Captain’s Tip: Learning to Referee

Everyone Loves to Ref, Right…?

Carolyn Vranesic

Carolyn Vranesic, GoodLife Valhalla Captain and A Division Convenor

As a new convenor for the TDSWA, I have had to spend a bit more time thinking about the rules and mandate of the league. Providing a fun and supportive environment for women of all levels to play competitive squash is more complex than you might think! The number one challenge in meeting this mandate is refereeing. The challenge is to provide good, quality refereeing while still maintaining a positive learning environment.  Let’s face it – good, quality refereeing is a long term goal!

I remember being terrified when I first started playing in tournaments and in T & D and had to ref. Basically I tried to get out of it any chance I could!  A number of things helped me get over this fear:

  1. I watched other matches being refereed and would (and still do) ask other more seasoned players if I had any questions about the calls.
  2. Positive encouragement from players I was refereeing was a big help. One gentleman (and he was one!) reassured me that no one is a perfect ref. He encouraged me to do my best and stand by my calls. He was quite confident that missed calls would go both ways.
  3. I stopped trying to avoid refereeing and got more experience. I am by no means an expert, but I am no longer shaking in my shoes when called upon to ref a match.

How can you be sure you are making the right call?

You can’t be 100% sure all of the time.  Learning and knowing the rules is important. After that, it is a matter of practice.  When in doubt (if you think there’s been interference and you are not sure how to call something), ruling in favour of a let is never a bad option. As you get more experience, calling interference will become easier, but it’s never perfect! The game happens quickly, and learning to make quick, decisive calls takes practice. Contact the TDWSA Chair ([email protected]) if you have questions or would like to set up a rules and refereeing clinic at your club.

What should the referee do when a player argues a call?

A player can question a call or ask for the referee’s rationale. This must be done respectfully and not with the intention to have the call overturned. Once an explanation has been given, the referee can simply say, “I am ruling it a …, please play on.”

What if it escalates into something more belligerent?

The referee can advise that the decision has been made and that the offending player must resume play. If the player does not resume playing, the referee can issue a conduct warning, a conduct stroke, a conduct game, or a conduct match, depending on the severity of the offence. Hopefully, this level of intervention will not be required. In this instance, it may also be okay for the referee to say something like: “I am not a certified referee. I am calling the game as accurately as I can. I need you to remain respectful. Please play on.”

A final thought…

The beauty of participating in the TDSWA is that it enables women to play competitive squash in a fun and supportive environment. In my opinion, the following Spirit of the Game principles taken from Ultimate Frisbee can help keep everything in perspective:

  • Assume the referee is trying her best.
  • Never play at the expense of mutual respect among competitors or referees.
  • Always do your best to adhere to the rules.
  • Never take away from the basic joy of play.

See you at a reffing clinic!