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High School Football Officials – Pre-Game Discussions Are Vital!

There are many things a high school football crew should do prior to each game and during each game.  On-field communication is one of the primary keys to looking sharp and becoming a really good crew.   You can review this information at crew meetings or even in the vehicle on the way to the game.

During your crew’s pre-game discussions

  • Talk about what signals will be used for 2 stakes (more than 10 yards for a first down)
  • Talk about what signals will be used for the nearest player to the sideline when that person is off the line
  • Know why this is important – illegal formations, illegible players, etc.
  • Talk about who counts defense and who counts offense
  • Talk about the clock stopping signal on 4th down
  • Talk about the snapper protection signal on 4th down
  • Know your penalty administration and use crisp penalty signals

Your crew should use consistent signals every time.  This makes your crew look like you are working together and effectively communicating.

Also during your pre-game discussions talk about play closure:

  • Talk about how the crew brings closure to plays
  • Talk about ‘continuing to officiate’ after a play has ended
  • Talk about never allowing plays get behind you
  • Never let players get behind you, especially when a play goes out of bounds – never allow the play to continue behind you
  • Talk about the back judge being the ‘sideline police’
  • The back judge needs to know that their responsibility hustle into the sideline to clean up the play and control any potential situations in team benches

Typically most crews will form a diamond or wedge formation with the referee and back judge bringing in the closure of the play in between the appropriate side line official and the umpire.

More pregame discussions – talk about ball rotation:

  • It never hurts to have  your umpire and wings practice tossing the ball underhand to each other

Poor ball rotation makes a crew look sloppy and can take away from the flow of the game.  Your crew should decide how to work on this – but here is a mechanic that our crew uses:  The back judge is responsible for getting balls from the appropriate sideline.  The back judge is responsible for making the ball tossing (rotation) a short distance.  Keeping ball rotation smooth will help your crew look more professional.

During your pregame discussions – talk about counting players:

  • Who counts the offense/defense?
  • Discuss what consistent signals to use when you have too many or too few players
  • Make sure you stop a play with too many before the play starts
  • This will allow your crew to penalize a team for illegal substitution as opposed to illegal participation.  A 5 yard penalty instead of a 15 yard penalty

During your pregame discussions – talk about measurements

  • Talk about each person’s responsibility during measurements
  • The linesman brings in the chains from the clip and chain – from the back end of the nearest 5 yard marker
  • The linesman makes sure to grab the clip and chain in case the clip slips from it’s position
  • The back judge hawks the ball and never allows it to move from the spotted position
  • The umpire takes control of the forward indicator from the line crew
  • The linesman will give the ‘ready’ for the umpire to stretch the chains
  • The line judge will position the yard line from where the measurement will be made
  • The referee gives the signal for first down or short

There is obviously a lot more to talk about, but for now digest this and be sure to check out my blog at http://www.thefootballreferee.com

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