Connect with us


An expert working the finger whistle tonight




If you get the chance, watch umpire Jeff Rice (number 44) work the Monday Night Football game tonight. Rice uses a finger whistle and he is a maestro using the piece of equipment.

Officials working with a finger whistle have to blow their whistle and then signal. Fellow officials and the NFL frown on one-handed touchdown, time-out and incomplete pass signals. So the official blows his finger whistle first, then signals.

Unless you can master the technique Rice uses. The finger whistle fits snugly on an official’s fingers. Unstead, Rice holds the finger whistle on his finger tips. When he needs to blow the whistle he puts it in his mouth, and frees both hands up to signal. He then puts the whistle in his pocket or put it snugly on his fingers to handle the ball, dig in a fumble scrum or break up a fracas. 

Former referee Chuck Heberling used to do the same thing (video) and I’m sure other current officials work the finger whistle like Rice–but he’s the one I’ve noticed.

I’ve tried Rice’s technique while officiating high school football and I can’t do it. Either I spit the whistle out of my mouth and it lands on the ground, the whistle flies off of my fingertips, or I put it in my pocket and forget to get it out for the next play.

If you’re zebra watching tonight, be sure to watch Rice closely and learn how to use a finger whistle from a master.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"