During the Saturday session of Grand Haven/West Ottawa’s co-hosted “Shoot Out at the Shore” tournament, an athlete’s parent was on a mission to ensure the banning of a particular official from refereeing games in Michigan. The parent was completely up in arms, questioning the credentials of the referee (which are actually rather solid), and adamant that said ref does not deserve to officiate water polo games.
This was definitely not the first instance of a spectator becoming enraged at a water polo official and it is not likely to be the last time, either.
All sports require a certain degree of judgment on behalf of the officials presiding over games, and water polo is no exception to this rule. The water polo refs in Michigan are faced with the daunting task of having to be accountable for watching the actions of the fourteen athletes in the water. Parents and coaches are often quick to jump all over a blown or missed call, but there are a couple things which are important to remember when watching the games.
Refs are human. They do their best to call as fair a polo game as possible, but are as capable of making mistakes as the players, coaches, and even spectators in the stands. The reason every keyboard comes equipped with a “Delete” key is because we are all prone to err from time to time.
Every referee enters every water polo game with the intentions of making the best possible call at all times. Officials want to get every single call right; not just “most" of them. If they weren’t interested in doing so, they would find other ways to occupy their weeknights and weekends. Believe it or not, there are better ways to spend an entire Saturday than reffing a water polo tournament.
When parents begin to question the competency of officials, they need to honestly consider the amount of water polo knowledge they possess versus the knowledge of someone who has most likely been around the sport for several years. The average ref in Michigan had played the sport in high school and college, or spent years coaching or refereeing the game. With such a background, it is only logical that an official will know the sport better than a spectator.
If a parent sees a hole set who appears to be getting mugged without a call, he might think the ref is clearly incapable of sight. The official, however, realizes that unless the player has possession of the ball and is making water polo move, a call should not be made. In an instance like this, the parent might be frustrated, but the referee is actually correct.
Refereeing water polo is not an easy task. Many, if not all, of the most critical parents would have an extremely difficult time performing this job. As such, perhaps it is time to give the officials credit for the overall fine job they do and let go of the relatively few mistakes that happen from time to time.