End of Season – Reflect on NISOA Values

By:  John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

A few NISOA members are still active in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournaments and some at the NAIA National Tournament.  However, for most intercollegiate referees the season has ended.  Now is the time to heal the sore muscles, and rest the brain from the mental strain and pressure of each game, it is also time to pause and reflect on the NISOA values.

Dr. Raymond Bernabei always stressed at every opportunity the  most important quality to be the best intercollegiate referee in the country.  I can still see him standing on the stage in Elizabethtown asking the question “What is the number one thing needed to be a successful referee?”  The participants would all speak up with answers such as fitness, knowledge of the rules, ability to apply the rules fairly, professionalism, commitment, desire to be the best, working the higher level games, and more.  When the answers finally stopped, Dr. Ray would pause for a moment and then give the group a long look and calmly state “The number one thing to be the best intercollegiate referee in the country is (pause again) is to put your family first.  Without your family  you have nothing.”  He would go on to discuss how he personally knew so many top level referees that regret that they made it to the NCAA finals or the FIFA list or whatever other level at the expense of their families.  He would go on to say “No game is that important that the referee hurts his/her family by accepting the assignment.”  Family first was always Dr. Ray’s philosophy.

For the past several months, many referees were out on the field every weekend and often traveling out of state to officiate at the various intercollegiate levels.  During this time members of the referee crew may have missed a performance by a child in marching band, missed many youth soccer games where their children were playing, missed quiet time with his/her spouse or significant other and more.  The spouse or significant other has spent time filling the void by driving children to functions, making sure everything was balanced to maintain normality and more.  The family unit sacrifices in the background so that the NISOA members can have the opportunities they earned.  In addition, many referees come home from a weekend and  spouses or significant others take the wet smelly uniforms and gets them ready for the next assignment without any hesitation.  Every family member has also endured the unique aroma of the back of the car or trunk from the wet shoes and uniforms.  The family is in the background supporting the NISOA member in so many ways.

The opportunities to be with family during the aforementioned moments cannot be recovered through instant reply.  They are gone forever.  However, what can be done is that the NISOA referee makes an extra effort during this holiday season to do special things with each and every family member.  This is the time to go out and look at Christmas lights, spend extra time together during Hanukah,  have special evenings arranged with the spouse or significant other, and more.

One of the greatest thing NISOA members can do immediately is say thank you to every family member that sacrificed for them during the season.  Let each family member know how much he/she means to the referee and how much he/she appreciates them for all that they do to support his/her referee career.

During this holiday season every member should reflect on the goals for his/her referee career in relationship to their family.   As Dr. Ray always emphasized – – – – – FAMILY FIRST.