High School Football Officiating – Pregame Communication With Coaches

Let’s talk about pre-game communication with coaches and school personnel. Some people think we just walk on the field and officiate the game, right? Wrong!! Today I will talk about the pregame routine and all the details we address as a high school football crew.

As a rule, we like to be on the field at least 35 minutes prior to kickoff time. During this time members of the crew should meet with each team’s head coach and follow these rules of communication:

The High School Football white hat (Referee):

* Does most of the talking

* He is your ‘General’ – please allow him to maintain that level of respect and professionalism

* He will introduce the crew members

* Everyone shakes hands, showing the head coach respect

* The referee asks the head coach if all players are legally equipped – do all players have the proper playing equipment?

* Do any players have any casts that may require a doctor’s approved note to play?

* Do any players have any wraps or braces that need to be examined for metal or sharp edges and for proper padding (safety concerns)?

* If there are any casts, wraps or braces the referee instructs the umpire to review them for proper padding

* Does the team run any special formations or trick plays so that the crew knows ahead of time to watch for them?

* Does the team’s quarterback throw left or right handed (so that the referee knows which side to be on for the quarterback’s protection)?

* Is the team’s field goal kicker left or right footed (so that the crew knows their positions on field goals or extra points)?

* The referee states any special points of emphasis this year – sideline clearance in the players box, horse collar, etc.

* Does the home team have any special activities prior to the game or during half time that may take additional time?

* The referee will give the coach a card with the crew’s names and positions

* The referee will ask the coach who is the ‘get back’ coach – this is the coach who helps the side line official control the team box

* The referee will ask the coach to identify the game ball person

* The referee will then ask the coach if he has any questions for the crew

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The High School Football Umpire:

* Assists the referee when meeting with coaches

* Allows the referee to do most of the talking

* Reviews any documentation, i.e., doctor’s notes for any players with cast or wraps

* Reviews padding for casts, wraps or braces to assess the proper protection for player safety

The High School Football Linesman

* Checks the “line to gain” equipment for several things

* Checks that the chains actually measure 10 yards (or 15 yards for 6 man) ( don’t laugh, at times the chains are too short!)

* The linesman communicates with the chain crew:

  • He explains what they should do and should not do
  • He tells them to never move unless the referee or linesman are signaling to move to the next ball spot
  • He tells the down box person to move to his spotting foot each down
  • He tells the down box person to manage the chain clip (for measurements) each first down
  • He tells the down box person where to place the chain clip
  • He tells the entire chain crew to never move the chains or down box if they see a penalty marker
  • He tells the entire chain crew to drop the chains (another reason for the clip) if play comes their way

* Do the chains have a piece of tape directly in the middle at the 5 yard mark?

* Now why would you ever need a silly piece of tape in the middle of the chains?

  • It helps the linesman and referee determine whether the penalty will result in a first down
  • The tape makes it easy to know if a 5 yard penalty or penalty inside the 10 (half the distance) will give you a possible first down
  • As the referee you don’t have to guess, you can view the tape and know if a 5 yard penalty gives you a first down
  • We make a point to replace that tape every game
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The High School Football Line Judge:

* Secures and reviews the game balls

* Communicates to the ball person to always stay near the line judge and linesman for quick ball rotation when a ball is needed

* Communicates with the ball person to always retrieve the game balls when they go out of bounds during plays

* Communicates with the ball person to place a ball behind the goal posts prior to an extra point so that the ball is ready for the crew

* Reviews the starting time

The High School Football Back Judge:

* Is responsible for the game timing

* Is responsible for the 25 second clock – timing when the “ready for play” is signaled

* Is responsible for the 45/15 second clock for time outs and between scores

* Is responsible for:

  • meeting with the clock operator
  • communicating the signals to the clock operator
  • communicating the overtime procedure with the clock operator
  • communicating to turn off any horns at the end of the period timing
  • communicating with the clock operator to look for him to start the half time clock

As a crew, you need to be sure that everyone knows their pre-game responsibility. This will help you maintain credibility with the coaches and school officials which will lead to a much smoother game for everyone.

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by Patrick Blanchard