West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on the Official's Responsibility to Sportsmanship

In recent years, I have stressed time and again the importance of sportsmanship in athletes, coaches, and fans. I think we also should consider the same from officials as well.

Before I begin this discussion, I think it is imperative that all my readers realize I have been an official for many years (baseball and wrestling). So I am not picking on officials without having been there.

I recall two different occurrences involving referees who did not conduct themselves in a professional manner. The first instance involved a professional official who was very rude to a coach at an athletic clinic. He was quite condescending to a high school coach, who just asked some basic questions regarding the sport. And he did so in a very sincere manner.

This referee felt he was above such questions from a lowly scholastic coach, and attempted to embarrass the mentor. He was unsportsmanlike, and those in attendance knew it.

The second situation involved a professional competition in which the coach was removed from the premises. Not only did this coach's team win the contest handily, but he also won the 400th game of his career. His comments to the press after the event were that he finally got fed up with the official's "arrogance."

Coaches deserve respect, too. Officials need to understand their place in sports. Their job is to interpret the rules to the best of their knowledge. And foremost in the minds and hearts of every official should be the health and safety of the athletes. They should be the protectors of the game's physical enjoyment and statutes, not gods.

I have always tried to be firm as an official. But at the same time, I have demonstrated a respectful attitude toward the coaches and athletes. I believe that any time a coach asks a legitimate question, he deserves a response from the official. As a dedicated mentor, who spends many hours training his athletes, he deserves that courtesy.

One final point. As an official, I have made my share of mistakes. (It's the price we pay for being human.) And I found that honesty is truly the best policy when dealing with coaches. Yes, I freely admit that I have, at times, told coaches that I "blew the call." Every time I did so, the coach responded, "Well, okay, but don't let it happen again." He accepted my admission, but more importantly, the coach respected my integrity.

Yes, officials have a very serious task to perform in athletics. Control of the contest should be high on their priority list, but not at the expense of professional courtesy toward the coaches and athletes. No official or referee should ever become bigger than the game, itself.

After all, "sports are for kids…not the adults."

... on the Official and Stalling

Question: What do holding in football, the balk in baseball, and stalling in wrestling have in common?
Answer: They all involve judgment calls which are subject to the individual official's interpretation.

This is why, my friends, no two wrestling referees will ever call "stalling" exactly alike. Moreover, all of the best instruction from the same local or state rules interpreter will never change this fact of life, as long as more than one person is connected with officiating the mat sport.

If I heard it once from coaches, I've heard it a 1000 times over the decades. "When are you "refs" going to be 'consistent' on stalling calls?" The answer to this question is "Never!" The best any coach, wrestler, or mat enthusiast can ever hope for is consistency by each individual official.

For example, coaches know that their matmen would have to wrestle differently if they were on Official A's mat as compared to Official's B. Whereas Official A indicates stalling in a liberal fashion, Official B signals stalling in a more conservative manner.

Official A and Official B have the utmost respect for each other's officiating abilities. They just view stalling in a different light, and never will the two agree.

As I said before, it all involves personal perception. At the very least, the coaches know what to expect when Official A or Official B are on their mats.

In sum, coaches want their officials to demonstrate equity during matches. So, no matter how a referee indicates stalling, the important point is: "He calls stalling the same for both wrestlers on the mat." And that's all any coach, participant, or mat enthusiast can expect from an individual official, because no two "refs" will ever be exactly alike with regards to stalling.

"When you aim for perfection, you discover it's a moving target."
- George Fisher

Editor's Note: A former Pennsylvania State Champion, Dr. Welker is a nationally recognized authority on amateur wrestling who has published hundreds of articles and two best-selling books (The Wrestling Drill Book, 1st & 2nd Editions) on the subject in which 1000s of copies have been sold nationwide. His drill book can be purchased at www.Amazon.com or www.HumanKinetics.com.

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