The Annual Struggle of Being a Football Official

It’s June 30th 2019 and I am spending the Canada Day Long weekend relaxing at my cottage along the Cocagne River in New Brunswick. As I kick back, I spend my time reflecting on the past couple years, and the things to come. I begin debating with myself on whether I will once again put on my Black and White for the upcoming football season. My wife GiniB laughs each time this conversation comes up.

The CFL season is into its third week and all I see all over social media is the officials missed this, the officials missed that. What is going on with Replay review? What are these officials doing? The CFL has the worst officials of all the leagues…

The negativity towards officials is sometimes over whelming when you wear the Black and White as proudly as I do. I recently watched a video on Youtube where a brawl broke out between parents over a call made by a 14-year-old umpire. I often hear that sports needs replay to save the sport, and I often think to myself the issue is not the replay, nor the sport, but the viewers of the sport. Even myself when I have my Team’s hat on, I can get caught up in the negativity of a missed call and must remind myself to put my officials cap back on to view the game objectively.

There is a lot of effort that goes into being an official. First off, I have to complete all my testing in order to be on the field. This is not an easy chore and takes a lot of time to complete. Then there is getting physically ready for the season. Getting into game shape to be ready to move with the athletes on the field. It also really comes down to getting ready mentally… For the long road trips, the coaches and players on the sideline, the fans in the stands, and the reporters writing their pieces after the game.

So here we go again, WHY??? Why do I want to put myself through it? I am going to do my best to give you an inside look of what I love about being a Canadian Football Official here in the Maritimes.

Relationships

It’s the guys in my crews each week that make it all worth it. The road trips, exchanging stories of games from the past. Discussing the rules and breaking down how to apply rules on the field. After our post games at the field the trip home usually includes Food and Drinks. On Saturdays for University games the day usually begins at getting up for 6:30 am and arriving home around midnight. Most of these guys have become more than just Crew members as I would refer to them as really close friends. Now not all the guys in the crew would I call my close buddy, but I know those guys are just as prepared heading on the field each game of the fall.

Then there are the Coaches. There are many at the High School and University level that I have developed good relationships with over the years. I know some of these coaches so well, that I often know what kind of play they will run in certain situations. I also tend to know what will set these guys off and what will calm them down. I have so much respect for these Coaches and the time they put into the game, and even through we have had some tough conversations in the past and will again in the future, I know that off the field I love chatting football with these guys and gals.

Players… We are all there because of the players, and for the most part I love dealing with the players at all levels of Football. I have been officiating long enough now that I have seen some of these kids play their first game of Peewee and their last game of University. I consider myself lucky to get to see some of these kids grow into men, while getting to spend a portion of that time with them inside the white lines. During TV time outs, player injuries, or other delays, I love chatting with these guys on the field and sometimes getting to razz them as they love giving us the gears.

Fans in the stand… I always love hearing your chants about the officials. I train myself to shut you off during the game but for some of you, I love our quick exchanges as I make my way around the field in pregame or post game.

The Game

I have officiated Ringette and Hockey in the past but I gave them all up when I found the sport of football in 2006. I LOVE the game of football. Every player and every coach is so important to the game. 12 guys working as one unit to accomplish a play on the field and at the same time you have another 12 players working as a unit to stop that same play.

In no other game is Coaching as important as Football. Trying to bring out the best of each player that has different skill sets, but on the football field there is a position for everyone and watching a coach work with kids to put them in the best position for success is awesome to see on the field.

Football is a very strategic sport and hearing some of the conversations between coaches and players on the sideline is always interesting to hear.

Competition

This is still one of the major driving factors behind me being an official. You may ask how is officiating competitive, well let me explain.

The big play… Every game has a big play for the offence or defence and making sure you are in the right position at the right time to make the correct ruling is NOT as easy as it sounds. You need to push yourself to get to the right place, and then have courage to make the correct call regardless of the outcome of the play.

I don’t care what level of football you’re discussing. Whether it’s High School, University, or Pro, I have seen many examples where an official is caught with the “Deer in the Headlights” look on a play that he is covering.  It’s my goal each year to get into the physical shape and have the mental mindset to move into position so that I can be 100% confident on each one of my calls. That ultimately should be the goal of each official and some do it better than others, just like the players on the field.

Bowl Games and Finals… Every year the best of our officiating crews are selected to work Bowl Games and the Finals, and one of the main reasons I put on the stripes every year is to be selected for the Vanier Cup (Biggest Game in University) and/or the 12 Man High School Final in New Brunswick. For the years that I don’t get selected, I am always disappointed, and I want to know why so that I can improve that aspect of my game moving forward.

Stories

Throughout each season there are many good stories that come out of the games that I work at the various levels, and there is nothing better than reflecting on a game that you just worked and discussing it with the crew that you just shared the experience with. There are going to be mistakes made throughout the season, and I can tell you on behalf of all officials that we are very hard on ourselves and we KNOW that we made a mistake. It’s very important to discuss these mistakes after the game with your crew and be honest with yourself in order to keep improving. I have been keeping a journal for years now and after each game, I take a moment to reflect on what went well on the field and what I could have done better.

So, the big question I need to answer is do I want to put on the Black and White and go through all of this again in 2019? Giving up my Fridays and Saturdays until the end of November???

The answer is always the same no matter how long I ponder this question … OF COURSE I do! Plus, my wife GiniB tells me I have to!! She is the best.

See you on the field!! Hey Chris Wall, I am looking forward to my Window privileges this year!!

Mitchell BowlMitchell Bowl 2016

5 comments

  1. Hey Ray,

    I’d love to see you guys do an article about upcoming rule changes each year. It would be great info for coaches. I have also seen new rules put in place for player safety , in particular the passer, that don’t seem to be called as I interpret them. Cheers.

    Like

    1. Hey Shane, first off thanks for reading! I know in the past we would offer rules clinics to Coaches prior to the season. I used to handle these clinics for Moncton Minor and very few coaches showed for the session. I am going to use this blog site to talk about odd plays throughout the year and spend some time breaking down plays from an officials point of view. There have been so many new rules with regards to the Helmet/Neck area, with the word targeting being added and I think Players, Coaches, and Officials are still adjusting to all these changes.

      Like

      1. Sounds great Ray. It’s definitely a challenge to get to all the clinics. You have a great platform here to promote the game, thanks for your hard work!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wray, you truly are a Maritine Football Treasure!!! Great article and spot on assessment. Zebras you remind us s that we are not machines but rather humans striving for excellence, yet few strive with your sense of grace or humour!

    Like

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