Hey Ref, You Should……Let Me Try Your Job

There have always been the armchair critics that do nothing but sit in the stands and complain about the officiating at lacrosse games. It’s one of our national pastimes isn’t it? Pointing fingers, hurling insults and accusations, and endlessly criticizing the men and women in black. Over the past few seasons, yes, I have even found myself getting too involved in feelings towards officials. And I do seriously regret it. Because I once was one, and still to this day do officiate adult leagues.

I actually started when I was around 15, took the clinic in the Peterborough Memorial Centre, and it was run by Joe Murray. Ahh, Joe Murray. God love ’em. Little did I know that what he taught me in a single day turned out to be a real life skill. Joe taught me that being a lacrosse official, you will to be “the” centre of attention for some, and one that can determine the outcome of games”. He also taught me that the most highly regarded officials in the game are the ones that nobody really notices. After all, people are there to see the two teams play right? I’ve continued to referee a lot of lacrosse, and two seasons ago, retook the level 1 course here in Whitby. It was great, as most of what I learned way back was still being emphasized (of course other than the different rules).

But just like your mail delivery person, your fast food clerk, or your dentist / doctor; some referees are considered better than others. And in my opinion, the referees I deem to be the better ones, are the ones that establish very early that they are in control of a game, without having the “hey everyone, look at me” attitude. I have noticed since Coaching a Midget lacrosse team, that more than ever, referees need to be in control of the game. And make no mistake about it, it is a real skill. You need to be on top of the game like never before. So many different things go on in a game, in the fastest pace imaginable, and only 4 eyes expected to see it all.

There are some that would argue, if you are going to take a pay for doing a game, then it is to be expected that the officials be on top of things. I do agree, but I wonder if sometimes the public expectation is perfection from officials. I’ve never seen a perfect game played by a player or goalie. I’ve never seen a perfect game Coached. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a perfect Postal Carrier, Doctor or Dentist. I don’t think it is possible. So is it fair to expect a perfect game from an official? And really what is a perfect game by an official. Because from where I sit, many of the calls made, are at the delight of one team, but to the dismay of the other (including the fans of both teams).

I spoke with Ontario Lacrosse Referee Association’s President, Wayne Paddick. And Wayne is one of those guys that “gets it”. Wayne played the game (not that it is necessary to be a good ref). But like most highly regarded refs, he has a feel for the game. He lets the players play, and steps in when he needs to step in.

I asked Wayne about the state of officiating here in Ontario. I also asked him if we as a lacrosse community have set the bar way too high in our expectations of officials. Wayne had this to say:

What we tend to forget when we yell and criticize these officials, especially the young up and comers, is that these are our children. As a parent, I would be very upset to know that some adult came to my child’s workplace, let’s say McDonald’s, and chewed them an ear full for an entire hour only to be able to walk out laughing with the other adults. Sure they are getting paid, just like our officials, but do they have to be subject to this degradation simply because they are on the clock? I say no way.

The OLA/OLRA have spent considerable time in the last few years analyzing our needs of where we need referees and what levels are requiring officials the most. In doing so, we have come to realize that recruiting new officials is never the problem. We get calls from parents every year asking at what age their young players can start to officiate. The problem lies with retention of officials, especially our young level 1’s. The number one reason for officials not coming back is abuse from coaches and parents. There is this misconception that because you paid your twoonie at the door you are entitled to yell at the referee on the floor. If it were a junior to major game you were attending, I would say have at it. Those guys can take the abuse (as long as it is non-vulgar). But our young officials will make mistakes and will unfortunately cost teams a game here and there. Folks…..hate to break it to you but referees are human too.

The CLA has introduced a new poster campaign this year which touches on this very subject. Please watch for the new signage and read it carefully and remind yourself before you head inside to cheer on your son’s and daughters that we need these young officials to learn and remain in officiating. As we always say, if you think you can do better, our clinics are starting in March and we would love to have you come out and join us.

So I shamelessly do have to admit to it, I have been known to voice my displeasure at officials from time to time. And yes, maybe at times I have had a high expectation of the officials in a game. But I guess when the day comes that I Coach a perfect game; I’ll have a right to demand that same perfection from the stripes.

To all of the officials out there, if I can be so bold as to offer up some advice. Keep an open mind, work with your partner and superiors, and most importantly, communicate with the players and Coaches. By no means do you need to take abuse, but when you can effectively communicate with the teams on the floor, it really does go a long way to making your job a little less stressful and dare I say it; enjoyable.

And to all of the armchair QB moms and dads, and heck even you players. Go give it a shot. Get certified, try a few games, and you might just see what it is like to spend a few hours the sneakers of those we sometimes are unpleasant toward.

To obtain more information about becoming an Ontario Lacrosse Referee check out their web site at http://ontariolacrosseofficials.ca/xoops/modules/content/?id=1

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