Referees: The glue to intramural sports

By Justin Williams
On April 8, 2014

The University of New Hampshire offers a large amount of intramural sports to its students. From basketball to water polo, students can choose from over 20 sports to play during the academic year.  While participants have the luxury of having a very organized intramural program, it would be nothing without the referees.  

The referees at UNH make sure all the games are fair and organized, and they work to do their job well. When a student is hired to be a referee, the student must go through special training before he or she starts officiating games.

"We train our officials to be confident in their calls and to make sure they understand the rules," said graduate student Jimmy Cooper, who officiates soccer and is also in charge of training new soccer referees.  

Referees go through two training sessions. The first is in a classroom where the goal is for the students to learn how the game is played. Next is an on-the-court session, where they learn positions and where they should be during a game. 

 "We kind of take them through a game [and] where they should be and how they should be working with other officials," Cooper said.

The whole training session takes about two hours, after which the new referees are ready to start officiating.  In addition to being able to make the right call, referees also have to deal with players who cause trouble during a game.

Even in intramurals, people can get heated or overreact to a referee's judgment call. When this happens, it is up to the referee to make sure the situation does not spiral out of control.  

"When things start getting a little heated, your job is to make sure you do not let it get to the point where someone is going to do something stupid, [like] scream or hit someone," Cooper said.  If something like this does happen, the person is thrown out of the game.

When a person is thrown out of the game, they are suspended from all intramural games and have to meet with Pro Staff. One of the people on this staff is Dave Charette, who directs the intramural program. After they meet with Charette, he decides what the punishment should be, which is usually a one or two game suspension.   

Luckily, Charette said that most cases are handled very easily.

"Usually they come in and they are going to go 'I'm sorry, I lost my cool,' and I'm not worried about them," he said.  

What Charette does worry about are people who are still angry when they come to the meeting.

"There's the occasional person that has an issue, and then we're meeting two or three days later and they still haven't let it go.  And that tells me a lot," Charette said. "They're going to be more of a problem."

If this happens, and they are still clearly hurt about a call that was made a few days ago, Charette will not necessarily suspend them for longer.  Instead, he will sometimes offer them a job. 

"A lot of times we're like, 'well you seem like you have a lot of interest in officiating and you have a good grasp on the rules ... why don't you come join us and help our staff out?'" he said.

Charette's logic is the more experience on the staff, the better it will be. 

"We're only as good as the students that come in here and are willing to put a whistle around their neck," he said.

While many times an altercation between a player and referee will be caused by a disagreement on a call, there are a few times where the player is just being flat out rude, as noted by Cody Grondin, who has officiated floor hockey for two years.

"Some people take it way more intense than other people," Grondin said. "Four times in the same game, this one guy kept lining up and taking a slap shot and hitting the same girl in the leg every time. By the end she just quit and walked off." 

While sometimes there are people that are going to cause problems, most of the officiating crew says this is rarely a problem.

"In general, students are pretty respectful of what's going on," Charette said. "We probably have a handful of suspensions throughout the semester, but it's not something that's ramped."

Cooper also believed that this is not a problem. 

"Nine times out of 10 ... things go relatively well," Cooper said.

While he admitted that sometimes there is a problem with newer referees not being taken seriously by junior and senior players, there is generally not a problem with on-the-court altercations.  

The referees get more benefits out of this job than just learning how to officiate a sport.

"We're also teaching them how to deal with mediation skills. They get used to dealing with their peers, which can be a tough one in leadership positions," Charette said.

As the semester goes on, UNH will continue to hold intramural sports games.  When another sport starts up, they will need new referees.  This means that soon there will be over 20 new referees officiating intramural sports, who will be able to keep the program as organized as it currently is and to also be ready to deal with the occasional in-the-game issues.

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