Haines School officials are recruiting for what may be the hardest job in town to fill.
Due to a lack of local basketball referees, school activities director Tiana Taylor is organizing a clinic Nov. 15-17 for those interested in officiating middle school and high school basketball games.
Juneau referees Ron Taug and Joel Osborn will lead the clinic, which includes classroom sessions as well as hands-on learning through scrimmages. At the end of the clinic, attendees will take a written test to become certified through the Alaska School Activities Association.
The class is free, and attendees will be reimbursed the $60 certification fee if they agree to referee for the 2013-2014 season, Taylor said.
The district has had a hard time getting and keeping refs long-term, Taylor said. She only has one person signed up as a “maybe” for the upcoming season.
“It’s probably pretty hard to get out there in front of the whole town and then deal with people when they don’t like your calls... When you go out in public and somebody yells at you about the call you made against their kid, it makes it hard,” she said.
Resident Joe Parnell, who has refereed basketball in Haines for a decade, is no stranger to the friction that comes with the job.
Fans and coaches get overemotional sometimes, he said, and often lack an objective perspective on what is happening in the game. “People say things, but they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Parnell, who called the job “challenging” and the fans “brutal,” said people misunderstand what constitutes a foul. “A lot of the fans think it’s always a foul on defense. Unless it’s their team, then it’s never a foul.”
Parnell has watched enough professional sports to know it’s always the ref who gets the grief. “They are looking for someone to vent on and the ref has been accepted by our culture as the object of venting,” he said. “You’ve got to have thick skin. That’s the bottom line.”
Former referee Roger Schnabel, who coached for about five years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, said he was able to shut out the noise of the crowd. “The coaches and their criticisms and concerns generally didn’t bother me. As far as the spectators, they didn’t bother me at all; that wasn’t really an issue. I was able to carve that out and ignore that,” he said.
The biggest problem, Schnabel felt, evolved from a lack of support among the other referees. (Basketball games use three referees).
“We’re all supposed to be working together; we’re all supposed to support each other and I didn’t feel like I had the support of the other refs, and maybe I wasn’t as supportive as I could have been,” Schnabel said.
“It got to the point where you would think, ‘Am I just a loner out there?’ The coaches don’t like you; the crowd, they have their opinion about you. Your fellow refs are your only support base, and that sort of fell out on me,” he said.
Still, he wouldn’t discourage people from getting involved. It’s great exercise, and somebody has to do it, Schnabel said.
Local coaches should also be involved in the process of selecting, supporting and training local referees, he said.
“It could possibly be done by having potential referees come to scrimmages and practice. Those wanting to try it could get advice, some level of comfort and positive criticism from coaches that most likely know the rules better than anyone,” Schnabel said.
Longtime local referee Don Nash said this week that officiating here isn’t as bad as in some other towns, where refs are escorted by police out of gyms after games.
“We use the rules to control the game and make it fair. Players and coaches use the rules to try to gain an advantage. That’s where the friction comes,” Nash said.
Referee Taug, who is co-leading the clinic and has participated in referee training in Juneau for 15 years, said getting better at refereeing is a matter of practice, just like everything else.
“Every tournament and every game, you’re going to encounter coaches who are vocal and you’re going to encounter fans that are vocal. The more experience you have dealing with coaches and fans, you’re more likely to not have it affect you as an official,” Taug said.
Contact Tiana Taylor at 766-6700 ext. 1 to sign up.