Editor's note: Chris Fetterman is the boys' water polo
coach at Hoffman Estates High School and a journalism major at Roosevelt
University. He will be contributing articles and assisting in the running
of Illpolo.com for the 2009 season.
ENTRY #3 - "Everybody Loves To Hate Refs"
An Interview With Perry Korbakis
by Chris Fetterman
Everybody loves to
hate a referee (except for me, of course). What drives a person to yell, scream, throw objects,
and even spit (yes, spit) on a ref?
Now, when a ref
makes a bad call, we instantly assume that the ref is just plain unaware
and should be doing anything other than what he or she is trying so hard
to do correctly. What we forget most often, and I assure
you, I am as guilty as the next coach or fan, is that when a ref makes a “bad
call” he or she probably knows what they did wrong and the last thing they
need is to hear about it from all angles.
The question I
pondered is "What is it like to be a referee?" At first, I wanted to spend an entire day as a ref
myself; walk around in my “whites,” you know really get into it, see what
our referees see… but I couldn’t find any white jeans that fit me.
Instead, I turned to the head official for Illinois Water Polo, Perry Korbakis.
of Oak Park, is the assigning chair for the IHSA, as well as rule
interpreter, clinician and on top of that, he is an electrician by day.
Perry has been a part of Illinois water polo since the
1980’s when water polo was at the top of its game. Perry is well respected
throughout United States Water Polo and has refereed in such places as Hawaii, New York, North Carolina and California (the Mecca of USWP).
Let's see if we
can get a better idea of what it's like to be a referee after talking with
Thank you for
being here, I have a million and one questions for you, but before we get
into the good stuff, I would like to know a little bit about you outside
of the pool, what can you give me?
isn’t much outside of the pool. I am an electrician and a huge hockey
fan. Through the good times and bad...Blackhawks baby!!!
I am a Red Wings guy. Nice talking to you… (laughter ensues)
Ok, what is the funniest thing
you can remember in your nearly 30 years of experience?
There are so
many things I can tell you, Chris. I have fallen in the pool while reffing, I have seen other refs fall in the pool. That is always
extremely funny. If you remember Bill Dolehide, he fell in, that was a
classic. Way back when refs used the kick-out flags by hand, I remember
specifically at Mt. Carmel High School, Tom Nelson being hit in the crotch
by the butt-end of the flag-stick. That is my funniest memory.
just thinking about that… I always have wondered what it would be like to
be a ref. Is it as bad as I think it is? Can you remember the worst thing
you have ever gone through? I once refereed for age group water polo and I
was nearly run out of the building. It was probably the funniest thing
that has ever happened to me in this game. It was a 12 & Under game and the
parents were ready to read me the riot-act.
I have had
balls thrown at me. I have been spit on…
Spit on, are
you kidding me??
Chris. Back in the 80’s, this game was crazy. I have been through the
ringer in this sport. But it has gotten a lot better.
Better from the
80’s, or just in general?
In general. The fans are a lot better.
Who would you
say are worse, the fans, coaches or the players?
doubt, the fans. It is a part of the game. I have no problem with
constructive criticism. When people get personal, that's what I have a major
problem with. But all of that stems from the coach, down to the
parents, and then to the players. I used to ref in a place we called “The
Pit,” and the fans were literally on top of you. It was fun, but
Where was the
coolest place you have ever refereed? (Minus Hawaii, of course)
Leo High School
and Mt. Carmel were classic places to ref. I wish everyone had a chance
to ref at those pools. They were so small that the columns they had
around the pool deck interfered so much we had to walk around them during
game-play. That was always fun.
around since the early 1980’s, what has changed that you might not have
liked, and what would you change, if anything, about the game today?
They change the
rules annually, I don’t like that. If they changed the rules every four
years then I think that would be better. The 35 second shot clock was
changed for no reason. The college shot clock is still at 35, you’re
trying to tell me that high school players can run an offense faster than
college players? That needed to stay at 35 seconds.
You have been
around some really great people in this game. Where did all of this
begin? We are a true IHSA sport now, isn’t that amazing?
Yes, we think
being an IHSA sport is so much better than being ISA. People like Dave
Perry, Rick Marsh, Jim “Moose” Mulchrone, (the late) Ike Marshall, and Jim
Lock really are to thank for our progress from top to bottom. Dave
(Perry) started the state banquet. We would not be as far as we are without those
are some really big names. I’m sure there are even more to thank as well…
You said that the fans are better than they were in the 1980’s, do you
think that is connected to IHSA, rather than ISA?
We pushed for
the change. The game is more fan friendly now.
What, off the
top of your head, was the greatest game you had the chance to ref?
Any of the
state championship games, Chris. They are always great games. The very
first state championship game comes to mind though. That was between
Fenwick and Brother Rice. They always made for the best games.
Ok Perry, how
many more years do you have left with the IHSA?
I think I have
about 5 more years left in me. I have a few people I am “grooming,” but
they aren’t ready yet.
Wow, well thank
you very much for sitting down with me, good luck this season and I hope
it goes well… I hope no one spits on you.
As far as I
can tell, Perry Korbakis is about as human as they come. He is also
one of the "good guys" I referred to last week. How on earth could anyone
spit on another human being for making a bad call?
Ladies and Gentlemen of
this fine game, I implore you; enough is enough with the obnoxious-ness of
our fans. We as fans of this game-as
coaches of this game-and as players of this game, need to lay down our
pitch forks and torches and learn how to use a smile and a hand shake
instead. Begin treating our referees with the respect they deserve, with
dignity, and allow them to be human. I am not saying we should have
treats to give them, but patting them on the back should be common
practice by now. After all, it is only human to make a mistake or a
“bad call” every once in a while.
And, oh yeah, it's
time for the season to start so...see you 'Poolside' this week!