by Kieran Rock & Sean Sonnemann, Editor and Editor-in-Chief
A whistle blows. A foul is called. Eyes roll, players grumble, coaches yell and fans groan.
Whether they are called umpires, officials or referees, the men and women who perform the thankless task of enforcing the rules of the game are some of the most maligned figures in sports.
The student workers who maintain order on the courts and fields of Manhattan College’s intramural program are no exception, especially when playoff games come around and those coveted championship t-shirts are within reach.
“It can be intense,” Kyle deManincor, recreation coordinator, said. “For some [players], this is as far as you’re going to go for the rest of your athletic career, unfortunately. This is kind of like your Super Bowl, your NBA finals, your World Series, so they do take it pretty intense.”
That passion for the game and desire to win can sometimes translate into arguments with student referees, especially when an official’s ruling can ultimately be the difference between winning and losing the game.
“For the most part they are pretty mellow,” deManincor said, “but there will be games, especially come playoff time, where things get heated.”
Those students who have to be on the receiving end of players’ complaints take on the role of referee as part of the college’s work study program. No prior experience is needed to work as an official, only somewhat of a sports background and a desire to learn more about the game.
Before every season of intramurals begins, deManincor provides some basic training to his student referees. This includes going over the logistics of how the fields and courts should be set up, reading through the rulebooks for each sport and walking through possible scenarios that could arise during play.
“I have a tremendous, tremendous staff,” he said. “They are the backbone of the program. There would be no intramurals without the student staff.”
deManincor said the bulk of training ultimately comes on the job. He encourages new referees to work as many different sports as possible and will often pair up new employees with seasoned officials to learn the ropes. He does also go over how to handle confrontations with players and explains to his referees the importance of having a thick skin and maintaining professionalism.
Marissa Schmidt works as a student referee and knows the importance of this firsthand.
“Sometimes tensions will get high,” she said, “and kids will get caught up in the game, and they’ll get mad at you for a certain call or whatnot. I have never had a problem with a student, but I’ve seen kids argue with some of my co-workers and at that point we have to remind them we are the authority in the game.”
One of the challenges of maintaining that authority is the fact that both player and referee are students, at times even classmates and friends.
When LeBron James exchanges heated words with a referee over a call for charging, he does not have to sit next to him in class the next morning or later work together on a group presentation. But deManincor said the majority of intramural participants will often apologize to student referees after the game, if a dispute does arise.
Most games pass without a problem, serving as a chance for students to remain active and have some fun with friends while playing a sport they enjoy.
Rob Durante is a frequent particpant in tramurals.
“Sometimes there are arguments in terms of the players don’t feel that the referees take their job seriously enough. So they like to argue. Then again, even in professional sports players argue with referees so it is almost part of the game,” Durante said. “But there probably should be more respect shown to the people that are making it possible for us to play sports.”