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Sports Official


Sports officials, also known as referees, umpires, or linesmen, are kind of like the babysitters of competitive games. They don't teach anyone anything, but they do watch for mistakes, inappropriate, or unsafe behavior, and take offenders out of the game for a while. Figure skating judges are also included in this group.

Figure skating judges must also make sure that skaters are following rules and regulations. In some competitions, certain jumps are required in a performance. If the skater doesn't perform the proper jumps, then the judges must deduct points accordingly.

Judges are usually former skaters themselves, so they know what to look for in talented skaters. They watch for passion, enjoyment, and grace along with technical skill. Figure skating judges know what it takes to make a successful figure skater, and, if they are good judges, they award the points to the most deserving athlete.

Without figure skating judges, figure skating wouldn't be a very tense, high-suspense sort of sport. It would become only a showcase sport, meaning that audiences wouldn't be able to cheer on their favourite skaters, but would instead have to settle for watching routines without the thrill of rooting for their favourites. Figure skating competitions are exciting, as well as beautiful to watch, and judges add to that excitement with each and every score card.

Officials are also responsible for making sure the playing conditions are safe, and ensuring that the players are eligible to participate in a game. Once the game has started, their tasks vary, depending on the game that is being played. However, any major decision comes down to them.

The officials don't have a side when it comes to sports. They act impartially, ensuring that the rules are followed, monitoring the scores, and ensuring the games run smoothly with little disruption. They know the rules and patterns of the games and whatever they say goes. They try to interfere as little as possible, as their main goal is to protect the game's integrity while ensuring everyone has a good time.

Some officials are former players, who still want to be involved in the culture. They may be highly experienced, and work NFL, NBA, NHL or other major games. Others may just have fond memories of playing soccer as a child, and volunteer for their daughter's Saturday soccer league. Regardless of their involvement, they make significant, important contributions to the world of amateur and professional sport.
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  Interests and Skills  
Sports officials need a genuine interest in sports. They don't need to be a skilled player, but they do need expert knowledge. They must be able to accept and give criticism with a smile, and be able to remain calm and make good decisions, even under pressure. They need to be alert, with excellent concentration and observation skills. Sports officials need a good memory, and excellent communication skills, as well as organizational, skills. They should be diplomatic, and confident in their abilities. Depending on the sport, they may need to be in good physical condition.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Monitor playing conditions for safety
  • Monitor time, elapsed time, and points
  • Enforce penalties
  • Record scores
  • Judge performances
  • Respond to protests and complaints
  • Check equipment
  • An official rarely works all day as an official. Usually they will officiate a few games a week. They must spend their time watching the games or sports closely. They cannot lose concentration, as they are the ultimate judges in a game. They watch for cheating, rule violation, or inappropriate or dangerous behavior. When not on active duty, they will be involved in responding to written complaints, speaking with coaches, players, and the media, and reviewing game rules and regulations. They will also be involved in some self-promotion. They may travel, especially if they are well-respected officials.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Sports officials work wherever sports are being played, either outside or inside, in nice weather and terrible weather, on ski hills, golf courses, racetracks, beaches, tennis courts, and in swimming pools. They may work in the same place for each game, or they may travel throughout their communities, depending on the sport and the organizations. Their schedules are erratic, usually a few hours each weekend or in the evenings. Generally, this is part-time work.
  • The work can be alone, or in a team of other officials. Often, it is a physical job, requiring lots of running, lifting, and standing. It can also be dangerous, as they often have to break up fights, and are always at risk of getting hit with a ball, a hard stick, a puck or a fist.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Sports officials usually start out as volunteers, and work their way up to paying positions. Once there, they could get involved in other sports, working as officials, coaches, or promoters. They could manage sports organizations, organize tournaments or expositions, or become sports reporters or announcers for television and radio sports shows.

  Educational Paths  
In order to become a sports official, you need to have an extensive knowledge in your sport (although you can learn it all as an armchair player!).

You will most likely need to be certified and registered with a board or association. The requirements for certification differ for each sport.

In order to find out what you need, contact some officials or your local Parks and Recreation department. You may be able to start training as a volunteer official right away. Another great way to start learning is to watch the officials at a game. See how they work, and decide if that's right for you.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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