In 2014, after many years officiating as a referee, I faced a tough decision to leave the profession.

My officiating career started back in 1986. As a way to stay financially afloat while attending college, I decided to join the referee ranks. A friend at Garden City Community College mentioned a scheduled officiating meeting happening that evening, and she recommended I attend.

The rest is history.

I started with middle school football and basketball, and later, umpired anything under the sun, including men’s slow pitch softball, which was an absolute adventure because some of the participants were intoxicated, especially during evening and weekend games. Of course, they were still trying to play! I remember a batter who hit a liner into center and took off to third base!

In 1992, now in Texas, I was hired by the Southwest Conference to referee men’s Div. I basketball, which was a huge accomplishment at the age of 22. I was later hired to work in the Big 12, Conference USA, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, and Western Athletic Conference.

Officiating became my life, and most of my close friends were the other referees. I traveled across the United States, and even worked The Great Alaska Shootout and my share of games in Hawaii. It seemed like officiating was going to be part of my life forever!

2014 and the Tough Decision

In 2014, I started to reflect on my career path and began to think of what I wanted my future to look like. The more I thought about it, the less it seemed like officiating was going to be a part of it.

With a wife and growing family at home, a working life on the road was problematic. In fact, between 1992 and 2014, I estimated that I was away from home on officiating matters at least 10 years. Wow!

Three Key Questions to Ask … What, When, and How?

When facing a tough decision, it is important to ask the following three questions:

The What … Before any decision can be made, especially the tough ones, it’s important to know the following: WHAT is the problem or opportunity that one faces? In my case, the real problem was being away from my wife and family way too much. I could try to justify the revenue generation from this occupation, but the cons outweighed the pros. Oh … my wife also reinforced this perspective!

The When … In my experience, the WHEN should be earlier rather than later. Even though I knew it was time to move on, it was easy for me to say, let me do it one more year, and let’s see how it goes. If, for example, I were assigned to work the NCAA Tournament, I could make a case for sticking with it. Thus, my recommendation is to take action now and move on to a healthier situation for your individual circumstance.

The How … The next question is to ask HOW to leave the current job situation. It’s always smart to cut ties in a professional manner. Also, I like to leave on my terms, and not when I’m forced out the door. In collegiate officiating, “forced out” means a steady schedule reduction, and I wanted to avoid this situation from happening to me, which is inevitable for all referees.

The Game Plan

There is no doubt, making tough decisions requires a smart game plan. A good first step is to speak to those who are affected by your decision regardless of which way it goes. The more feedback you get, the more likely you will take the best course of action. Remember, procrastinating to make a tough decision should be avoided. Once you have sufficient information, take action and march with confidence.