by Dr. Tim Baghurst
Referees: the word evokes a variety of images and feelings for many. To some, they can be a second opponent. But to others, they are a support, and an assurance that the best player will emerge the winner, and not the one who complained the most.
Years ago, I was a FIFA certified soccer referee. As one might imagine, I endured plenty of challenges in that role. However, in 2010 that I became involved in refereeing international racquetball. Since then, I have continued to serve as an international referee, and these experiences have allowed me to see and deal with all kinds of situations. The purpose of this article is not to share my stories, but to explain how these experiences can be used to develop best practices for athletes and coaches when interacting with officials.
Trained Versus Untrained Officials
Although a generalization, trained and qualified referees are much easier to work and communicate with. It is expected that those with some form of training (there are different kinds) have a basic understanding of the rules and care enough about officiating that they have taken the time to get training. That is a good start. Therefore, you can and should have greater trust in their knowledge of the rules.
Qualified officials can be great referees, but great referees are not always qualified. What if an official has poor eyesight, or what if they do not know how to handle difficult situations? What if they have problems concentrating for a long period of time? These are not always tested in certification. Therefore, it is important to recognize that an official who is certified should have a fundamental knowledge of the rules, but it does not mean that they are a good referee.
In time, officials will develop a reputation, and it is valuable to learn what that reputation is. In international events, officials are assigned based on their ranking/reputation and the match being played. Better referees are assigned to matches that are more important or those that might be perceived as potentially being difficult. However, in other tournaments referees may be randomly assigned or end up being a player, as mentioned previously. A good suggestion is to learn who is refereeing in advance to allow you to (if necessary) request line judges (if available) or ask the Tournament Director for a different referee if desired. Not doing so may result in you being stuck with a referee who might not be interested in the match or want to be there, and therefore the calls cannot be trusted.
Poor officials can lead to serious problems on the court. An official who does not meet the standards of a good official, as outlined earlier, can create problems for players, coaches, and other officials. For example, an official who is inconsistent on avoidable (penalty) hinder calls, who wants to be the star of the show, or who does not know the rules, can create frustration and anger. Understand that even though they should not, poor officials can influence the outcome of a match.
Working with Officials
How can this be overcome? First, recognize that officials will make mistakes. Errors will happen and decisions will not always go in your favor. However, also recognize that some other calls may go in your favor, and generally calls even out over time.
Please support the mission of RYDF in assisting young athletes from around the world with needed resources to achieve success both on and off the court, and to develop successful careers in sports and life. RYDF accomplishes this through three related programs:
Dream It – Fitness Forever Program
Empowers communities by providing opportunities for youth & families to experience fun, friendship, and lifetime health and fitness through participation in racquet sports.
Reach It – The Dream Team
Provides emerging professional racquet sport athletes with financial support, mentoring, and career development opportunities to achieve success on the court and in their life.
Live It – Athlete to Professional
Uses experts across disciplines to provide knowledge, skills, tools, and practices to improve performance, build a successful career on and off the court, and give back to the community.
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