The Official View: Don't Make it Personal

By Brent Rice
MHSAA Assistant Director

January 15, 2019

Statistics tell us poor sportsmanship is a leading factor in officials leaving officiating and a major impediment to recruiting new officials. The official catching flak is not new.

This week’s “It’s Official” discusses work being done to bring civility to high-intensity situations where criticism of officials has frequently turned personal.

It’s Official!

Poor Sportsmanship and the Official

As long as there have been officials, there has been dissatisfaction with officials by players and coaches. It’s not that instances of poor sportsmanship are becoming more frequent – it’s that these instances are becoming more personal. And in part because of the accessibility of social media, they are more sensationalized.

The great Major League Baseball veteran umpire Harry Wendelstedt regularly used to say, “You may yell at the uniform, but you can’t yell at me.” His point recognizes not everyone will agree with the calls officials make, but that criticism and disapproval should be directed about the call and not about the person.

Some sports have ejectable offenses specific to that sport. Others – think soccer, volleyball, basketball or football – have a progressive system of fouls that lead to an automatic ejection. This doesn’t mean, though, that coaches and players receive a one-time free pass to say whatever they want. Personal attacks are not permitted and are grounds for immediate disqualification. Personal attacks include:

• Offensive or derogatory remarks about an official’s (real or perceived) gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, religion or disability.

• Threats or intimidation of physical violence, withdrawing games or a downgrade of ratings.

• Personal insults that disparage an individual or openly question an official’s integrity, impartiality, honesty or character.

For example, instead of using the personal insult “You’re terrible!” that would result in an immediate ejection, players and coaches could substitute the impersonal “That’s terrible!” The use of “you” or “you’re” personalizes the attack, and anything that follows those words in a disparaging manner almost always will result in a disqualification.

While the onus of ensuring good sportsmanship is primarily the responsibility of administrators, coaches and players, the officials also play a significant role by enforcing behavior and conduct rules through penalization. Officials are being instructed to strictly enforce this policy moving forward. To emphasize the importance of avoiding personal attacks on officials, the MHSAA will be starting the new campaign “Get Personal … Get Ejected!” We are looking for help from coaches, players and spectators in showing respect and appreciation for the hardworking men and women who officiate MHSAA contests by keeping criticisms brief and absent of personal attacks.

Sports Officials Appreciation

The MHSAA is seeking ways we can show appreciation for the contribution Registered officials provide to the MHSAA and its member schools. This will soon include the introduction of an “Official Thanks” campaign and providing schools a framework to institute “Officials Appreciation” events.

To further express our gratitude, the MHSAA has partnered with the Detroit Red Wings to host a Sports Officials Night on Sunday, March 31 beginning at 7:30pm. The package includes a specially-priced Red Wings ticket, souvenir cooling towel and access to a pre-game speaking engagement with former professional officials. Additional benefits also are being worked on. Details are posted on the Officials page of the MHSAA website and will be delivered to all officials via email.

Rule of the Week

GIRLS COMPETITIVE CHEER As Team A attempts a swinging stunt during Round 3, the flyer is propelled into an almost-vertical position with her feet in the air and head near the floor.

Ruling: This is an illegal stunt and an 8-point deduction per infraction.

It’s Your Call

BASKETBALL This week’s clip shows Team A in white attempting to move the ball up court against Team B’s press. A pass is made to #11 near the division line. What’s the call?

Last IYC Ruling: In the last “It’s Your Call” clip, the attacking wrestler picks up his opponent and slams him to the mat. This is a dangerous act, and a flagrant misconduct should have been assessed. (Click to see video.)

Official View: Giving Back

Every year, the Macomb County Coaches Association and area officials come together to host a Christmas Tournament where funds are raised for educational scholarship opportunities. This year’s event was another huge success.

For officials, it’s a great time to give back and enjoy the sport they love. Tradition has been that custom uniform shirts are purchased for the officials, who also wear their best (or worst) pair of Christmas socks.

Pictured above are: (Back row) Phil Lieblang, Lenny Gino, Chad Davinich, Dave Hall, Bryan Legree, Josh Orzechowski, Mike Billiu, Matt Stabley, Brandon Orzechowski. (Front row) Eugene English, Gary Kowalewski, Jerry Angelo, Ron Minoletti, Rob Peltier, Eric Siefert, Jim Niemiec.

Be the Referee: Officials Registration

By Sam Davis
MHSAA Officials Coordinator

May 30, 2023

Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.

Below is this week's segment – Officials Registration - Listen

We talk a lot about the need for registered officials. But how do you sign up? What does it take to become a referee, umpire, or judge?

The steps are simple. Go to to the Officials Tab, and identify the sport or sports you are interested in. Next, complete the MHSAA Principals of Officiating and the Officials Guidebook exams.

The Officials Guidebook covers basic elements and procedures for becoming a sports official. This first step of the process covers playing rules, ejection protocols, game assignments, and payment of game fees.

Once you pass the exams, it’s time to connect with a locally-approved officials association. The local associations are the ones that provide the training – whether it’s on the court, on the field, on the mats, or video training – to get that person completely immersed in the rules, mechanics, and coverages of what it takes to become a good official.

Previous Editions:

May 23: Soccer Offsides or Goal? - Listen
May 16: Track & Field Exchange Zones - Listen
May 9: Girls Lacrosse Self-Start - Listen
May 2: Baseball/Softball Overthrow - Listen
April 25: Fifth-Quarter/Third-Half Rule - Listen
April 18: Soccer Referee in Play? - Listen
April 11: Softball Strikeout - Listen
March 14: Basketball Instant Replay - Listen
March 7: Hockey Overtime - Listen
Feb. 28: Baker Bowling - Listen
Feb. 21: Ski Finish - Listen
Feb. 14: Swimming Touchpads - Listen
Feb. 7: In or Out-of-Bounds in Wrestling - Listen
Jan. 31: Over the Back - Listen
Jan. 24: Competitive Cheer Judges - Listen
Jan. 17: More Lines - Listen
Jan. 10: On the Line - Listen
Jan. 3: Basketball Measurements - Listen
Dec. 13: Pregame Dunks - Listen
Dec. 6: Gymnastics Judges - Listen
Nov. 22: Football Finals Replay - Listen
Nov. 15: Back Row Illegal Blocker - Listen
Nov. 8: Swim Turn Judges - Listen
Nov. 1: Soccer Referee Jersey Colors - Listen
Oct. 25: Cross Country Tie-Breaker - Listen
Oct. 18: Soccer Shootouts - Listen
Oct. 11: Safety in End ZoneListen
Oct. 4: Football Overtime Penalty - Listen
Sept. 27: Kickoff Goal - Listen
Sept. 20: Soccer Timing - Listen
Sept. 13: Volleyball Replays - Listen
Sept. 6: Switching Sides - Listen
Aug. 30: Play Clock - Listen
Aug. 23: Intentional Grounding Change
- Listen

PHOTO: Officers confer during a soccer match early this season. (Photo by Chris Mudd/National Photo Scout.)