Good Ref/Bad Ref

At one point or another it’s happened to all of us; a bad call by a referee has had a significant impact on our game. Refs are human, so they’re perfectly capable of being imperfect. Sometimes, refs are just plain bad – and knowing what to do about it can make all the difference in your experience playing paintball.

At one point or another it’s happened to all of us; a bad call by a referee has had a significant impact on our game. Refs are human, so they’re perfectly capable of being imperfect. Sometimes, refs are just plain bad – and knowing what to do about it can make all the difference in your experience playing paintball. When faced with a bad call by a ref you should follow a simple checklist:

Keep your cool, arguing on the field will not help your position. Remember, there are other players on the field; and some of them will not be aware of what’s going on so it may look like a case of a sore loser having a whine-tasting/cheese sampling. Also the ref who made the call will be in the situation of having to maintain his control of the field, which will call down more thunder on you for causing the scene. Once the game has ended, find the referee who made the call and ask him/her directly what they saw/why they made the call. Keep in mind the more confrontational you are – the more defensive they will be and the less you will accomplish. Waiting until the end of the game also gives you a chance to cool down and compose yourself – which will give you extra ground when bringing the issue up.

If you feel you are getting nowhere with the referee, or the call was made intentionally (for instance, to benefit a friend or team mate of the ref’s) then speak to a supervisor. Most paintball fields have the entire hierarchical structure of the business on site during walk-on days, tournaments and scenario games. Go to the field manager/business owner and explain, calmly, your grievance. Remember, management handles a lot of things and sometimes we feel like we’re babysitting – especially during rec days. This is not a good excuse by any means, but is a fact of the nature of the job. A customer who comes to me and gives me a calm, collected, professional-like complaint is more likely to get action than someone who comes up giving off the vibe of a child in mid-tantrum. I understand you feel angry, and having been on the receiving end of gross incompetence from referees at games I have played – I can relate. However, I also know that gnashing of teeth and pulling hair won't get me as far as being an adult in the manner with which I conduct myself towards the referee or management.

So, you have followed the checklist to a conclusion you feel mostly satisfied with. Hopefully you were able to get clarification/resolution; but if you had to go to management how can you tell something is actually being done about the issue versus the referee/manager telling you what he/she thinks you want to hear in order to placate you and get you back to playing? The dirty secret is, we will try to placate you and get you back to playing more often than not. When the issue isn’t that serious (or when you come across like a child throwing a tantrum as mentioned above) the best resolution is sometimes to get your mind off the issue by getting you back out there and shooting some paint. Time heals all wounds, especially when that time is filled with paintball. So how do you get something done in regards to resolving your issue?

Before applying Step 2 or Step 3 above, as you are cooling down and collecting your thoughts ask yourself these questions, “What do I want to be done about this? What is the most reasonable and satisfying outcome?” Once you have the answers, or an answer, state that to the referee or the manager. Working that in identifies the type of resolution you want to see, and helps steer us in the right direction to satisfying you.

A great way to apply this to the referee might be, “I feel like I missed something when you called me out for a bunker tag during that last game – I thought I was clear of the building when that player came up and made the tag. Can you explain what I missed?” In this situation you are identifying what happened – you were called out for a bunker tag when you were outside the bunker getting tagged, and what you want done – explaining why the call was made. Most of the time, you will get an honest answer – especially if you are being polite and respectful. >Remember, you get out what you put in.

Another way, when addressing management might be, “The referee, I think his name is John Doe, over there did not call out a group of players who were inside a building when I bunker tagged them. I performed the tag directly in front of him and I know I yelled ‘bunker tag’ more than loud enough for him to hear, but he did nothing. The guys inside the building came out and shot me. I notice the referee and those players have been hanging out and acting like they’re friends, so I feel like that might be a part of it. I would like to know that the referee will make impartial calls based on the rules of the game and not on who of his friends happen to be playing.” Here, you identified the problem, gave specifics, and have prompted the manager to correct his referee or assign a different one to your team/area.

So what do you do when you have a great and highly positive experience with refs? Promoting good refereeing keeps the quality of play at your field at a high level. This can be accomplished very simply in one of two ways, or both ways if you feel the experience was truly exceptional. First, tipping the ref(s) who are doing a great job goes a long way. You can tip with cold hard cash, or with paint. Either option goes far in showing your appreciation for the referees. Refereeing is a pretty crappy job sometimes; you have to deal with a lot of people and a lot of different personalities and manage them all and, as the saying goes, it’s a lot like herding cats. The second, is heaping praise directly to management and/or field owners. If the bosses know their minions are doing well it could result in pay increases, more hours, or other advancement within the field. Making a ref out as an asset to the field means the field will have him/her around more often, and will utilize them to find more refs of a similar level.

Finally, if you think you can do a better job – then you really should. Traits of a great ref are: patience, objectivity, fairness, authoritativeness, patience, willingness to get shot, pride in making good calls, patience, a strong work ethic, pride in field, and…..patience. Not to mention that most fields offer discounts on play and paint to their referees which is pretty handy. If you establish yourself as a good referee, and make yourself the gold standard, you will more than likely be put in a position of leadership on the field as the head referee. This will give you more authority to organize and rally the rest of the ref crew, or help management cut the dead weight and bring on capable refs.

By doing your part to promote good refereeing, you are helping your field stay around and grow. You are also doing a great thing for the sport of paintball in general. The refs are the most visible representatives of the field and of the sport itself, and their actions have a direct impact on first impressions for new players.

Mike "Voodoo" Shumate
Originally posted on 'Voodoo Spells It Out'

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