With refs, fans should man up — or ease up

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If reffing were easy, everyone would do it.


If there was any glory or obvious satisfaction in it, we’d get a few more refs than we have now — but the difficulty of the job would still scare away many.
While there are still many officials’ calls I either don’t understand, or don’t agree with, I respect the work they do. They can shut down a venue or contest or clear the fans out at any time, and I’m actually surprised they don’t clear a gym or field more often.
Often, the fans jump on a ref even more quickly than they would for a strange coaching decision — though there seem to be as many former coaches in the stands as there are ref critics. Every official that I’ve spoken with in New Mexico has at least some sort of playing or coaching experience, so it would be great to see more parents and coaches step up and become officials.
If the time commitment is too draining or impractical, I understand. But if you can’t do what refs do, give them a little more slack as they make efforts to improve their skills on an ongoing basis.
Referees give up nights and weekends in a different way than coaches, and don’t get to use it as a way to spend time with their kid, who is often on a coach’s team. Referees are compensated, and get to travel to different parts of the state in a way that makes me jealous, but again, if lots of New Mexicans could do it, we wouldn’t have the umpire and official shortages I hear about.
There do seem to be more basketball and football refs available than in other sports, such as baseball. This must be frustrating to the New Mexico Activities Association, because there seem to be an awful lot of baseball dads standing around, second-guessing high school coaches.
If these folks have their afternoons and Saturdays free to snicker about coaches (and in some cases, umpires showing up late or being unavailable), they have time to attend training and do some umpiring themselves.
Sports such as soccer, where the pool of talent is so small, are still at a point where the tail wags the dog — officials seem to be in control of what time and day matches can be played, and whether varsity or junior varsity or girls or boys will play first.
Imagine if the Belen and Los Lunas boys basketball coaches, Patrick Mondragon and Travis Julian, met in a county gym for a typical 4 p.m. C-team game. What if the game officials announced the varsity would suddenly have to play at 4 p.m., with the freshman taking the court after varsity and junior varsity were done? No one would stand for officials doing this in New Mexico’s most popular sports — so why do we let the lack of officials continue to rule the way other sports are run?
One solution is to rally as many adults to ref as possible, and to build a talent base of young officials that will stick around. I know this isn’t easy, but if we can’t get more parents to stop bickering and show they really do care about the growth of sports in their state, some sports will continue to be held back.
I’m not suggesting coaches give up coaching in favor of officiating. But if there are some former coaches looking for ways to improve a sport, especially sports not called football or basketball, it would be great to see adults add to the pool of officials instead of simply griping about a soccer play or substitution violation.


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.