What strikes fear into the heart of an introvert? In the case of this introvert, my entire being quakes when attention is on me in a manner that could cause controversy, or people to yell at me. When I decided I wanted to become a volleyball official, I was concentrating on my love of team sports, young people and all things athletic. It seemed like the perfect marriage of interest filling need; which in this case my need was to earn some extra money. After studying all of the rules, working hard on my “mechanics”, then passing a written test and working a playdate, I found myself on the court for my first match. The moment I stepped into the R2 (down ref) position, popped the whistle in my mouth and signaled the R1 (up ref) that I was ready, my inner voice screamed, “What are you thinking?!!?” There was no turning back. As I eased into the experience, and the more I worked matches, the more I fell in love with the sport and the girls I officiate. Make no mistake, there are still times I think that there needs to be barf bags up in the stand; but from what I have learned, that is a common sentiment.
Being that I am a typical introvert, and the more time I spend in the ref-stand, I realized there are lessons I have learned that translate into life outside of the court.
YOU CANNOT CALL WHAT YOU DO NOT SEE
One of the first questions I asked the person training me had to do with scenarios when you know something occurred; but because you might have had your focus else ware, what do you do? For instance, touching the net is a fault in one association’s rules. In a rally you clearly see the net is moving in a manner that you know it has been touched, but you did not see the touch occur. Clearly, a net violation has taken place. However, you did not see who caused the fault. What do you do? The answer is, “You cannot call what you do not see.” How many times do we think we are certain someone has done something; however, we have no factual basis for our assumption? It just “looks” like something occurred. All too often, based on what something looks like, we make a blind call. This translates very well into any relationship, as there is temptation to make assumptions without firm evidence.
IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE, FIX IT, MOVE ON AND REASSESS LATER
Volleyball moves very quickly. When you are a new official, it seems to move at double speed! This makes it very easy to make a hasty and at times, incorrect call. When this occurs, you must make the correction and get the game moving again as quickly as possible. As an official, you could negatively impact the momentum of the game if you mull over things for too long. The same thing happens in life when we err. We must make be willing to accept that we have made a mistake and make the correction quickly; and when the time is appropriate take the time to reassess or even get counsel. Many times after a match, I would debrief with more experienced officials to go over a call I feel I might have gotten wrong; and, if I had to change my initial call to get advice if that change had been correct in that situation. There were times I had done the right thing in the first place, and times I made a mistake correcting my mistake. The bottom line is what do you do with an error? Are you willing to listen to the other point of view objectively; and if necessary, get counsel to make things right?
Life can be grey at times
Just as all things in life,volleyball, has rules. Your responsibility as a referee is to apply the rules to the participants of the game. However, there are some areas were the ref has leeway in how they apply the rules, due to the age and skill of the players. For instance, when you have a team of twelve year olds, they will not have the same skill level as a team that consists of eighteen year olds. Therefore, when it comes to ball handling, you would not hold the younger girls to the same skill level. However, the hard and fast rules apply to everyone. An example of a hard and fast rule would be the way the teams must rotate in order. There are times in life that we must give leeway to people who might not fully understand “the rules”, have not matured due to age or experience, or are unskilled due to lack of "home training" in their life. This requires us to demonstrate grace and mercy in our assessment of situations and the people in them. How would you like it if the rules were always, always were applied to you to the letter of the law? As for me and my house, we prefer grace and mercy and are so thankful for the grey areas.
Life's not fair
One of the matches I had the honor to officiate was the Middle School Championship. Both teams were equally matched; which made game play very good. The second set went point for point, and it was close all the way to the last point. The team, who one the first set came very close to winning the second set, which was for the Championship. However, they ended up losing the second set because a player shanked the ball out of the playable area. Their error cost them the match, thus having to go into a tiebreaker. The coach and her team kept trying to talk me into allowing for a replay. Unfortunately for them, the non-playable area is a firm rule, so to allow for a replay would have been a very bad call on my part. Their point of view was they should not have lost such an important game on one bad play. With several pouting faces, an angry coach and a team captain giving me the stink eye, I officiated the coin-toss for the third set of the match. My ruling was "just"; however, the players did not think it was fair. Sadly, life is not fair. It is a harsh reality, but if life was easy, we would not need a Savior. All too often we want to stamp our foot, put out our lip and say an undesired outcome is not fair. However, if you boil most circumstances down that are not fair, you will usually find that you only feel that way because you did not get your desired outcome.
IT IS HARD TO MAKE A GOOD DECISION WHEN YOU ARE TIRED
The last tournament that I officiated was a record amount of matches for me. On Saturday I officiated nine matches, and on Sunday I had four. Saturday was a record for me as matches are best two of out three sets. That is a minimum of eighteen sets (games) and a potential for twenty seven. This culminates in hundreds of decisions, all made very quickly, and require your sharp focus and attention. After eleven hours of officiating my brain was numb. It took all that I had in me to drive home. After sleeping fast and returning to the gym on Sunday morning, somewhere in those matches I realized I had hit the wall. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no "I am tired" in the ref stand. It took quite a bit of self control and determination to give the games the same amount of professionalism as I had when I was fresh in the stand on Saturday morning.
There is a statistic that shows there is more information packed into a Sunday edition of the New York Times, than what the average person would have received in the entire year of 1776. Our fast paced society shouts it's advertising, boasts it can close a home loan in seven days, and is always bringing us the latest and greatest in technology. Our minds are saturated, attention is scattered and wise decision making goes out of the window. As a generation, I believe we are not long good at planning and decision making. While there are times in life that you must make a snap decision, or make a life and death call, most decisions are not eminent. What if we challenge our selves to slow down, stop filling our minds with clutter so that we can wisely gather the facts, weigh all possibilities, and then have time sleep on it? What do you have to loose other than the consequences of a decision made in haste which gives you even more time to regret at leisure?