Most of us here at Lax Library leave work early almost every day in the spring. Most of us are also Officials. There's usually an off-season high school league or some men's club ball or youth indoor game somewhere in the evening or on the weekends. We are very lucky to live in such a lacrosse-rich environment.
BECOME A REF.
Especially if you are a new or aspiring Coach. Especially if you are young and don't have kids yet. We highly recommend it. If you can't be on the field playing, you might as well coach. If you can't coach, you might as well get paid to ref.
You can't grow the game if you don't have enough qualified Officials in your area to foster good competition, especially as more and more kids start playing lacrosse. Whether you coach youth, high school or college, or even if you are a college or high school player, your local Officials' Association will help you get trained and qualified, and find the right age and experience level for you to officiate. Some areas have started recruiting high school players as Youth Officials in Referee Mentoring Programs. Maybe you need one of these in your area.
The pay is pretty good too. If practice runs from 3-5 or 4-6 during the season, there's usually a high school game under the lights somewhere. You can make an extra $100 just in the evenings after work. You can make more than that on the weekends if you're available to ref five or six games. If you can handle it, you can run 10 or 12 games per day at summer tournaments.
Even though we are Coaches first, being the Ref gives us extra time on the field watching different situations develop, looking at footwork, technique and stick skills in lots of different players. All night, every night. It's just extra repetitions for your Lax IQ Muscle. For every game your team plays, you get to see what one other coach is doingwith his team. For every game you ref, you get to see what two other coaches are doing. If you ref all day, you get to see what ten or twenty other coaches are teaching their players. That's like watching a whole season in one day!
You look at the entire game from a different perspective when you are the Ref. You watch both teams. You watch every part of the play. You watch the substitution box. When your partner is watching the play around the ball, you are watching something away from the ball. You can see the kinds of mistakes that lead to penalties. You watch very specific portions of the game you might never think about as a Coach or Player- where are his feet? Where are his hands? What was his intent on that play? What just happened over there?
LACROSSE IS A BROTHERHOOD.
Becoming a Ref also changes your involvement with the community, the family behind the sport. You will get to know the other coaches, the other players, the players that are also coaches, and all the other Refs in your area. Your network will expand. You will see the kids you ref on Saturdays watching their dads play on Sundays. You will develop a more personal relationship with all these people. You will make new friends.
You are the Customer Service Rep. The Coaches and Players are the customers. The Officials help to create an environment conducive for growth and development. If you believe in the important Life Lessons that playing sports can teach young people, officiating can be just as important as coaching at almost any level. Your performance and attitude will affect what kind of experience these young men (and women!) are going to have.
At the youth level, sometimes you will also have to deal with parents. That is an entirely different discussion we can save for another time. Positive Coaching Alliance and US Lacrosse both have extensive partnerships and resources for helping Parents, Coaches, Players, and Officials to all work together to build a positive Youth Sports Culture in your area.
DON'T JUST BE A REF. BE A GOOD REF.
If you think the refs in your area aren't very good, do something about it. Put on the stripes. Go through your local certification process. Take the rules test and invest in the uniform. Sign up for a full schedule and ref as much as you can. You're likely to enjoy it more if you take your job seriously and really learn your stuff. You're more likely to have fun if you don't have people screaming in your face every Saturday.
It's almost better than coaching... Almost.