance policies, and these may extend to cover officials.
An official should not assume they are covered by these policies and should check whether they are covered and also the extent of that cover.
Conflict – minimising and resolving
The officiating environment can be challenging and potentially hostile. Dealing with conflict can be tough for a confident official, let alone an inexperienced one. Good officiating relies on minimising and resolving conflict professionally and positively.
Conflict is likely to arise in a number of situations. These include:
- Disagreement from participants over a penalty/infringement
- Perceived bias shown by the official in the eyes of participants/coaches
- Frustration shown by participants as a result of their level of performance or the competition result
- Misunderstanding of instructions or rulings from an official
- Sledging between participants
Sports rage prevention
Sport rage can come in many forms – an angry parent abusing an official, a player punching another player, or a spectator shouting racial taunts.
These moments of madness can result in serious injuries, disciplinary action and even lifetime bans.
Dealing with sport rage is now a major challenge for clubs. Not only does sport rage reflect badly on the clubs involved, it can deter participation at all levels.
It is important that everyone involved in sport unites to combat sport rage.
Rules, safety and ethics
Officials provide participants with leadership and guidance, facilitating and ensuring that the competition is conducted in a safe and fair manner.
Qualities such as integrity, honesty, trustworthiness and respect are integral to the role of the official. The official’s actions should be linked to these qualities, including the manner in which they behave and relate to others prior to, during and following competition, how they present as an official and how they go about undertaking their role.
It is important for officials to understand the important role that they play, and the impact they have on participants and others. An official needs to display ethical behaviour at all times, and show integrity, empathy and respect to others. Officials should be aware of the needs of various groups, including juniors, athletes with a disability, Aboriginal athletes and other cultural groups. Most sporting organisations will have policies, such as junior sport policies, member and/or child protection policies and disability action plans that officials should become familiar with. Officials can contribute to an inclusive environment within a sport
Knowledge and application of sport rules and laws
Officials have the responsibility to enforce both the rules of the particular sport and to abide by all relevant laws.
Numerous resources are available to assist officials in developing their skills;
- Officiating Rule Books/Law Books, Manuals, CDs/DVDs
- Officiating Coordinators / Senior Officials
- The Internet
Get in touch with your local sporting organization to find out how you can access these materials.
Areas of law affecting sports officials
- Anti-Discrimination Laws
- Child-Protection Laws
- Tort of Trespass to a Person (Assault and Battery)
- Criminal Law
A good sports official should know the rules of their sport and apply them fairly. Similarly, they should be aware of how the law may impact on the sporting field and also act fairly in this regards.
Code of behaviour
All sports have a code of behaviour for the various participants in the sport, including officials. It is important that officials are aware of the code of conduct and endeavour to adhere to it at all times.
A national code of behaviour for officials has been developed by the Australian Sports Commission. Adhering to a code of behaviour affirms the official’s support for the concepts of integrity, trust, honesty, responsibility, respect, safety, professionalism, equality and equity..
All officials have a responsibility to promote a professional and positive image of officiating.
There are a number of expectations of officials. These include being:
- trustworthy – honest and impartial
- responsible – have integrity and take a role seriously
- prepared for their role – prepared physically and mentally for the task
- competent – have and are further developing the skills for the tasks
Each official becomes the ‘face’ of officiating at competitions. People often judge all officials by how an individual official behaves, hence the need for professional and responsible approaches when dealing with participants, coaches, administrators and others involved with competitions.
Some sporting organisations have a uniform that officials are expected to wear while officiating at sanctioned of formal competition. It is important that officials present in a manner that portrays officiating in a positive, professional and respected manner, including having a clean uniform (including footwear), and a generally neat appearance.
Officials should be appropriately dressed prior to and following the competition. The principles of neatness and tidiness also apply in these situations. People have high expectations of officials, and expect them to present as professional. A well-presented official arriving at the competition is making a statement to the participants, administrators and others, prior to the commencement of any competition.
The official should be punctual, arriving at the competition with enough time to prepare for the officiating role.
Avoid using your mobile phone directly before, during and after the match until your duties as an official have been completed.
Communicating cross culturally
Key points to consider when communicating with others whose English language skills are limited.
- avoid jargon and slang
- use an interpreter to assist in communicating your message
- explain technical terms
- keep language simple and use short sentences
- remember that you are engaged in a conversation rather than just needing to get your message across
- make it visual if you can
- check to see that the message has been understood - ask questions and be patient
- listen attentively
- recognise diverse communication styles and meanings
- remember that many languages are structured differently to English and some English terms will not have a direct translation
- use direct questions - for example, 'Have you finished signing that form?' rather than, 'You haven’t finished that form yet have you?'.
- show impatience
- speak really slowly
- replicate the participant’s accent.
Working with other officials
Often officials are appointed to a competition as part of a team, eg. Three referees in basketball, field, boundary and goal umpires in Australian Football, and twelve officials in a cycling race. This includes situations where officials work with another person or a number of people to undertake the officiating role. To be effective in team situations, officials need to demonstrate an ability to:
- Cooperate with colleagues and others
- Communicate with colleagues and others
- Share with colleagues and others
- Support one another (colleagues)
Cooperation between officials leads to a much smoother running of the competition and conveys to participants and others that the officials know what they are doing and are in control of the situation.
Communication within the ‘team’ prior to, during and after the competition contributes to a sense of certainty for participants and others and reduces the risk of confusion during the competition.
Sharing of information between officials can add to the accuracy of official’s decisions. From time to time, officials are unsighted and might ‘miss’ a decision if it weren’t for a colleague assisting them. Sharing of experiences within a team of officials can assist with the development of colleagues.
Supporting each other, particularly through tough times when the environment can be daunting to the inexperienced official, can add strength to an official’s team.
Depending on the competition, there could be a range of officiating roles that are undertaken to stage the competition. For example, at a swimming meet there is a starter, timers, referee, and recorders. Officials need to cooperate with colleagues for the successful staging of the competition. Each official is reliant on the other. It is important that each is aware of the different roles and the requirements of each official’s role. Communicating and co-operating are two key ingredients which contribute to effective officiating.
Game fitness and recovery
Strength and conditioning is an integral part of the development of an official.
The physical requirements of an official will vary from sport to sport and within a sport. Adopting a healthy lifestyle will contribute to all officials being in appropriate physical condition.
Attention to diet and nutrition will also assist the official to meet the physical requirements of their particular sport.
There are several important components for officials to improve and maintain fitness;
For more information, please follow the link below:
Nutrition and hydration can be just as important for the field official as for the sports people themselves. Aim to stay healthy, well fuelled and well hydrated for best performance.
To see what type of nutrition you need, follow the links below to find your specific sport:
Recovery from exercise is one of the most important aspects of training and maintaining energy. During training or games, the carbohydrates stored in the muscles are depleted and has to be replenished immediately after exercise. Often game venues do not provide the best snacks for refuelling. Organise to have suitable drinks and snacks available after the match. Foods such as sandwiches, fruit, soup, cereal bars, yoghurt and carbohydrate drinks will get recovery off to a good start.
There are beginners and advanced general principles training courses offered online for anyone who is interested in becoming an official.
For more information about the general practices courses, please follow this link:
If you would like to register for the course, please follow this link: