Behind the mask: a behind the scene look at sports officials

Behind the mask: a behind the scene look at sports officials

By Savannah McDade and Victoria Fragione Posted April 28, 2010

Are you the screaming fan who sits in the grand stands shouting profanities at a referee who “didn’t make a fair call”?

Sports officials are more than just men or women who call timeouts, fouls, and enforce the rules; their job is anything but menial. The process of becoming a sports official is very comprehensive, it is not something you merely get into with experience, although experience is essential.

“Knowing the rules and how to interpret them come from watching and playing. Generally, the higher level you officiate, the more you have to do. We take tests each year for high school basketball that we have to pass. A friend of mine is a referee in the NBA, and they get evaluated on film by representatives from the league,” said Dustin Christean who has been refereeing for sixteen years, three of which for the High School basketball for the Officials’ Association (NENOA).

Officials are great at multi-tasking, not only do they have to deal with the game in general but they also have to deal with angry coaches, players, parents, and fans.

“It’s difficult to be indifferent to the pressure and responsibility that comes with reffing,” said Christean.

People love to hate refs and umps because they are passionate about their team’s interests at all costs,” said Christean. “When I’m not reffing, I am one of them… It’s easy to criticize officials, so you can’t let it bother you too much.”

Tim Connors who has been an official since 1983 and has officiated within three different states (including Nevada) said that the hardest part about officiating is being in situations where fans, even coaches, do not wholly understand the game and as an official is it difficult to explain the technicalities to an angry coach who does not understand the foul.

“The bottom line is, you’re no bigger than the game, go out and enjoy it… and have fun, yeah you’re going to get yelled at, that’s a part of it,” said Connors.

While many people like to blame referees for faults in the game, one should keep in mind that a referee’s job is very important. “If we don’t show up, they don’t have a game,” said Bryan Mahoney who has been refereeing basketball for 42 years.

With all of these things to worry about, why would one want to become a referee? Is it the money? Is it the enjoyment? “The better officials that are doing the games aren’t out there for the money, they’re out there for the pure enjoyment of the game,” said Connors.

Christean said that he officiates for the enjoyment, “I like staying active and involved, but more than anything I learned a lot of valuable lessons from sports that I apply in my own life every day. It’s nice to give back to the game that helped me become a better person.”

Mahoney takes pleasure in both aspects, “I really enjoy it, it’s a thrill to do the games… and I don’t win or lose… if you coach you win and you lose and then when you lose you grieve about it, but when you ref, you come, you do a great job, you get paid, (you) go buy a hamburger.”

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