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Published on April 22nd, 2012 | by Herr Triggore

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Zebras: Don’t Eat Your Own

By Herr Triggore

Reffing is hard.

Anyone who has participated in a bout of any level (scrimmage, league bout, regulation, etc.) from an officiating standpoint knows what it’s like to attempt to manage chaos. Even with hordes of officials looking to pounce on any potentially-risky action by or toward skaters, incorrect calls are made or correct calls are not made. One of the largest saving graces in the officiating community is that you work with individuals of various backgrounds who understand what it’s like to miss a call, or receive an angry glance from a coach or skater, or even the catcalls of a crowd. Within that striped or pinked brother(sister)hood, there is a level of mutual respect/discretion that goes along with the position.

Rather, there should be.

It is interesting – and often disappointing – when looking around at a bout where there are loud dissenting voices and finding the owners of those voices to be officials of the sport. Off-skates, in civilian clothes, serving in the role as fan for the bout, the officials are the ones that provide the most direct feedback to the officials actively working the bout.

“That’s not twenty feet, ref!”

“What the? That’s a cut MAJOR!”

“Where’s the back block, ref?”

Anyone that serves or has served in an officiating capacity understands the thrill of a good bout and the frustration when a call is missed or an incorrect call is made. But there is an unspoken expectation of conduct amongst peers when not actively officiating a bout: silence is golden. Did the Jam Ref just miss some obvious points? Maybe. Did the OPR miss a cut major on the Jammer coming through the pack? Possible they didn’t notice it was the last line of defense. IPR a little slow to get that out-of-play arm up? Dynamic, frantic bout and anything’s possible. What’s the right way to communicate that? Keep the yap shut.

There are a lot of articles and content about mutual skater respect and ref/skater respect. It’s easy to forget that ref/ref respect is as important and in many cases more important. Disparaging officials actively working a bout?

Congratulations, as you’ve now helped generate a perception to the skaters and fans that maybe the ref isn’t doing well or is a “bad ref.” To other officials (and maybe skaters) you’ve also managed to paint yourself as a self-important, slightly narcissistic d-bag that speaks out on opinion without exhibiting a level of respectful moderation.

If I were a skater, would I want that kind of official overseeing my bout? I’m thinking not.

I had the opportunity to officiate my first tournament ever this past February in Eugene, Oregon. Our tournament head referee put out communication of expectation which included – very simply – “keep your mouth shut. Don’t talk smack if you even think you’re in earshot of anyone attached to the event. There’s no place for that kind of behavior here.” The message – clearly – was that “you’re a team, and I expect you to function as one.” At the regional and national tournaments I got to observe highly-certified referees in the stands watching bouts that were occurring. I would – on occasion – glance at them when there was action on the track that might have merited a call (or a non-call) and their expressions were consistent: blank, unemotional walls.

(To be fair I mainly would look for Curtis and he is the MASTER of impenetrable impartiality…)

So the message here? Remember that what we do is tough enough with the myriad of actions that occurs, but at the end of the day we are the third team on the track – whether we’re on skates, off skates, or in civilian clothes. Let’s exercise a level of decorum and mutual respect that we would want from our peers on or off the track.

Reffing is hard. Don’t make it harder.

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