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 #6 - "From a Ref's Perspective..."
by Chris Fetterman
in athletics the same people seem to get all the credit and notoriety. Superstar athletes deserve to be seen and heard from, but so do us regular
folks from time to time. I look at the Kobe’s and the LeBron’s of the
world and can’t help but wonder how many other great athletes get overlooked while they dominate the headlines.
same applies to high school sports as well. This doesn’t just include
athletes; there are head coaches who wouldn’t be much without their
assistant coaches...great players who wouldn’t be much without
their supporting cast...and there wouldn’t be much of a sport without
who puts the time and effort in to promote this sport needs to be
recognized and I feel a tip-of-the-hat is necessary. Whether it's
volunteering to work a concession stand during a tournament, creating a
website where everyone in the entire country can keep up with Illinois
water polo, or simply playing your hardest every chance you get, for
whatever your reason may be…you deserve to be recognized.
writer, I get many opportunities to meet new people, and getting the
chance to write about them makes this job highly enjoyable. I
recently had the
wonderful opportunity to sit down with referee Mike Mitchell at the Midwest Classic, hosted by Schaumburg High School,
to get a referee's perspective on the game.
The tournament was a huge success, with teams from St Louis (Lindbergh, SLUH, Lafayette) and
class teams from Illinois such as Mundelein, York and Schaumburg...we
got to see some tremendous athletes and games. St Louis University
High beat the host Saxons for the crown, 10-6.
had a lot of games refereed by you Mike, how long have you been in the
beginning my fourth year as a water polo official. Averaging 120
games a season for a total of 360 games so far. I am still a real rookie
when you consider some other referees who are at four or five thousand
games in their career. However,
my participation goes back to my high school days. As a swimmer who wasn’t
getting much better, my coach suggested trying water polo. At that time,
the sport was relatively unheard of in the high school ranks and the rules
were different. When I decided to get involved again it was a whole
new thing to me.
get yelled at a lot as a ref, not that I know about that, do you have a
moment that you might have thought to yourself: 'why am I doing this?' And
do you remember the first time we met?
told early on in the first year that I would need to develop some “thick
skin”. That was some real good advice. If I listened to what some coaches
and fans had said to me my first year, I would have given up the whistle
after the first month.
take this personal but I really can’t remember that first time meeting.
The first season is all a blur to me now. Maybe because I was such a bad
official I just block it out of my memory. I will say that, in general, I
remember a lot of yelling and feeling alone at the end of the day.
on… between myself and my assistant (Tom Fidler) we were brutal to you.
but since then I have been fortunate enough to spend time with you in
various settings. And you have reminded me many times about that game. We are good friends now. That is of course until I make a call you don’t
like in one of your games, then its back to “coaches and refs”. Just
you’re not… How does playing Master’s water polo help you become a better
benefit of playing the game as a referee is so huge; you really cannot
imagine it until you do it. Anyone can read a rulebook and
whistle a game but to be in tune with what’s going on in the water you
need to have been in the water in a game or scrimmage situation. For
example – A high level official once told me “everyone in the water is
holding,” it wasn’t until I played that I realized what he meant. Yes,
everyone in the water is holding until they get caught place at the wrong
time. You also gain an appreciation for the condition that these athletes
are in. What looks to be so easy from the side of the pool is truly almost
impossible for some of us others.
also say that it is so much fun. I understand where some of the
overzealous personalities in the “water polo community” get their thrills.
You must swim in another player’s suit to understand what they are going
through. (that didn’t come out right?)
proud to be a member of the” Beached Whales” water polo club. There are a
lot of opportunities to play water polo in the Chicago-land area. And it
takes some work to find the best fit for you. I started playing with the
Whales in the early summer of ’08. And I plan to be with them for a long
makes the Whales team special is the open minded leadership that takes
players of all skill levels and puts them “in the game”. This mixture of
veteran and novice only fosters growth and good things for our sport in
our area. Another acquaintance through my short time in water polo once
told me "There is no place for arrogance in our community." This is
certainly true with the Beached Whales.
for the shameless plug, Mike...more playing time for you next game! Lastly,
I like to compare the treatment of referees to the treatment of dogs. Do you
think dogs are treated with more respect than refs?
dogs are probably treated better overall. Man’s best friend, you know.
I’ve tried to think hard about an accurate analogy for water polo
referees...maybe the IRS or perhaps a rented mule comes to mind. I do think
however that, as a group, IHSA water polo officials are not treated very
fairly. It seems there is a predetermined barrier between coaches and
agree, you are like rented mules—go on.
think it’s just a water polo thing. I have had many conversations with
our counterparts in football, baseball, and basketball. We are all treated
am glad we got to sit back, relax and strap it in to watch some really
well played water polo and I hope things get better for the referee
community; but maybe coaches should start carrying red-cards to give to
refs. Just joking. But, seriously we should.
back to my point… We are all in this “thing” together, and I truly hope
everyone is getting out of their seasons what they are putting in thus
far. Thank you to all the parents, coaches, players and ref’s for a great
start to the season I for one recognize everything you do, keep it up.
parents, stop yelling at the refs from the stands. See you Poolside!