Someone once said that “Officiating is the only vocation where you are expected to start out perfect and then only get better from there.” It’s true, officials face plenty of scrutiny every time they step on to the ice, and it’s unlikely that you will be able to please both teams with every call throughout the course of the game.
To make our job even more unique, you get a variety of “input” from players, coaches and spectators about your performance. Sometimes you’ll take those comments to heart in order to improve, other times you’ll tune the chatter out, knowing it’s not exactly helpful.
When it comes to our job in managing officials registration and education programs, things aren’t that much different. The Officiating Program leadership, made up of the Officials Section which is comprised of volunteer district referees-in-chief charged with establishing policy, finds it difficult to keep our 25,000 officiating members happy all of the time, while also balancing a commitment to the game of providing capable officiating.
They too hear a lot of chatter throughout the season, some of which is simply impractical and self-serving and tends to get tuned out, while some of it is heard loud and clear as legitimate concerns or ideas on how things could be improved. In any case, time is needed to explore the effect on the big picture and carefully think through all the possible ramifications of any change that is made for the betterment of the entire program, and ultimately, the game itself.
Consider the beginning of the USA Hockey Officiating Education Program back in 1983 when Mark Rudolph was brought in as the first director of the Officiating Education Program. It started with manuals, then the establishment of the summer development camps and instructor training programs, followed by the development of a more formal seminar program and open-book testing. It has continued to evolve to become the internationally recognized program you are part of today.
Along the way, there has been a tremendous amount of change taking place – much of which was actually suggested and encouraged by you, our membership. The digital age started electronic registration, then electronic testing, and more recently, the development of the online seminar curriculum. All of these ideas came from voices within our membership and USA Hockey’s leadership listened.
Sure, there have been a few naysayers suggesting we will lose membership as we make certain changes, or they say that we demand too much from our officials. After all, change is rarely easy and some people just don’t like it because it alters their routines. However, over the years and regardless of the changes that have taken place, the Officiating Program has seen growth in membership in 30 of the 35 years, and has continued to do business with only a couple of moderate fee increases. It is also important to realize that when change does occur, time is necessary to be able to fully evaluate the effect of that change. That has been especially true with the significant change in implementing the online seminar curriculum, now in its fourth season. This part of the educational process has been tweaked each season and culminated with a significant reduction in the time commitment necessary to complete all of the modules during the 2017-18 season.
Now that time has passed and as technology continues to advance, the Officials Section has spent the past 10 months evaluating our registration/education program and continuing to listen to membership feedback in an effort to continue to streamline the registration process while maximizing the educational benefit. The work of a sub-committee charged with this task has recently been completed and presented to the entire Officials Section, and received a positive response. Much of the specifics and details of the recommended changes moving forward will be finalized in the coming months, but we wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the likely proposed changes to the registration process you will see for the 2018-19 season.
- More streamlined and level-specific open-book testing. The Level 2, 3 and 4 open-book exams will be reduced to 50 questions. The open-book exam questions will be intended to be more level-appropriate and will focus on certain areas of the rules that require absolute knowledge and proper application for successful officiating.
- Returning Level 3 and Level 4 (meaning their second or more season at that level) will have the option to test out of the elective module portions of their respective online seminar curriculum. They will still need to complete a required section that covers areas of emphasis, but when it comes to the electives, they can take the quiz prior to watching the video and if successfully passed, will get credit for completing that module.
- Officials will be required to advance to Level 2 after a certain amount of time at Level 1. The officials may then continue to advance or may choose to stay at level 2.
- Pending approval by the board of directors, the Officials Section is recommending a slight change in the USA Hockey registration fee structure. Look for a two-tiered system to be in play next season where Level 1 officials (restricted to no more than two years at Level 1) pay one fee, while all others will pay a different fee.
- Development of a new “tenured” member type for Level 3 and Level 4 officials. Officials will be eligible to apply for this tenured status after a certain number of years completed at Level 3 or 4. They will obtain tenured status by meeting specific requirements, including attendance at a national-level symposium. Once tenured status is obtained, officials will retain Level 3 or 4 status for as long as they continue to register with USA Hockey and fulfill the minimum annual requirements. The “tenured” officials program is targeted to start with the 2019-20 season.
More information will be coming as specifics are finalized. Be sure to read the STRIPES newsletter and USAHockey.com in the coming months for updates and more specific information on what you can expect as your officiating career continues.