They’re just like you, but they’re in charge. They make the calls and if you don’t like it, tough. After all, it’s their job.
With approximately 8,000 Miami students participating in intramural sports annually, nearly 75 student referees are in control of the game.
For love of the game
Miami University junior Chad Collins said he has the best job on campus.
A student referee for intramural football, basketball and softball games, Collins said he loves his job.
Collins began working as student referee in the spring of 2008 and has now worked his way up to supervisor. As a supervisor, Collins said he officiates only when other student referees can’t make a game, although he works about three nights a week.
The need for spending money brought Collins to Miami intramurals.
“I am a supervisor, which makes $7.35 an hour,” Collins said. “It is not much, but it is a lot of fun and you meet so many people.”
No matter the money, for Collins, it’s the love of the game that keeps him coming back.
“It’s a lot of fun because you can joke with (student players) while they play,” Collins said. “I have met a ton of great people since I have been a ref.”
Like Collins, sophomore Lauren McClune began as a student referee last year and is now a supervisor. McClune, who officiates for volleyball, said she has played the sport since she was very young.
While McClune said she enjoys her job, she said it can be stressful.
“It’s fun but for the first couple games it’s very nerve-wrecking because you’re worried about people getting mad at the calls that you make,” McClune said.
Now a supervisor, McClune said she is more relaxed to stand on the sideline to ensure necessary equipment and first-aid and CPR materials are available.
“It’s more hours a week and more responsibility but I enjoy being a part of the game,” McClune said.
Students as officials
According to Ruchelle Dunwoody, director of Miami’s intramural and club sports, student referees complete multiple training sessions for each sport they officiate to learn the rules and prepare for possible scenarios.
Dunwoody said training processes are designed to prepare referees for any situation.
“Training involves mechanics and positioning where they go through possible scenarios,” Dunwoody said. “They have one day of rules training then two days of live practice training where they scrimmage and supervisors who are officiating critique them on things they could do better.”
Dunwoody said student referees with experience playing the sport they plan to officiate are preferred, but experience is not required.
“We generally want them to play the sports but we’ve also had people try officiating the sport without any experience and they always do really well,” Dunwoody said.
To junior Mark Andrea, using student referees allows for a better playing environment than if professional referees were used.
“For intramurals, I like (student referees), because I think it provides a more relaxed environment,” Andrea said. “I mean, intramurals are supposed to be fun. I think if it were an adult (officiating) the atmosphere would change.”
Yet while student referees create an informal environment, Andrea said he has noticed problems with attendance or attention paid to the games.
“It’s intramurals, so I wouldn’t expect the university to employ adult referees,” Andrea said. “It’s a good way to make more people involved. The only drawback that I’ve experienced is that they run late or sleep in, things like that. They may be late to the games. I’ve also had problems with referees because I’ve noticed that they don’t always pay completely attention to the games, it seems.”
While student referees may do their best to control the game in a fair manner, officiating peers is a complicated roll.
Andrea said he recalls tension between his teammates and the referee over a call during an intramural volleyball match.
“Our freshman year, we had an issue with a game on a line to go to the tournament, but one of our players was mouthing off to the ref and the ref clearly didn’t like us, so they made bad calls,” Andrea said.
Collins agreed, saying it’s not always fun and games. Collins said matches occasionally get heated when student players disagree with his calls.
“People get mad at calls I make all the time,” Collins said. “If the call is not for them, then they will have some comment about it, (but) it doesn’t make me feel weird because I play all the sports too and get upset like they do. But if I am reffing and someone gives me serious attitude, then I do what is needed to take control of the game because when I ref, it’s in my court.”
With years of experience playing the sports he currently officiates, Collins said he feels completely qualified to be a student referee.
According to Andrea, it may be hard for student referees to put aside personal feelings.
“The whole game, (my teammate) was pestering (the referee) and then it came down to this one play,” Andrea said. “When we complained she got a whole ‘I’m the referee I’m the boss’- that whole complex … and we lost the game.”
Despite his one negative experience, Andrea said that student referees are qualified to officiate intramural college games.
“For the most part I think they know what they’re doing, they know the rules of the game that they’re officiating,” Andrea said.
According to Dunwoody, it is not uncommon for students like Andrea to disagree with student referee judgment calls, however, Dunwoody said she has never encountered any serious problems.
Despite the hours and responsibility, both Collins and McClune said they never regret their work for intramural sports.
And according to Dunwoody, it’s worth the effort.
“I think it’s a difficult job but it’s a lot of fun once you understand it,” Dunwoody said. “It can teach you a lot about teamwork, supervising, leadership and commitment.”