URec officials face tough training, even tougher decisions
Limited training and high expectations lead to a stressful, but worthwhile experience for University Recreation referees.
A total of 175 students applied this year and about half were selected for face-to-face interviews. After the interviews were completed, rules are reviewed in the classroom to get the officials accustomed to making difficult calls quickly.
These training sessions are part of a one-day crash course that usually takes around eight hours and are led by intramural supervisors and veteran officials. This helps them to learn the basics, but nothing is comparable to officiating an actual game.
"We prepare them as much as we possibly can," said Amanda Alpert, a graduate assistant for URec. "Its tough because we can only overturn calls that are against the rules and not judgment calls."
The URec staff tries to remind people everyone makes mistakes and encourages fellow officials to back each other up even if there is a disagreement about the call.
"Players respect you more if you support fellow referees and are stern with your call," said Evan Crank, a Macomb senior and URec Official of the Year.
It can be a learning curve for some, as only undergraduate and graduate students are allowed to be intramural referees.
An official's first judgment is usually what stands, even if the call was incorrect. Both Crank and fellow official Taylor Gibson said they have questioned their own calls before, but have to stick to their gut instinct.
With experience at Ferris State University, Gibson said one of the most difficult times she's had officiating was during the fraternity and sorority championships because of the number of people watching.
"Being confident with your call is hard under pressure," the Elwell junior said. "People sometimes forget that officials are humans, too."
Some of these high-profile championship events are reserved for the most-qualified officials. Throughout the regular season, officials are evaluated, and this feedback gives them the opportunity to participate.
Crank decided to gain experience with higher levels of competition in order to polish his skills. After officiating a regional basketball tournament at Oakland University, Crank said he had a great learning experience because of the faster pace of the games.
"There are a lot more people watching you at these events and they went over film to show us our mistakes and good calls," Crank said.
In addition to these off campus opportunities, many referees become URec supervisors or continue to go on to work as directors, coordinators, or graduate assistants at CMU.
As a physical education major, Crank would be interested in one of these positions, but wishes to be a coach one day because refereeing has given him more respect for the game and for the officials who make the calls.
"One of the big things is being open-minded," Crank said. "Seeing everyone's point of view and not getting frustrated is important."
More referees are needed for sports like flag football or basketball, but unconventional sports like Quidditch or Battleship are up for grabs for volunteers. Referees for these sports are given even less training than traditional intramural sports.
"We don't want to force anyone to referee a sport if they don't want to," Alpert said. "We give them a briefing about the rules and then it's kind of learn as you go"