The refs have always hated our school, and we just lost a football game because of some really horrible calls. Why aren’t there better refs?
— F.K., Oakland
Actually, there are two questions, and the first is “Why do the refs hate my school?”
The answer to that one is simple: “They don’t.”
Look, officials work a lot of games in a lot of places and they simply don’t have the energy to remember that they really dislike this school so they’re going to call a lot of penalties, but they love this other school so they won’t. And think about it: When a ref sees what might be a penalty, does he stop and think which team did it before he throws the flag?
The answer is obviously no, and here’s proof. Presumably if officials go out of their way to make bad calls against one team, another team, or teams, is getting a bunch of good calls. So what team is that? What fans and what team anywhere believes the refs love them and give them good calls all the time?
Again, the answer is obvious: No one. Everyone feels like the refs are against them, everyone feels like they get robbed every game, and everyone wishes there were “better” refs — that is, refs who wouldn’t call any penalties on their team, and a bunch on the other team.
So first, refs don’t hate anyone, and don’t think about what schools are playing when they make calls. They’re just out there trying to do the best they can.
Which leads to question two, which is “Why aren’t there better refs?”
The answer to that one is simple too: “If a ref is exceptional, he’s doing college or pro; most likely, he’s doing high school games for the same reason coaches are coaching in high school — he wasn’t quite good enough to make the jump to the next level.”
Now let me be very clear: There are excellent officials and excellent coaches at the high school level, and plenty of both. But the cream of the crop, the 1 percent if you will, get promoted to the next level — and the result is you have high school-level coaches, high school-level officials and, more to the point, high school-level players.
Again, there are good players in high school, and some very good ones, just as there are good (and very good) coaches and refs, but all in all, the level of playing, coaching and officiating in high school is not at the level of the same game in college. And that’s why the refs are going to be shaky sometimes, just as coaches and players make mistakes as well.
There are other reasons for the perception that officiating isn’t good at the high school level, but I only have so much room in these columns, so I’ll let it go now. But remember, the refs probably don’t even know what your team mascot is, and don’t care whether you win or lose. And, just like the players and coaches, they’re doing the best they can every time out. Maybe they aren’t spectacularly good, but how many people involved in high school sports really are?
Clay Kallam is an assistant athletic director and girls varsity basketball coach at Bentley High in Lafayette. To submit a question for Behind the Clipboard, email Coach Kallam at firstname.lastname@example.org
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