Most officials at some point in the journey have to deal with family related issues, being away from home at key stages of the lives of their children and missing important dates, like birthdays or anniversaries. It creates stress. It isolates you from the biggest group you need support from — your family.
To remain centered, Chuck Walters, a high school baseball umpire from Jackson, Mich., who considers himself fortunate to have a wife behind him 100 percent, suggested setting aside time to attend kids’ events. He worked Fridays when his son Chuck had JV football games on Thursdays, then Thursdays when his son had Friday varsity games. Similarly, when his daughter Stacy ran track, he worked his schedule around that.
He also put aside the money made from officiating for their college education and for special occasions.
Saying “my wife Judie could write the late-night cookbook,” Walters continued, “If your better half is not with you, you can’t officiate and do it right. You’re no better than your spouse’s support.”
Susan Bargo, a former NCAA Division I women’s basketball official who currently helps administer six leagues, called it the most difficult issue to cope with for an official. “You have to remember officiating at the higher levels is a business, while it’s also a passion.
You have to keep your priorities in order,” she said. “If your family is not supportive, you’re not going to make it. You need that support system.”
Family has to be first. Sometimes Bargo said she didn’t take games that would have advanced her in the officiating world. Take what’s given and establish your priorities. “I was fortunate; my family and friends always supported me,” she said.
“It’s funny,” NCAA soccer official Kelly Witt laughed, “but my family would say to me growing up, ‘Get a life,’ because I was reffing every day. Then they saw that I was given the opportunity to travel all over the United States and officiate and they became very supportive.”
She had a specific issue actually, with her husband, relative to her travel with male partners. “I asked him to try reffing and see what he thought,” she said. “I told him if he didn’t like it, he could quit. Now, three years into his refereeing career, he has realized that your fellow referees are not like a normal co-worker relationship but rather more of a brother-sister relationship. We are a family.
“You can have cat fights with them, and it’s hard for outside people to understand that.”
Mike McCarron, a San Francisco and Bay Area football official, too, has had a supportive wife, and suggested setting aside officiating fees to spend on a gift at the end of the season, like a special vacation. It helped him when his younger son would umpire with him, and it’s also helped that his wife is a school teacher, which keeps her busy grading papers when he is on the diamond. “She relates to the demands of the games, and how much joy it gives me as a diversion from work,” McCarron said.
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