What Makes a Good Flag Football Game Official?

By Darin Wissner – It’s Just A Game Events

Flag Football game officials get very little respect.

In many cases, they haven’t earned it.  Often, organizers simply ask their friends.  “It’s easy man! You know football, right?” Then these friends are put in to tough predicaments right away.  “Man, that is face guarding! You can’t do that.  That’s P.I., throw the flag you moron!” Is face guarding a penalty?  It’s legal in the NFL and college, but not in high school, which begs the question, outside of your local rules, what rules do you fall back on, NFL or high school?  I guarantee your buddy who you just employed to be a flag football official will have no clue and you, the tournament coordinator, probably do not know either. So that being said, here are some things I look for when hiring flag football game officials.

The first thing I want from my officials is NOT to be confrontational.  The most difficult “discipline” to officiate, is adult recreational sports.  Recreational athletes are the worst to deal with.  Softball Dude is the worst, and from there, it gets marginally better.  It takes a special guy with an incredible amount of resolve to officiate adult flag football.  The official must treat the players with respect, because Lord knows, these recreational athletes need the “respect,” because their playing days are not over.  The NFL is still in reach like a selfie stick.  SMH.  My point is, a player who will holler and totally disrespect the game official will be the first to cry, “You dissin’ me ref,” once the referee shows the slightest hint of moxie.  After trial and error with officials, you find the ones that are respectful to your clients and who hustle and pay them well!  If they have the savvy and smarts for the game, then that is a bonus.  It is character and hustle first.  They should have been pre-screened that they know the game and then you work from there.

You cannot teach good character.  It is impossible to train your flag football game officials to be “nice.” They are what they are, but there is the responsibility of the players, and specifically, the captain, to maintain his players too.  If a tournament or league is out of control, then even the nice guys are not going to officiate.

Finally, like I mentioned previously, hustle! Get to the spot man.  We know that no matter how much the official hustles, he/she is not always going to get the right angle, but at least make that attempt.  If you hustle, then you will garner the respect.  You can’t walk the sidelines twirling your whistle socializing with the players on the sidelines.  We know you’re being friendly, but at some point, you have to pay attention to the action.

I am a promoter of the 4man and 5man flag football game.  In both cases, I employ one game official.  I have now started using a “field monitor,’ who is usually a player from a team not playing at that time slot.  Teams will have their game times and field monitoring times posted on the schedule.  The player is only responsible for watching his sideline and whether the quarterback is behind the line of scrimmage when he passes the ball.  (Speaking of the LOS, do you use high school or NFL rules), whatever the case, make sure your officials know the difference.  Your one official is still responsible for calling all penalties and watching his sideline as well as counting the passing clock.  Again, the field monitor is only there to watch the quarterback and the LOS.

If you are looking for officials, the obvious pool to choose from, are players from your league.  It is a good chance they know the rules and if they have the right mentality then that is your best bet.  Youth and high school officials are a good bet as well.  There is a chance that these officials are full-time officials with baseball and basketball as well as football.  With all the travel ball, guys have the ability to officiate full time.  These guys typically can be had.  Do a google check of high school associations in your area and make contact.  However, just like your friend, you have to “qualify” these high school officials as far as their attitude.  Just because they officiate high school ball does not mean they are “professional.”

Play hard guys, and be good to the flag football game officials because it is a tough job.

What makes a good flag football game official, in your opinion? Leave a comment below!

Additional recommended reading: 7 Reasons Being a Flag Football Referee …Sucks.

Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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