The relationship between athletes, coaches, and referees is stressful at best, and in the midst of competition tensions often run high
By Parijat Jha
Sweat drips from the foreheads of the exhausted athletes. The ball bounces down the court while the players feet dash across the beaten floor. The point guard loses the ball. As it rolls into the middle of the court, two players dive for the ball. The shrill cry of a whistle sounds, and everyone turns to see who is going to receive possession of the ball. The referee, who is now the center of attention, has to make an on-the-spot decision which, regardless of the call, will upset one side.
No matter what the sport, referees are often the deciding factor in games. In the heat of the moment, game changing calls are made, and people can forget referees are human, and they too can make mistakes.
Recently, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was robbed of pitching a perfect game in Major League Baseball by Jim Joyce, a veteran referee in Major League Baseball. A runner who was clearly out was called safe. Had the runner been out, it would have been the final out of the game and Galarraga would have retired all 27 batters. Many sportscasters considered it to be one of the biggest blown calls in the history of the game. Furthering the frustration of a bad call, hundreds of replays on ESPN and other sports channels in the next few days proved the call to be wrong.
Though not all blown calls have such profound consequences, some players, parents and coaches may have negative reactions to them. The question then becomes: What is the proper way to deal with calls that an individual does not agree with or questions?
Senior co-captain of the boys basketball team, Wes Richter said he has found a method that works for him.
“There are always going to be calls that you do not agree with, but in high school there is not much conversation between the athletes and referees,” Richter said. “The most important thing is as a player you can’t let it get to you. Just keep playing.”
Hockey is another sport where referees have a large amount of contact with the players. Senior captain Neil McKenzie has his own take on referees.
“From my experience referees usually are pretty good. They do not have bad intentions,” McKenzie said. “Obviously they are not 100 percent accurate, but they are human.”
Both Richter and Mckenzie referenced the “heat of the moment” reaction, a moment when adrenaline is rushing through the veins and the mind is not completely clear. In moments like this, respect for the referees can be lost. It can be the most vunerable time in a game.
In such cases, McKenzie said athletes need to be understanding that every individual sees the game differently. He added that athletes need to simply move on and accept a call for what it is, whether they believes it to be fair or not.
Baseball coach Matt Middleton has experienced both point’s of view. After his playing career at The Ohio State University, where he was a two time All-American, he decided to coach and umpire.
When a problem arises between athletes and referees, Middleton said it can often be rooted in youth sports and the interactions between parents, coaches and referees. Parents and youth coaches may have exchanged heated words with youth league referees at one time, and such altercations can impact athletes’ respect for referees.
“The umpires for youth league can be fresh out of classes, so they may not be the most experienced. This is why parents have to understand that they have to approach games with appropriate game plans for such situations,” Middleton said. “I think since I have been on both sides of this, I have learned to understand both sides of the game.”
Coaches, said Middleton, must also understand the rules and follow a respectable code of conduct.
“If the situation is going to be improved,” Middleton said, “all coaches should have to learn that viewpoint, and when they do not comply with rules [of good conduct] the punishment should be greater.”
With these thoughts in mind, athletes and coaches need to be aware that a bad relationship with a referee can be game altering. Emotions will always be a part of sports, and when push comes to shove it is important to keep the team goals in mind and “play on.” •