Referee Diary

* This is a non-DIII page that deals with my thoughts as I start down my club refereeing path. This is really for more own enjoyment but you are welcome to read and comment, if you like. First entry is at the bottom of the page. *


Another two-day tournament in the books and I think my body is learning to recover quicker now. My feet still hurt but not nearly as much as the first couple of tournaments. I do have an ear that is causing me problems and it’s probably a result from the noise. Most of the referees use ear plugs of some kind but I haven’t figured that out just yet.

Let’s start with Saturday, which consisted of 8 matches covering 12s, 13s and 14s. This was a non-ranking tournament so it consisted mostly of club teams. I had a relatively easy schedule where I was off for the first match and then had two matches followed by a break. There was also break between the morning and afternoon waves. This was by far the easiest day I’ve experienced refereeing as nothing went late and the breaks allowed me to recharge. The play wasn’t the best but there was a lot of joy in the gym and that’s always a good thing. For the most part with these ages and skill level, there wasn’t a lot I wanted to call. Again, I believe it’s important to let these age groups enjoy whatever rally comes their way and only make calls when a team gains an advantage over another through a “broken” play on the ball. I did monitor the referees that drew the first match and they were taking the same approach. One thing of interest was that the sport courts didn’t stretch to the seating area so there was the allure of starting serves on the concrete, which isn’t allowed. There were some referees that weren’t calling this but I was. I tried my best to warn the captains and the servers when I saw them starting too far back. But, there were a few that would start on the sports court at the beckon for serve and then back into the concrete before contacting the ball.


*Coach yells at first referee*

*First referee calls over captain and reminds her that I warned her about that.*

*Captain tells coach*

*Coach continues to yell at first referee*

*Players from that team stopped violating the rule*

I guess the important thing is that the action stopped after the first time it was called. Hey, I don’t make these rules up…I’m just here to enforce them.

I had a lot of good interaction with my working teams, which is probably my most enjoyable time on the court. I had one coach tell me that they hadn’t had a pre-match briefing from the first referee since December and she was thankful that I did them. I’m starting to get into the bad habit of messing with my working team during matches. Like during time-outs I’ll wave to my lines people to move to the center of the end line. I’ll then spend about 10 seconds moving them right and then left and then right until they figure out I’m messing with them. Or when the scorer tells me there has been 1 time out taken and I motion that they’ve taken 4 as confirmation. This takes a second to register with them but they get the joke. One joke that I think is funny but hasn’t gone over to well is when I call for captains at the start of the match and state this is a 12s Club Bronze match when the teams are really 16s. They usually agree that, in fact, it is a 12s Club Bronze match and which point I have failed smile.

Not a lot to report from Saturday. Good kids. Good parents and good coaches. Good day. Oh, I did run into another former teammate that had a daughter playing on one of the teams. It’s weird people can recognize me but I can’t with them. I just figure my good looks have stayed with me for the last 20 years. Either that or there are not a lot of 6′ 6″ Shrek looking humans in the world.

Sunday saw 6 matches on the docket and things didn’t go as smoothly. To start with, I drew the 15s Gold semi-final and final matches. Not complaining but after a day with younger kids, this is sort of getting thrown into the fire. I did make another illegal serve call in the finals, which went over like a ton of bricks. I was really proud of the lines person that also made the call. Learning! That’s what I do! In the end, two really fun matches to officiate/watch. This match was actually on the center court and drew quite a crowd but it also had the eyes of the head referee for the tournament. After the match he noted that my beckon for serve arm and “side out” arm is positioned too high (it should be level with my shoulder and I do raise it for some weird reason). He also mentioned that my thumb will be spread from my hand. I’ve been told about that in the past and I’ve made improvements but time to refocus on these mechanics. After a small break, I drew three sets in a row that consisted of a 14s semi-final match, a 14s consolation match and then a 15s Silver match. I had two matches go 3 games which is never fun but my last match wasn’t on this court so it shouldn’t impact me getting out of there later in the day. I ran into a friend (former HS teammate) of my daughter’s that was coaching one of the 15s team so that was cool. Hard to get volleyball out of your system! I did have a brain fart moment during the 14s consolation match when the rally went out for (literally) 3 hours. Neither team really hit the ball and a lot of first or second hits over the net. Well, at some point, a ball comes over the net and the first contact is a huge double so I blow my whistle. I then immediately realized my mistake (I swear the rally had almost put me to sleep). As a true USVBA professional referee, I slap my head really hard and motion for a replay. I don’t think anyone really cared but those are the things that really bother me. During the first game of that match, I thought I would call a tougher line with regards to hands since I just came off a good 14s semi-final match. Well, after making one call early, I quickly realized that the skill level of the teams was not going to allow for that. Multiple bad sets occurred and I let them go…I think I let go of too many of them. Oh well…not my best effort in that match. When done I was about an hour late so I missed my break. I noticed my last court was warming up so I rushed over to find that they were also an hour late. In the end, I got my break but was over an hour late getting out of the facility as mine was the last court to finish.

Let’s see, I did have to issue a yellow card (second referee’s request) in the 14s semi-final match. Not sure all of what happened but needless to say those two coaches didn’t get along too well. Both complained to me about the other but not a lot I could do.

That’s about it…pretty boring for the most part, but nobody told you to read this.


Looks like I’m scheduled for the weekend of the 17th and although I had blocked out virtually all of March, I got scheduled for a one-day tournament on March 3rd.

I forgot one interesting tidbit from my last tournament…I had a coach that didn’t want to play until their scheduled time. In other words, we are in the second day of the tournament and doing the playoffs. All matches are best of 3 so although an hour is reserved for a match, they can go long. Because of this, the tournament (via the referees) like to get the tournaments started early assuming the two teams scheduled and the work team are agreeable (which they almost always are). Well, I’m about to get the 10:00 match going at 9:30. Since one of the teams hadn’t played that day, the tournament gives them an extra 3 minutes of shared warm-up before going to their individual warm-up time. Well, when I inform the coach that the shared time is about over, he tells me that they are not playing until the schedule 10:00 time. I explain the situation and ask if he has everyone there. He does but they are not warmed up enough. He asks me to confirm the start time with the head referee. At this point, my brain is spinning at how ridiculous this request is but to avoid a showdown (and a protest) I confirm this with the head referee. (Note – The head referee was also befuddled by my question, which forced me to repeat it multiple times.) I go back to the coach, figuring he’d be happy that he received an additional 3 minutes for the warm-up (the amount of time to walk over and back) and he yells at me that he’ll sue the entire tournament if any of his players get injured. Things calmed down after that but I couldn’t shake the thought that this coach had a 15s or 16s team and didn’t know that we try to get these tournaments done before midnight.


Long weekend and my feet are still numb from all of the standing. Nine matches on Saturday that stretched from 8 a.m. to a little past 9 p.m. The tournament decided to play Best of 3 during pool play, which (for me) meant that 6 of my last 7 matches went three. This meant my 2 hour lunch break turned into 5 minutes and I had less than an hour total of down time on Saturday. “Only” six matches on Sunday and thankfully all of them stayed on schedule.

Saturday saw my second yellow card to a very vocal coach. It’s interesting because there is a rather new club in our area and it seems that everyone of their coaches likes to complain about everything. I’ve encountered three of their teams across different age groups and had issues in each match. I drew the 14 Open division on Saturday and other than the yellow card and the long matches, things went well. I may have also had a 15 Open match but my mind is still mush and I can’t remember. My biggest enjoyment from Saturday was getting to watch two of Southwestern’s biggest supporters (and ladies that are most awesome) play volleyball for the first time. (Uh…I watched them for the first time…they’ve played before. Man I good write stuff.)

When the Sunday matches were posted, I got a little worried as I was assigned the 16 Gold division and this would be the first time working that age group. I also drew a 15s match and a 13s match. I felt I handled all of the matches pretty well so it’s just the 17s and 18s left to referee at some point. The big news from Sunday was my very first protest. In hindsight, the situation arose through a lack of communication between the coach, my down referee (R2) and myself. The coach was without his assistant and needed to use the bathroom between the first and second set. Unfortunately, I was unaware of this and the lineup wasn’t turned in for the second game in time. As luck would have it, this team was playing a team from the aforementioned club that complains a lot and they wanted blood. (Side note, why? What good does it do to anyone to take this stand? I’ve now encountered two teams on the year that demanded delay warnings for situations that were better left handled in a civil manner between the officials and both teams.) By letter of the law, the offending team deserved a delay warning and so I issued it. The offending coach then protested that the lineup had to be submitted within 4 minutes and he had done this. In truth, the tournament allowed 3 minutes between games and the coach had missed the window. Again, any kind of discussion before the coach left the bench would have probably diffused the issue. Long story a bit longer…the protest was denied and after a lengthy delay the match resumed. In an odd bit of fortune, my following match had the same situation come up. The coach requested more warm-up time to attend to “business”. I cleared it with the opposing coach, who obviously was fine with it and life went on. At my next tournament, I’ll probably bring this up with more experienced referees to see how they would have handled the delay warning. In the end, if I hadn’t issued the delay warning, the other coach could have protested. I probably would have felt better about myself but would have lost that protest and still would have issued the delay warning.

Back to the 16s matches. The big deal for me here is the position of the setters and always knowing whether they are back row or not. There are more back row attacks and setter dumps at this age and there were two cases where I thought the setter was back row but didn’t make the initial call correctly. Once I saw where the setter moved to start the next point, it confirmed my thought process and I changed the call to be correct. Poor officiating in one respect by me but happy that I still got the calls correct. I definitely got better as the day went along but still an area I need to improve.

Transitioning from the 16s to the 13s was a tough one. Going from trying to establish a line for hands at the 16s level and then throwing everything out for the 13s was interesting. I probably let too much go but a long rally at the 13s level is a special joy in my mind.

That’s about it from the weekend. The toll on my eyes, ears and feet are still being felt. Oh, and it looks like I’ve got another tournament assigned in two weeks.


My third tournament assignment is tomorrow and for the third straight time I’m going through training videos on the Friday before to refresh my memory on some of my problem areas. Looks like I’ve got 14s tomorrow and that is a fun age for a beginning referee like myself. Looking forward to the very long weekend ahead (9 matches currently scheduled on Saturday).


Happy New Year everyone! Well, my second tournament is in the books. This time around I mainly had the 12 year old age group with a 13, 14 and a 15 age group match thrown in. I have to say that 12s are a bit harder for me primarily because they play on a really low net and due to my height, I feel like I’m on a tower. Just a strange perspective a few inches seems to make. For the most part with the 12s, you don’t call much as they are all just learning. Dealing with the working team can also be an adventure as they are new to scoring and line judging.

It was in the 12 age group that I made a call that I knew was wrong but felt I had to make it. Ball is bumped over and is heading out about 3 feet from the net to my left. I have to look down at a slight angle and when the ball hits, I know that it must have been out but I physically can’t see the line as it’s blocked by the ball. So, the ball is probably about 6 inches out but my angle doesn’t allow me to see it. Regardless, I blow the whistle, prepare myself for the out call and proceed to look at my working team. I’m still new to this and I catch myself always looking left than right at my line judges when it was really the judge on my right that should have had the call. My line judge on the left…no call. My R2…no call. My line judge on the right that should be waving an out signal…in! Oh, boy. Since I didn’t see any space between the ball and the line, I call it in and the gym erupts. I had parents on both sides telling me it was out. Coaches are in disbelief…players are in disbelief…frankly, I’m in disbelief. I call my R2 over and ask if he saw the play and he said he didn’t so the call stands. In the end, I think I’m right on this but so clearly wrong, too.

My last match was a 15s, which I really enjoyed. I feel that we really shouldn’t call much at the 12 and 13 level and then sprinkle in some refereeing love at the 14s. Well, in the referee room, there was some chatter during the day about the 15s complaining about the lack of calls. I was able to watch a part of a one game and saw the coaches complaining, as well. So, I mentally prepared to ratchet up the hands calls and watched the match before me to see what the standard was currently set at. I felt the official before me did a great job with her calls. During warm-ups, I noticed that all of the setters had decent hands so I felt this was going to go pretty well and in the end it did. Maybe 3 double calls over two sets. One lift call. One thing we were taught in our training is that you don’t have a universal hands setting for all age groups or skill levels. You don’t call a 12s match the same as an 18s. You don’t call a top level team at the 13s level the same as a bottom level 13s team. Anyway, the match went pretty smoothly and the only trouble was that one team consistently didn’t switch their libero/middles in properly. Each time, I would blow the whistle and kick the player off the court as they looked at me bewildered in order to make the switch between the attack line and end line. The coach knew what was going on and was also frustrated at her players. I can see why referees get complaints about being too picky but frankly if I don’t enforce that rule at this match then I stick the next official who referees their next match with the problem.

Oh, I did get rated/evaluated during this tournament as an R1. I’m happy to report that it was a lot of small stuff dealing with the mechanics of my calls. I’m holding my signals too low. My thumb needs to be pressed to the hand and not separate. My beckon for serve action was incorrect. A few other things like this. I spent the second half of Saturday and all day Sunday working on these items and by the end felt more comfortable with my new mechanics. Right now, I’m in an “In Process” status trying to get to Provisional. The difference means a few dollars more per match and the right to wear a badge on my uniform.

I’ll finish with a note that I happened to run into a guy that I played volleyball with at the Open level of USAV. He was the high flying outside that was probably 6 years my junior. I was the old man of the team. I probably hadn’t seen him for close to 20-years but he had a daughter in the tournament. Secretly, I took joy from seeing him older now (yeah, I know I’m still older, too). But, one of the side benefits of this new job is that I can reconnect with people that were part of my life a couple of decades ago.

Whoops, I lied, kind of…this will be the final entry for today -> A few hours after I posted the above, I was contacted that I’ve been moved from “In Process” to Provisional. So, yeah me!


I was just assigned another tournament in January. Until that time, some nerd refereeing tidbits:

  • I believe club ball is the only one still left that allows for the pursuit rule (i.e., player can chase the ball outside the antenna on the second contact and bring it back to their court for the third hit).
  • In USA VB, a ball cannot be brought back once it hits the vertical plane of the net and the player contacts the ball in that plane. All of those great setter plays to bring the ball back above the net are not allowed. Only association (I think) that has this rule.
  • USA VB considers a verbal warning part of the sanctioning process. Stage 1 of a warning is verbal, stage 2 is the yellow card. Once a yellow card is shown, all team members have achieved that level for the entire match. The next offense, regardless of who does it is a red card. Again, unique to USA VB, I think.


I debated writing something on this because it’s really not relevant to Division III volleyball but more personal in nature. But, I like to write and we are in the dog days of no college volleyball right now so here it is. I’ll hide this over to the left side of the menu and if you stumble across it consider it to be a Christmas Easter egg.

I guess I should mention that I retired at the end of September. Not exactly planned but a series of events made it the right choice and we are able to make it work. I’m now approaching my 3 month retirement anniversary and it’s been wonderful. Anyway, prior to retiring, I knew that I wanted to get into volleyball refereeing in preparation for retirement. I wanted to start doing activities that I enjoyed rather than working for a living in something that wasn’t always enjoyable (this blog was another offshoot of that decision). So, back in August, I started the process to become certified at the USA Volleyball junior club level. This past weekend, I was assigned to my first tournament, which happened to be two days in length. Before I really get started, in no way is this diary going to be specific to players, coaches, teams, etc. Just my general feelings and experiences.

Well, nervous doesn’t begin to describe my feelings going into the later part of last week. On Friday (day before the tournament), I reviewed about 6 training videos (again) on the areas that I felt I needed help. With me, it’s not so much the rules but the processes that are tied into the matches. How to handle the pregame briefing, for instance. I also needed a refresher on improper requests versus warnings versus cards.

Saturday morning (too early), I gathered my courage and my referee bag (packed the night before) and headed to the tournament. I was very fortunate because the host site is new and built specifically for volleyball. They had an amazing space for the referees and an incredible food spread. So far, a really good start. We had a very brief referee’s meeting and for the rest of the time, I just watched the experienced referees go through their routine. The big thing I noticed was that about half were filling out the score sheets for their matches. I didn’t do this but I collected the paperwork needed for my matches after discovering that I had the first match of the day (8 matches in total). I was assigned to the lowest age group (13s), which was expected. I double-checked my age specific rules, grabbed a ball, checked the pressure, discarded ball, picked a new ball, checked the pressure, altered pressure and headed to the court.

The teams were already warming up and my work team was in place. I laid out all of the papers I had collected on the table and began the process of getting the match underway. As to the match, it was rather uneventful. The big unknown is how tight to call a 13s match. By the end of the tournament, I realized that very few calls are made at this level and that makes sense. We want the teams playing, not stopping at every doubles call. With me, I looked for the wicked hands and even then some got past me. Where I may have differed was taking a harder look at the contacts that went over the net. I’m OK with a bad set to your team but a bad set over the net gains a team an advantage so I wanted to call these. My big lesson learned from my first match is NEVER leave a stack of papers (score sheets, etc.) on the scorer’s desk. They were all gone! Luckily, I was off the second match and could retrieve more (only to repeat my mistake again later in the day).

Overall the first day went fine. I did three matches in a row twice and was really thankful when a long rally came my way or a great defensive play was made. I enjoyed interacting with the teams and trying to educate on the rules without being a jerk. I was pleasantly surprised that I had no issues with anyone and that the parents were all on their best behavior (unlike me back in the day). By the end of the day, I could really tell that I had strained my eyes a bit. I mean that’s a lot of use for muscles that weren’t use to it. My feet were also very sore and my second lesson learned was that compression socks are in my future.

Second day means bracket play and the gold bracket was up first.  I handed out my first yellow card to a coach that was upset for a “missed” call of a ball outside the antenna. It was on the other side so I couldn’t see it and I had to go with my down ref and lines person. I also had to come off the chair once to handle a case where a team struggled with the libero rule and were illegally subbing in players through this rule. All innocent and part of the learning process for the coach and the working team at the scorers table. I was off the first match but was hit with 3 straight matches that all went long. (I did learn my lesson and filled out three matches worth of score sheets and only placed them on the table when that match was starting.) When done, I went back to the referee room to see a great lunch set out only to find out that I was scheduled for 3 straight again, starting 10 minutes ago. This was actually kind of cool as I got to do the silver bracket from start to finish. Things went more smoothly and stayed on time and I even had a 10 minute break when a team from another court wasn’t finished. My bladder was thankful and my stomach enjoyed two sausage rolls. In the end, I really had 6 straight matches starting at 9 a.m. that stretched until 4 p.m. I got to interact with a lot of great kids learning this wonderful sport as well as the coaches and parents. I got some thank you’s as I headed out the door, which was unexpected but appreciated. Thankfully any negative comments were kept out of my earshot. Having said that, I probably deserved one or two.

To finish this off, I’m well aware that as a player, I was a big jerk with an ego that didn’t come close to my skills. As a parent of a club player, I also know I could be annoying to both coaches and referees. I know that I mellowed after a crazy 17s club year with truly psychotic parents where I had to be the voice of reason. I also know that during college the referees would get a load of verbal buckshot from me at times. (One time this past season, I was so loud yelling “Double” that the referee thought it came from our coach. Our coach was then verbally warned but seeing the confusion on his face was priceless.)  Well, now I’m a referee so I get to experience the other side of things. I guess if any referee that has ever been annoyed at a Southwestern parent wants to find one of my matches and heckle me, I’ll be cool about it.