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. *


I don’t think many people have found this little corner of the website and that’s just fine. I decided to take the season off this year. Training came at a bad time (near my daughter’s wedding and then when I was sick). My wife also doesn’t like me doing this because it takes away the weekends and she is still working so we have less time together. I do enjoy it and will get back at it next season.

I will leave with one (maybe) funny story. During the season when I attend matches in North Texas, I’ll run across referees working the matches that I work with in club. It makes it hard to be an obnoxious Southwestern fan when I know the referees but in the end it doesn’t stop me. During the Pacific Lutheran / Southwestern match hosted at UT-Dallas, the R2 (down referee) was the head of the North Texas officials. I was sitting behind him watching the match and decided to just heckle him the entire time. I would question his training since, after all, he is the one that does the training. I’d ask how long he’s been doing this job because it’s apparent he’s pretty clueless. Stuff like that. You could see him holding back laughter and you could see the entire scorers bench laughing and wondering who this idiot was talking to the head of officials. PLU won the first set and Southwestern came back to win the second. At that point, I slowly but loudly said that I thought he did a much better job in the second set than the first and he needed to keep that going. He finally turned around and said I was going to be in trouble during training this year. I’m actually kind of sad I had to miss it.


I haven’t been jotting down my thoughts this year for my tournaments. I’ve done a few since January but I just finished a one-day tournament that will probably be my last for the season. It was a 14s Tournament that didn’t have the best teams. I was feeling really bad the night before and had thought to call in sick but it really puts the head referee in a bind. I make it to the tournament and I feel horrible. I’m thinking about just leaving but I stick it out while hoping extra referees show up. As it turns out, one of the referees doesn’t show and we only have one extra referee. I stick it out and feel better once I get to my court.

For the first time ever, I do all 6 matches in the morning pool. Three on my first court and since we were ahead, I get a 15 minute break and then take the last three matches on another slower court. My favorite part of refereeing are the kids and the 14s are always a great group. It’s the end of the year so I really don’t go through all of the rules with the lines peeps (that’s actually a USVBA official name). This tournament I just told them the two things I struggle with and they really perked up and listened and promised to help. For the girl doing the score flipping I always tell them the parents will only yell at two people, me and you. I tell them that when they flip to 10 and 20 (since there are two numbers) that if they mess up I won’t laugh but will laugh on the inside. I had one working team kind of being funny with me and they asked if I was laughing on the inside. I told them they were actually killing me bit by bit in the inside. One of the girls immediately said I was her favorite referee. In my final match of the day, I had a score flipper that was just really bad. I had to correct the score a number of times and I laughed each time. She would see me laugh and then start laughing, too. She messed up the first time going to 10 and she just put her head down on the table in dismay. In the second set, she was doing an amazing job and I motioned to her a thumbs up. She looked at me with a frown and held up the libero tracking form. The girl next to her then motions that she is now doing the flipping and I died laughing. Thankfully the teams playing didn’t seem to notice.

Not too much else happened of note. I gave out one yellow card and had a team with 7 players suffer an injury so we had to do an exceptional substitution to get the libero into a “normal” position.


My first two-day tournament of the new season. I had 14s, 12s and then 13s the first day with 13s, 14s and 15s the next. Things were really uninteresting on Saturday until my last three matches with 13s on the court. One of the teams had a setter that really brought the ball down on her sets. Call it a sand set or chili dipping or just call it a lift. So, my issue is that really seeing where a player takes the ball in their hand is difficult. Are they contacting at the top, bringing it down and then releasing or are they catching it at the bottom and just releasing the ball. It’s even harder when their back is to me. Seeing this type of set from the stand the first time in a match is always a head shaking moment for me. I just can’t believe what I just saw as the form is not what I expected. Now, in this match, I didn’t call the set. I just couldn’t tell where she was touching the ball and in my mind they were just 13s. The other team’s coach and parents were just besides themselves. Honestly, if I had been in their shoes, I would have been, too. But, again, I can’t call what I can’t accurately see. This lack of action on my part caused the coach to discuss the matter with me after the match and a number of their parents to complain about me to the head referee. (Side note – parents complaining to the head referee at a tournament is always good for a giggle in the referee’s room.) When talking with the coach I explained myself and made the comment that with the players only be 13s that I don’t call things the same way as I might with the older groups. Well, I guess this upset the coach who believes that 12s and 13s should be called in the same manner as 18s. This resulted in another complaint to the head referee. I’m sorry, but if you believe these young kids who need touches on the ball should be called at the same level as the older kids then you just need to remove yourself from youth sports. With that match over, the team with the setter was set to play the next match against the worst team in the pool. More crazy sets but this time there were a couple of times where the setter had to angle herself where I had a better look at her hands. A few times I made the call because frankly it just registered that there was a lift. That’s kind of how reffing works (or you hope it works); something inside instantly sees the violation and the call is made. If a referee is thinking about it then it’s usually not a fault. In this match, the strangest thing I’ve ever seen occurred. Midway through the match I see the scorer talking to the R2 and shaking her head. She knew something was wrong but nothing got relayed to me. A little while later I get called down off the stand and told that one of the teams was playing two players that had the same number! Both players had played in the match. The coach realizes this is a mistake and has the girl change into another number. Unfortunately, she changes into the libero’s number and we have to tell her that this number is illegal, too. Just not a fun end of my day with these two matches.

Now, I still had a third match to go to complete the day and I had the complaining team playing a team that ended up being better than them. The complaining coach and parents really struggled with losing in this one and the coach berated her players a number of times for being scared. They actually played well enough…but weren’t as good as the other team. The coaches that yell at their kids really bother me as do the coaches that make their players run during timeouts. Neither of these are coaching techniques and both are big red flags to anyone leaving kids in their charge.

One of the things brought up in our refereeing training at the start of the year was that the younger referees are not sticking things out year after year. The reason is that they feel that they are not protected on the court. Either the coaches get to them or the parents but they don’t feel like there is someone there that has their back. After that first day, I can really see how that kind of experience to a teenager could be devastating.

On to the second day and I notice that my first match of the day is going to include the complaining team. No issues occurred other than more yelling by the coach at her players. They ended up losing in two to probably the best 13s team at the tournament. I had one 15s match and it went smoothly. Honestly, once you hit the 15s (and really the 14s) things tend to go pretty well during the matches. One reason is that they are better scorekeepers, which really allows the play to flow better. I finished the day with the 14s again and it was a blast. Three teams, each with a different skill level, which ensured that the matches finished in 2 games. The one sad/funny moment occurred when one team was winning big early in a set when the losing team sends the ball over and the ball is immediately attacked. A blocker gets a hand on the ball and the losing team is able to send it back over for a point. Immediately I realize that the blocker was a back row player. I look down to my R2 (who happened to be an experience referee) and we both mouth the same thing, “back row?”. I felt bad but I had to take the point away. After the match I made sure to congratulate the player for a great block. I mean highly illegal but still a great block.


I had my first tournament of the season on Saturday (one-day non-ranking 12s tournament). I had forgotten how much my feet hurt at the end of these days and this was an easy one.

Right off the bat there was a ball that went over and in my mind there were four contacts. No question about it. I call it and the coach is flurmuxed. (It’s a word…look it up.) With the amount she is complaining, I’m now less sure about my call. I have no memory of the four contacts even though it occurred just a few seconds prior. I was pretty much on autopilot, which I figured probably meant I got the call wrong. My R2 looks at me and subtly requests that he come over. I’m thrilled because it means he saw the play and can confirm it or allow me to overturn the incorrect call. He walks over as the entire court watches and says, “I didn’t see it.”, and walks away. I motion 4 contacts and the coach sends the captain over. The poor innocent 12 year old that has no clue how to talk to a 50-year old giant standing on a 6 foot stand. She mumbles some words and I listen the best I can and then say, “I may have gotten the call wrong and I really apologize if I did but I have to stay with my original call since my R2 didn’t see the play. Please apologize to your coach but the call stands.” The other team then serves the ball into the net so the volleyball gods had the last word…again.

The other funny thing that happened has a bit of a back story. A decade or so ago, some friends, my wife and I went to Napa for a long weekend. We were all at a restaurant when the waitress walks in and takes one look at me and sprints out of the room. We all laughed and I figured my Shrek like appearance scared her off. She comes back a few minutes later and apologizes while only talking to me and explains that I look like Will Ferrell and that she just loves him/me. Well, this gets another big laugh and I explain that I’m not Will but that I do prefer the “baby” Jesus. (A reference to his movie – Talladega Nights – that had just come out.) She laughed…she swooned and proceeded to take our order. For the rest of the night, she only came up to me and only asked me if I needed anything. My best friend was trying to get water and twice he failed to get her attention while she was at the table! On the third attempt I asked her if she would be so nice as to get my friend some water and she immediately complied. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty cool to experience something like that on a very limited scale. My friend (not to mention my wife) have different views on that night. Anyway, a number of times after that, I had people tell me that I look like Will Ferrell. Most of the times, I’m with my friend and he gets almost hostile about it. Enough of the backstory…I’m working my third match of the day Saturday and the 12 year old scorer that I was talking to interrupts me and says that I remind her of Buddy the Elf. Buddy, of course, was played by Will Ferrell.

Not much else to report on the tournament. Serving is the name of the game at the 12s non-ranking level. A team with a good server or two will usually win. I was lucky enough not to get any 3-set matches in the playoffs and I had an early day of it.


Another year of refereeing is upon me. My first day of the new season is this weekend with another assignment in two weeks. I need to go through my gear and do some refresher training just to remember the basics, I fear. Hurts getting old and forgetting things.

We had our yearly training almost two months ago and some of it was interesting. One of the top referees in the country talked and shared her philosophy. She basically said she doesn’t like to call anything! She specifically mentioned that if a ball spins forward or backwards then it can’t be a double…it’s just bad form. I’m not sure she will change the mind-set here in Texas but as long as I’m refereeing the young kids it really doesn’t matter. We try not to call much at that age.


It sure was nice having a month off! I mean I enjoy the refereeing but my feet really appreciated that month. I had basically blacked out the month due to a number of conflicts so it was my own fault I wasn’t assigned anything. The tournament this past weekend was supposed to be another 13s only tournament but it got moved to a facility that was also hosting 14s through 16s. I initially received my schedule and it consisted of only 6 matches for the first day, which was really strange. I’ve never seen less than 7 matches assigned for the first day of a two-day tournament. Still, I was fine with it because my last match was at 5 p.m. so it was an early day. After my first two matches I noticed they had changed the schedule and I had a 7th match and, of course, it was the last match of the day (8 p.m.)! Really kind of annoying! As luck would have it, I got an 8th match assigned in the 7 p.m. slot so no 2+ hour break before a single match. Plus the tournament was going really fast so everything ended (for me) an hour early.

I was assigned to the 13s and after a month off I was a little rusty. I stared at the R2 in panic after the first point because I couldn’t remember the order of the signals! That lasted less than a second and I was quickly in the swing of things. Just weird. The 13s are a pretty straightforward group and most of the referees don’t call much, if anything. I try to find a happy medium on the hands calls but a lot depends on the quality of the teams. I think I end up calling more than most but not enough to halt whatever flow there may be in the match. I was lucky enough to draw the best team in the 13s group a couple of times and it was fun to watch them play. Their service game was outstanding and they had one girl that could seriously serve at the DIII college level. They also did a nice job setting and attacking but their service game was special. I did have to issue a delay warning (yellow card) to a team because one of the players entered the substitution zone a rotation too early. The coach decided to take the yellow card instead of make the substitution and actually motioned to me to make the call. I was a little surprised at this but had to laugh because it looked like the coach had done that before with this team. After doing six matches of 13s, I then had to do the two extra matches I picked up, which happened to be 16s. There is a huge difference in the play between these two age groups so I made sure to watch a bit before my first match. As luck would have it, I drew a mismatch and there weren’t any issues in the first match. My biggest problem was that my R2 kept motioning touch in a variety of weird ways while the play continued. Wasn’t helpful and distracted me a bunch of times…but done with a good spirit so I didn’t say anything. The last match ended up being a good one where a top 15s team (playing up) split with a good 16s team. There was a point in the second game late where my linesman called a ball in when I clearly saw it as out. I overruled the call and that set off the parents. It was funny because they were all sitting behind the line where the play happened so they really couldn’t see it well as the ball blocks the line to them. They ended up losing the game and were very vocal that it was my fault. I talked to the coach afterwards and he mentioned the 10 missed serves they had as being more of an issue. Glad he was cool about it. I really thought those two teams might make it to the finals but only the 15s team did.

Second day and I drew the 13s gold bracket including a semi-final and the final. I was off the first match of the day so that means I don’t have to bring anything to the table (ball, pens or pencils). I get there and there is nothing to write with! The previous referee keeps his own stash so he doesn’t bring any to the table. I put down the game sheet and run to get them and when I return the game sheet is gone! Great start to the day. I get to do 3 matches in a row and the only issue is the first one when, once again, the parents attribute the loss to me. One dad walks up behind me and yells to their team that it’s hard to win when I cost them 7 points. They lost by 8 both games, but whose counting? Just funny to me. I was a crazy club dad in the past and I know they all feel this is the end of the world. I also know it gets a lot more crazy! I get my break and go do a consoliation match before the finals and, again, no pens or pencils! This is like the 5th match of the day on this court! I run to get them and pass the head referee where I mention this insanity. He says the referee I’m following steals them all (yeah, it’s the guy with his own stash). Funny. I return to the table and look at the game sheet the scorer has and it’s the one that was taken from me earlier that morning! I figure the same referee picked it up and then left it on that table later. The consoliation match turns out to be a 3-setter (ugh) and then we get to the finals. The great serving team is there with a team I hadn’t seen, yet. Three points in (2 aces) and I know how this is going to end. Both games were one-sided and that includes the first game where the coach wrote the wrong lineup down and had to adjust on the fly after getting called for incorrect server. All in all, I did 5 matches on Sunday and got to leave at a decent time.

I did do my little joke where the scorer holds up the number of timeouts taken and I purposely parrot back a totally wrong number. The 13s think it’s funny. I did it with the 16s and it took a minute for her to get the joke all the while her coach is laughing at her from the R2 position. I really am going to get in trouble for that one day.

Lonestar is going on the next two weeks but I won’t be assigned as I blocked those weekends out. The qualifiers held at the convention center in Dallas are not really enjoyable. The first problem is that we have to pay for parking and that cost roughly equals the amount I make doing a match. The second problem is that all matches are best of three. I don’t mind the extra work when called upon but it just makes for a very long day. The third problem is that the referee area is the worst there than any other facility I worked this year. Anyway, I may go to watch this weekend but I’ll be sitting during the matches!


I completed a one-day tournament on Saturday. This was my first one-day event and it basically acts like the second day of a two-day event. On the two-day tournaments, you normally work 8 matches on Saturday and then 6 on Sunday. I ended up working 6 matches in this one tournament. Most of the matches get done early, which is nice, unless you work the last match. (And guess who was assigned the last match.)

Each tournament has a head referee that manages the referees and match results and for this tournament that person was the head referee for the North Texas region. He’s the guy that actually trained me (along with all of the new referees) this past year. So, kind of good and bad in that you always think you are doing well, but he’ll know when you aren’t! For this tournament, the schedule had me refereeing in the first and last match of the day with 4 others in between. So, kind of an easy schedule with breaks in between matches but the longest one possible. The site I worked only did the 13s age bracket and as it turned out I drew a Gold quarter-final and the finals. I’m not sure why I got the finals, but I assume it was just dumb luck. There were a number of more experienced referees at the tournament so my assignment was probably just random.

Not a lot to speak of during my pool matches. The head referee made a point of telling us to make sure that no subs or coaches were standing on the sports court during play. I tried to enforce this early but it’s so hard on the coaches that are use to standing inches from the play. It would basically be me nagging them all day so I backed off after the 2nd match. The head referee came by to watch my second match and pointed out that my timeout signals were incorrect. Something so easy, right? Well, I have this bad habit of using the same signal (timeout in this case) on both sides. USVBA wants us to alter the signal so that we don’t reach over to one side and not the other. For instance, in this case I would use my left had as the base of the ‘T’ and the right hand to rest on the base to form the ‘T’. That works on the left but I have to reverse my hands on the right side and I wasn’t doing that. Pretty minor stuff and easily corrected.

During the quarter-final match, I had a regional referee volunteer to be my R2 (just to get some practice in). It was eye opening because I realized we weren’t agreeing on our calls when it came to a shanked pass. Long story short, I was always confused as to when to issue an out call versus a touch call when a shank occurred. After talking to the head referee, there are actually four variations to call depending on where the ball ends up. So, here you go…in each case Team A has a ball bounce off them that is unplayable. Ball ends up hitting the floor within the court. Call is “in”. Ball ends up hitting the floor outside the court but on Team A’s side. Call is “touch”. Ball ends up hitting the floor past the centerline but outside the antennas. Call is “out”. “Out” is also called if the ball hits the referee stand. Ball ends up hitting the floor on Team B’s side but the ball went under the net. Call is “Centerline fault”. Easy, right? It all makes sense but we really didn’t go over that in our training.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before but one of the things that is interesting to me is how other referees will give you feedback on your matches when you don’t ask for it. Now I don’t mind this because I actually want to get better but I can’t believe everyone is cool with that. For the first time ever I had a referee tell me he watched my match and didn’t see anything wrong. That was cool. Again, my favorite part of the day is the interaction with the kids. I actually had one tell me that I was her favorite referee. That was cool.

Off to the final match and it was pretty one-sided. I did have one play where the entire gym yelled at me. Young lady is late to block on a quick transition. She literally jumps from the attack line with both arms in blocking mode and lands a couple of feet from the net. During this action, she actually blocks the ball! It comes down to her and she bumps it up. The entire gym starts yelling for double-contact but it’s a block! A very ugly block. I confirmed the call later with the head referee. I then made the mistake of asking about another thing that happened in the match. One of the teams ran a 5-1 with the setter attacking from the back row a number of times at the net. I never thought the entire ball was above the net so I never called it. These are 13s and the girl was average height for that age. Just as I finish my question to the head referee about this, he says, “Oh no, she was over the net at least 3 times. You should have called that.” Great! Should have stopped while I was ahead. I will say that this call is very difficult for me to judge the ball in relation to the height of the net. I can see why some referees just always call it and it’s obvious I need to get better with this. Oh, well…it’s not like the head referee of all of North Texas knows I have a problem with this call. LOL!


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.