Next to the players on each team, the officials are the next most important group involved in any football game. We have proven in 2020 that you can play without fans. You can actually play without coaches present although it might be difficult. But you must have officials to run the game.
There are more rules in football than ever before. Many teams throw the ball much more than in previous decades, meaning that the possibility of pass interference calls are much greater. They are quick judgement calls that are some of the most difficult. The job of the officials is harder today than at anytime in the history of high school football.
We all know that high school officials have other professions and don't officiate for a living. But most are very dedicated to the game and understand the importance of their role. It is their job to train and be experts on the rules of the game. Just like in any profession, including coaching, there are some who are going to officiate at a higher level and some are less than average.
It is extremely important that officials be treated with respect. In many states there is a shortage of officials and certainly of quality officials. This could cause great issues in the near future.
Here are some ideas to help create a more sportsmanlike relationship between your team and coaches and the officials.
1) All coaches should speak to and treat officials in a professional manner.
2) During the pregame conference, ask questions if necessary and make sure you honor any requests of the officials.
3) Run a disciplined sideline in accordance with the wishes of the officiating crew. This is one of the best things a coach can do to help with the sportsmanship issue concerning officials.
4) The head coach should encourage his staff to coach the players and not speak to the officials during the game. Assistants that constantly yell at the officials cause tension and inhibit the official on the sideline from doing his job. No one likes to be yelled at. Officials are trained to ignore loud coaches, but they are only human.
5) If there is a question about a call or a rule, the head coach should call timeout and speak to the head official. He will get a much better explanation.
6) It is a good policy to have a rule that players do not speak to officials unless the official speaks to the player. He should then address him with "yes sir" or "no sir".
7) Don't argue balls and strikes. If it is a judgement call that is done and gone, let it go. Antagonizing the officials
works against your team.
8) Have an official come and talk to your staff and your team. Ask questions and listen to what they like and dislike from teams and coaches. Such communication should help form a better understanding of the job of the officials.
Create a hospitable environment with officials at home games by having someone responsible for helping them. This is a great job for a middle school or JV coach. Have parking spaces reserved for them and a coach waiting for the crew when they arrive. Escort them to their dressing area. If possible, have them some food or drinks available. Create the best possible dressing room situation for the officials. When it is time to go to the field, have that coach escort them. At halftime and after the game, that coach should escort them on and off the field as well. At times it may be necessary to include a policeman to help him. The extra security and hospitality will be appreciated by the officials.
Finally, it should be the goal of every coach to create a professional working environment with the officials. As a coach, you will make a few bad calls and chances are the officials will do so as well. Make sure your coaches and team understand that and never allow the officiating crew to be used as the excuse for a loss.