Officiating Brings Out the Pageantry in Intramural Sports | The American Word

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Officiating Brings Out the Pageantry in Intramural Sports

Ben Florance | 4/4/14 6:34pm

In a way, referees are like actors.

Now that is not to say that referees are phonies, although there may be some that beg to differ.

What I mean is that like actors, who have to sell themselves as characters so that the audience considers them as their respective characters rather than as the actors they are, referees have to sell themselves as effective arbiters of the rules of the game, in this case basketball.

In intramural basketball, it is especially important to sell yourself as a referee, considering you are officiating colleagues that may know you from class or that see you on the quad. So, you need to have confidence on the hardwood, just like an actor. If you do not have confidence in yourself to make the tough call no matter the situation, then you lose credibility.

And if a referee has no credibility in the eyes of the players, you are done.

Early in this semester, I decided to apply to be a referee for intramural basketball, and in one of the training meetings, prospective folks like myself were told that we have to sell our calls, even if they turn out to be wrong in the end, especially if they are made in a key moment of the game. Because while players may not like the call, particularly if it is against them, if the referee sells it well enough, the players will buy it. Of course, they will still think you are wrong, but that’s not the point.

What may be the most difficult part of making a call is knowing to blow that whistle. Referees have to make calls in a split-second and if you hesitate, your opportunity is gone. And what is important is that you blow the whistle hard. If you barely blow it, not only does that increase the chances that it is not heard, but it also symbolizes a ref not certain about the call.

It always is easy to hate on the refs, I was certainly guilty of that back when I played in similar recreational leagues during my heyday in middle and high school. But a referee always has to keep his or her cool, and even if he or she knows that an angry player may indeed be correct, they have to treat their calls as gospel.

A key part of selling as a referee is consistency. If you fail to call a player for traveling in the first half, you can’t turn around and start calling it in the second if they are doing the same thing. Even a bad ref that is consistently bad is better than a ref that is all over the place with their calls. And if the bad ref can sell their calls, they will get by.

In short, being a referee is harder than it appears. You know, just like acting.