"Officially" Preparing For The Season

Feb. 10, 2013

Mallory Treleaven

Focus, practice and precision are all qualities that describe the players out on the Arena field each week; however, these qualities also describe a group of men and women that are essential to the game of Arena Football – the officials.

On March 1st, training camps will start up for teams, but on February 8th and 9th, 65 AFL officials met for their own training camp.

The clinic began with a recap of the 2012 season and went into expectations for the 2013 season. Many veteran officials had presentations to share on specific penalties to remind officials of the nuances in  the AFL game. With most AFL officials working college football games in the fall, the transition to Arena is sometimes a difficult one.

“What we wanted to do was just go back to the basic differences between college rules and Arena football rules because most of the officials here work college football,” said Coordinator of Officials, Carl Paganelli. “Second, we wanted to go back into the mechanics because they are different than college football, and we wanted to bring everyone up to date on the new rules for the 2013 Arena season.“

The officials also went into a detailed training session preparing them for the switch back to five-man officiating crews. This change was passed by the AFL’s Board of Directors earlier this offseason. After experimenting with a six-man crew in 2012, the Board elected to return to the five-official setup used in the previous 24 years of the League.

The clinic also provided a good opportunity to bring together people from all different sectors of Arena Football, from officials to front office staff to coaches.

“These clinics are important because you bring new people together,” said Paganelli. “You get the feeling of what the League wants from an administrative perspective all of the way down to an officiating perspective. We also had a couple coaches attend to get their feelings on some of the things they see and how they adjust their coaching on the field.”

Similar to how AFL head coaches look for specific skills in their players, coordinators of officials also look for certain requirements when selecting their officials.

“We look for anybody that has 5-7 years of Division I college football experience, because of the closeness of our fans to the field in Arena Football. The noise and the impact of people being right on top of you is similar to what you get at a University of Michigan game or an Alabama game where you have 103,000 people there,” said Paganelli.

Clinics are not only essential in reviewing new rules and mechanics with the officials but also provide an opportunity for the different crews to socialize. On Friday night, a dinner and banquet was in order for the hard working staff. During the banquet the ArenaBowl officiating crew was honored as well as the three coordinators of officials.

On Saturday morning, more rules were covered and the officials were given an officiating test.  In addition, officials are reviewed throughout the season by their coordinators of officials following each week’s games.

After observing the two-day clinic, one thing is certain – officiating requires a great deal of preparation and training.

“The hardest thing to learn is safety because of the walls and the closeness of the players and the depth of the field.  You have to be prepared to get yourself out of the way to avoid getting hurt, “Paganelli said. “Our job as supervisors is to get all of the college mechanics out of their mind and to teach them to come back to Arena mechanics. That said, we look for people with experience; experience is the answer to everything in officiating.”

Despite their different roles on the playing field, players and officials both adopt the motto, ‘practice makes perfect’.