Official Review: Jim Rusconi 2/5

Jim Rusconi

By Jim Rusconi Special to PrepsKC
Posted: February 5, 2013 - 9:53 AM

One of the most asked questions by high school coaches are “Why won’t the refs talk to me?” There are a number of reasons that this lack of communication occurs.
Some crews are not “user friendly.” I know that this is hard to believe. These crews show up and call the game by the book (everything is black and white – no gray area). They may be very mechanical and do not appear to be enjoying the game. You will know these crews when you do your pregame conference with the referee and umpire.
With this type of crew I have only one recommendation. If you have a critical question or a safety concern you will need to call a timeout and request a conference. This needs to be done in a calm, professional manner. You can then engage in a calm discussion about your concerns or questions. Do not be confrontational. Hopefully your concerns will be addressed by the referee. They may not but at least you tried.
As a coach in Missouri you have the rating system as a tool. Also some conferences have a system whereby you can communicate to the assigner your preferences. This won’t solve your problem the night of the game, but should help you in the future.
Constant yelling at a crew or a particular official will not get them to talk to you, unless you consider the explanation of why that unsportsmanlike flag was charged to you a conversation. Constant screaming and/or complaining will cause the officials to “tune you out.” In this case, as a coach, you have lost your credibility with the crew and have basically shut down the lines of communication.
Smart coaches have learned to “pick their spots.” Officials listen and communicate much better with this type of coach because he is calm and professional in his approach. The way you approach an official is the way he will respond.
If you approach an official in a calm, professional manner you will have a much better chance of getting an answer. Be patient. The wing officials have many responsibilities and if the call you want an explanation of was made by another official, it may take a few plays to get an answer.
Remember that the only coach who should be talking to the officials is the head coach. Remind your assistants that their responsibility is to coach their players. While officials realize that many staffs have one coach “assigned” to the official on their sideline, this could end up distracting that official at a critical point in the game and cause him to “miss” a call.
Communication between the wing officials and the head coach are critical for a smooth game. An open line of communication can prevent most problems. Contrary to popular opinion, officials do not work high school games for the money. Most do it for the “love of the game” and to help make the experience meaningful for all involved. We are all in this to make the contest an extension of the classroom and a positive experience for all.
Jim Rusconi is a veteran official with more than 40 years’ experience and the Vice President for Football for the Greater Kansas City Officials Association.