Ball person on the sideline

Involve your Ball Person for a Smoother Game

One of our most important tasks as football officials is game management. A “subset” of this duty is to facilitate spotting the ball to allow teams to remain in their desired rhythm. The team’s ball person is a major participant in this endeavor. Briefing the ball person before the opening kickoff and communicating with the ball person during the game is essential.

Make them feel important

Introduce yourself and write down the ball person(s) name(s). Tell the ball persons they are an important part of the crew. Make them feel important and valued. They will work harder for you when you praise them.

Two game balls at the ready (plus a kicking ball if used)

Tell the ball persons to always have two game balls in hand. Find out how they will relay the
kicking ball onto the field for free kicks. Will the kicker bring the ball onto the field, or will the officials secure the ball and bring it to the K-40?

Where should the ball person stand?

Tell the ball persons to always stay 2 yards behind you (not beside you). Tell them to “always be with me.” (I tell them to pretend there is an invisible 2-yard chain attaching us.) They are authorized to move up and down the entire field. Instruct them to stay off the goal line extended (so you can back up if the pylon is threatened). The ball persons will never go onto the field. They are responsible to fetch the ball when it is not secured on the opposite sideline or beyond the end line.

How should the ball person provide a clean ball?

Tell the ball person to hand the ball to you or toss it from a short distance. No long passes! (I’m not
athletic enough to catch a long pass.) A long pass means they didn’t stay with you as instructed.
Prior to a FG attempt or XP kick try, tell them to place a “clean” ball at the goal post. Prior to fourth
down punt, if your sideline is on defense, remind the ball persons you will ask for a “clean” ball after the play concludes (“stay with me”).

Always be ready to provide a football to the wing!

Tell the ball persons you may ask for their team’s football even when the opposing team is on offense. If the opposing team’s ball goes out of bounds in player possession, you may ask for your team’s ball to spot, secure the other team’s ball to relay onto the field, and then pick up and remove your team’s ball from the field.

In this play, the wing spots the dead ball inbounds and then turns to the ball person to secure another ball to toss to the umpire. Keeping the ball person close facilitates this action. A few additional notes: The wing should not bounce as he progresses down the sideline. He also moves too far downfield. His key runs a 10-yard route; the wing can observe that matchup without moving more than a few yards downfield. He correctly winds the clock because the runner’s forward progress is stopped inbounds.

Ball person behavior

The ball persons cannot cheer for their team or speak to players (on the same team or the opposing team).

During the game, use their names often. Praise them when they follow your directions and gently
correct them when they lose focus (which will often happen).