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How Adapting To Change Is Critical For Success

By BJ Ringrose, USA Hockey Coordinator of Officiating Education, 11/11/15, 12:30PM MST


Change is natural and occurs every day. Like evolution, in most cases, change occurs for the improvement of environment or behavior. In other cases, change results in failure, where the only option is to step back, re-assess, and learn. However in the long term, whether good or bad, it is necessary to adapt to change in order to stay relevant, informed, and survive.

Several years ago, my father shared an interesting piece of career advice. He told me that it’s human nature to resist change, and the more I consider that information, the more I believe it’s accurate. It’s natural to want to stick with behavior, logic and information that is familiar. Otherwise we must put effort toward trying something new and learn. However, the point my father was trying to make was, if you don’t learn to embrace and adapt to change, then you might find yourself replaced by others who do (he was a civil engineer; he understood this well).

In addition to other career fields I’ve dabbled in, I’ve found this information extremely relevant to ice hockey and being an official. When I think of the changes that have occurred in the playing rules, assignment protocols and general responsibilities of being an official, I now understand why some officials feel conflicted with change. However, as an official who works USA Hockey-sanctioned games, I believe officials need to respect and revere the logic, spirit and intent that USA Hockey (or any sanctioning body) applies to these changes.

There is no doubt that the USA Hockey Officiating Program has seen a lot of change during the last few seasons. In 2010, USA Hockey changed the national tournament format to allow more Tier II teams to compete and this resulted in a significant increase in participation by officials who otherwise would never have the chance. In 2013, USA Hockey adopted a four-year rule book in an effort to allow time for rule changes to take full effect on player development and growth of the game. Furthermore, all officials are required to wear helmet visors in an effort to promote safety and career longevity.

By far our biggest recent change has been the adjustment to the education programs our membership completes each season. With the introduction of the Online Education Modules, our entire membership receives a consistent and accurate message with regard to the fundamentals of officiating. For the first time, all 24,000 USA Hockey officials are sitting in the same classroom with the same level of instruction. Additionally, over the next few seasons, this education system will be enhanced with more elective modules that reach outside the box of the fundamental “nuts and bolts” of officiating. We began the change this season with Brian Murphy and Ian Walsh giving Level 3 and Level 4 presentations on sight lines and game management, and we look forward to tapping more of our officiating community’s knowledge to bring new topics into the universal online classroom.

With the addition of online education, the district referees-in-chief made the change to reduce the required length of seminar classrooms. Whereas in the past, all officials were required to spend an entire eight-hour day in classrooms, now the seminars have been reduced to about four hours, which adds flexibility to scheduling them (they could be scheduled on a weeknight now) and coordinating them with personal schedules (still a good chance to catch your kid’s soccer game).

Three seasons ago, USA Hockey launched the Online Game Report system. This system now allows officials to electronically type and submit game reports to local supervisors and disciplinary board members. Once an official is familiar with the process of completing these online reports, the process becomes as simple as spending fifteen minutes online typing keys, instead of 15-30 minutes hand-writing a paper form. Furthermore, since the reporting system tracks players’ actions by their registered affiliate, the official who takes the time and pride to complete a thorough report will guarantee that the visiting player from halfway across the country will be held accountable for his or her actions. Simply put, what happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas.

Finally, the USA Hockey Officiating Program has an official Twitter Account to “tweet” out announcements regarding registration, clip-of-the-week updates, and other information. All officials that have a Twitter account and “follow” @USAHOfficiating will now have access to the latest information pushed to their phone or tablet instantly.

Overall, a lot has changed in the USA Hockey Officiating Program during the last few years. While the next generation of official will embrace these changes with ease, since they won’t know any different, we understand the reservations that longtime officials might have (this is human nature after all). However, USA Hockey must do what is best overall for education, membership management, and most of all, what is good for the game itself.

For those officials who stop to think about the incredible value consistent online education, new rules, and better communication (through STRIPES and Twitter) bring to our membership, they might feel compelled to embrace this bit of change. More importantly (and this should apply to all developing officials), we hope they remain optimistic and know that things often get better with change and time.