Imay not have felt this way in my younger days, but now that I'm older, I sometimes sympathize with referees.
I understand they're people, too. They're human. They make mistakes. And I realize I certainly wouldn't want to be in their shoes.
Referees have a tough job. There are always going to be one group of fans that agrees with a call and another group that sees it differently. But all anyone should want is a well-called, evenly-officiated game.
That's why I'm on board with adding a third official to York-Adams League boys' and girls' varsity basketball games this season, so long as it means the game will be better officiated.
By the sound of things, though, it's not clear if that will be the case. Just take a look at the Lancaster-Lebanon League. For the last two seasons in boys' basketball, the L-L League has left it up to coaches to decide if they want two or three officials for certain games.
"From the officials' standpoint, they think it's a better-quality game," said Dick Balderson, who has been the L-L League executive director since 1994. "From the coaches' standpoint, they think it's a better-quality game with three experienced officials on the floor. It's bad when you have two guys on the floor and a third who doesn't blow his whistle because he's inexperienced."
Some York-Adams League coaches are split on the addition of a third referee, a move that was made official at a league meeting in October. It will mark the first time the league will have three officials for basketball games in its 52-year history.
"Having another set of eyes out on the court will definitely help to clean up the game a little bit," Dover boys' coach Brian Schmoyer said. "It will help to prevent any serious incident or issue happening."
York High boys' coach Troy Sowers feels differently.
"I've always been a fan of two referees," Sowers said. "I think that's adequate. It seems the more referees you have the more the chance there is to blow the whistle."
More calls lead to more foul shots. And more foul shots mean the game will be slowed down.
Gordy Kauffman, of the York-Adams Chapter of PIAA Basketball Officials, is aware of that. Kauffman oversees the chapter's basketball officials and officiates league games. He also officiates NCAA Division III collegiate games, which have three officials. He feels having three referees in the league will curb rough play while also providing more opportunities for officials to talk with coaches. And he thinks the move will help the league retain officials.
"In the last few years we lost some referees either because they wanted to do varsity or haven't been given enough opportunities at the varsity level," Kauffman said. "Some have been leaving for the Mid-Penn, which has had three officials for awhile."
In addition, it won't cost the league extra dollars. To make the deal work so there would be no extra cost to school districts, referees at the varsity, junior varsity and junior high levels are all taking a pay cut. The third official for each varsity game will be drawn from the junior varsity game and the varsity officials will still be paid more than those at the junior varsity level. At the same time, that means younger and possibly inexperienced officials might be calling varsity games.
Kauffman said he understands that, and the York-Adams Chapter is trying to take proper steps by preparing its officials. For example, he said the chapter held a one-day clinic in the fall at Messiah College for nearly 50 of its officials to learn from NCAA Division I referees.
"I'm not saying there won't be inexperienced guys out there, but the one thing the league has done is that we're trying to get the best officials in the best games," Kauffman said. "Not only that, we'll always have an experienced official in a game to oversee any problems that may occur. We're not going to put three inexperienced guys out there together on one night."
The good part is that the deal is on a one-year trial basis, meaning the league could still opt to go back to two officials in the future. So, why not give three officials a shot?
It may turn out to be a good thing for the game. Or not. We'll find out this season.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.