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Ten commandments for flag and touch football clinicians and observers

This is an excerpt from 2019 & 2020 NIRSA Flag & Touch Football Rules Book & Officials' Manual-19th Edition by NIRSA.

Keep these important guidelines in mind when evaluating, observing, and teaching:

  1. Be Fair and Impartial. We all know many officials we are watching. That should not, and cannot, affect our opinions and evaluations. We are doing a disservice to the players, coaches, officials, and even our friends we are observing when we are not honest and fair. We must be above reproach.
  2. We Do Not Know All the Answers. Find out why they did what they did before criticizing them for it. Find out what happened and why. Then offer suggestions on how it could be done better.
  3. Be Constructive. Remember the purpose of an observer is, first and foremost, to improve the quality of the officiating. Also, remember that the only way your comments can help an official to improve is if you share the comments with the official. Approach each official at halftime and after the game, whenever possible. Our officials may be learning the game for the 1st time, so be patient, calm, and answer all their questions, if possible.
  4. Be Consistent. We really need to do our best to evaluate everyone on the same scale and give everyone the same information. The most frustrating thing that can happen to an official is when 1 observer tells them something in 1 game, and in the next game they are told something just the opposite by a different observer.
  5. Think Big Picture First When Observing. Too often observers nitpick officials rather than look at the major officiating fundamentals—initial position, read and react then flow, communication with fellow officials and players, dead ball officiating, and so on. Concentrate on the major items first. Then be specific—explain in some detail what happened and how it can be corrected.
  6. Be Discreet With Your Constructive Comments. Our criticisms should be shared with the crew but not with other officials. We should be a positive influence on the program and should not criticize officials to other officials or in front of players, coaches, or spectators.
  7. Praise at Least 3 Times as Much as You Criticize. We all know people respond better to positive comments than to negative comments, so whenever possible, cast even your criticism in a positive manner, perhaps by praising someone else on the crew as a means of pointing out to another crew member a better way to do it.
  8. Don't Be Afraid to Say I Do Not Know. Often we are asked what we thought about a particular play, whether the pass was caught, what the proper mechanic or Rule is, or what happened on a particular play. And often we do not know. Admit it when you do not know. If it is a Rule or mechanic addressed in the NIRSA Rules Book and Officials' Manual, determine the correct answer and follow up with the official.
  9. Be Careful When Judging Fouls From the Sideline. Our job as observers is primarily “mechanics oriented” rather than “penalty oriented.” We will occasionally be able to comment on a foul that was called, but normally we will not see it or we will not get nearly as good a look at it as the official got.
  10. Don't Forget What It Is Like to Be on the Field. Remember how quickly things happen on the field. Remember the angles on the field are different and people can be screened or distracted by other action.

Reprinted with written permission from Referee magazine. For subscription information contact Referee magazine at (800) 733-6100 or

More Excerpts From 2019 & 2020 NIRSA Flag & Touch Football Rules Book & Officials' Manual 19th Edition