Game Management: More Art than Book Smarts

Knowing the Rules and perfecting mechanics are the most important aspects of officiating for a new official. But once you improve in these areas, a good official and better yet, a good partner, is one who has the ability to manage a game and manage a season. Game management is more like an art than something you can find in a rule book or mechanics manual. It’s about what you say, and sometimes what you don’t say. It’s about the fouls you call as a crew, not about the fouls you call as an individual. And, game management is about judgment, consistency, mirroring, and cataloging as a crew.

I have used this philosophy at every level, from the toughest college and MLL games to youth. Below are suggestions for high school games.

Game Management Reminders


  1. When flagging a big/high hit- officials should come together to communicate before announcing the type of foul and length of the enforcement.
  2. It is effective and looks good when the officiating crew comes together once or twice in a game to confer, even if not to decide on a flagrant foul.
  3. Coverage area, especially in a 2 man game, needs to be discussed. For example, Player in the crease, we need to know how he got there: push-flag, push- loose ball, jump or dive. Goal or no goal? A lot to decide.
  4. The Referee should initiate the discussion. He should lead, but not dictate. He should be positive, and assess the game at time-outs and quarters.
  5. Umpire should be the active listener, offer suggestions, know his role when not the referee.


  1. Be patient and communicate well with 15-18 year olds. They are in the arena. Be less patient with coaches and assistant coaches. They are adults.
  2. Be preventative, talk to players, but not too much.  Do not say “get stick”. Throw the flag, or trust your no call.
  3. Work with the captains, especially when help is needed with other players. Refer to your score card to how know who they are. After all, that’s why you wrote it down when the coaches gave you their numbers.
  4. In a close game, in the fourth quarter, slow down the pace. Especially after goals, before face-offs, and restarts. The crew should set the pace of the game and not let the game dictate the pace, especially in a close game.


  1. Say little to coaches. You cannot get in trouble for something you don’t say. We usually get in trouble with things we do say.  Answer their questions, ignore their comments… to an extent.
  2. Develop a list of phrases to say to coaches that work for you. These should work for most situations. “I hear you coach, but we’re moving on.” “An explanation will have to wait”
  3. Listen, answer (quickly) or ignore. When responding, be firm.  Use conduct and unsportsmanlike penalties if you have to, not necessarily in this order, but could be.
  4. Don’t let a coach yell across the field to your partner.  Step in. “Tell me, Coach. I am right here,”
  5. It is ok to say to a coach, “Not now” when he asks you a question. Get back if you want, but they usually forget or don’t want to discuss later.

As you move into higher level and more competitive games, it is going to start getting crazy.  You need to manage the game, the crew, the players and the coaches. If you don’t, they will manage you.

Good luck.

Mike Infantino

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