Referees play a vital role in sports by providing leadership and guidance to players. In many sports, referees can have significant power and influence on the final outcome of a game as they are responsible for enforcing the rules, validating goals and sanctioning fouls and misconduct. It can also be a point of contention at times.
“The world of sports would not be possible if there weren’t referees,” said Herica Handley, assistant women’s volleyball coach. “They determine every call and initiation of each play or rally. In theory, they determine the outcome of every game, but we must remember that they spend so many hours of their lives learning the rules and training before they can ref an event.”
While referees’ decisions help maintain the standards of the game, they often lead to controversial discussions.
“I remember the situation when we lost a match because of the wrong referee’s decision,” said Michalina Rola, member of the women’s volleyball team and junior exercise science major. “In situations where you cannot quite tell whether someone scored correctly or made a mistake, referees decide who gets the point.
“When I played in the Polish national team against Russia at some tournament, the referees misjudged the most important action of the match to our disadvantage and there was no way to use the video challenge.”
Although referees’ decisions are controversial, Georgia Kehoe, member of the women’s volleyball team and master’s of business administration student, does not blame referees for their bad calls.
“Even if I have lost games because of referees’ calls, they have a system in place to make sure calls are fair and consistent,” Kehoe said. “I think someone is always going to have a problem with the way a referee calls fouls, but the biggest part of the game is to be able to move past bad calls and adjust to how they are refereeing.”
Coaches and players can always talk to the referees about what happened with a controversial call. When a team still does not approve a decision, they can also ask for the use of technology to judge the action fairly.
“The players themselves know best what happened, so they feel whether the referee’s decision is correct or not,” Rola said. “You can usually see from the reactions of players and coaches if the call was wrong.
Fortunately, at the Division-I level, we have the possibility to take a challenge and check the action in slow motion to be able to regain a point after a misinterpretation by the referee. In such a situation, a video challenge is very useful, where you can replay the situation and see exactly what happened.”
When referees make a bad call, Handley stresses the importance of rebounding by moving forward.
“Everyone will react to calls differently, but it is something that can be trained within a team, both consciously and subconsciously,” Handley said. “This is a team’s — or even a player’s — specific answer. If you have a reactive coach that yells at the referee every other play, then the players may learn to get frustrated as well. The more you teach your players that when you respect them and give them the freedom to make the correct calls, then there will not be as much tension, and the players can focus on their match and not let it bleed into their future performance.”
Referees are a part of the sport many athletes play and are here to stay, good or bad.