The alarm goes off and as I look the clock reads 4:00 am. Fuck it’s early.
I swipe right on the phone to snooze it for fifteen minutes until another bastard alarm goes off. I need to get up but I can’t bring myself to do it. The bed is warm and comfortable yet the dogs next to the bed snoring is annoying and hearing a ghastly cats bellowing yowel is enough to keep me from drifting back to sleep.
I throw the covers off me and sit up to wipe the crust from my eyes, take a look at my phone and try to get used to the thought of what’s going to happen today.
I have a two hour drive ahead of me to be at the venue at my scheduled time so I can get changed and ready for a ten to fourteen hour day of reffing matches filled with competitors being angry I didn’t give them points for something they didn’t earn, children crying because they lost, and parents/coaches not knowing the rules and yelling at me, then a two hour drive back home.
Why didn’t I just drive there last night and stay in a hotel?
I walk over to the closet to get dressed and grab all the things I had pre-packed last night so I could get out the door as quickly as possible and get the show on the road.
I stop at the nearest convenient store to fill up on gas and grab the largest coffee they have to drink on my two hour drive while I’m blaring Corrosion of Conformity’s In the Arms of God album as loud as I can stand while I’m scorching down the road with the white lines a total blur. I’ve made this drive so many times I can almost do it blindfolded.
As I walk into the building I see familiar smiling faces I haven’t seen in a while; competitors, coaches, vendors, friends. We all shake hands and get reacquainted with one another by sharing stories of training and life in general, then before I know it I hear a call over the P.A. of an even more familiar voice.
“ALL REFEREES TO THE CENTER MAT PLEASE, ALL REFEREES TO THE CENTER MAT.”
Time to put your game face on and get to work. The next ten to fourteen hours will be filled with bracket after bracket, match after match, person after person. Limited bathroom breaks and maybe a five minute lunch break depending on how many competitors there are that registered and show up.
After the competition is over, we break down the tournament and bring it to the truck so it can be loaded up and taken home. And this was an “easy” day. Most times there is a three to three and a half hour drive there and then again coming back
This is just my story. The other referees? Some have it worse, and some have it better.
Moral of the tale is that it’s not the referees versus competitors. Referees are there to help you and yes referees will make mistakes, hell I freely admit I make mistakes but luckily I’ve caught them or someone has caught them for me.
But for the most part the referees are doing a superb job of a thankless occupation so you can compete for that shiny medal and earn your glory before going back to the daily grind of training. This job is not easy although it seems that way from the other side of the barricade.
If you don’t think you were scored fairly, ask the referee after the match why they scored it like they did. Chances are they will explain it to you from their point of view. I know this feeling all to well because I used to think the referees would screw me on points until Tyler Bishop, who is a fantastic referee by the way, pulled me aside after I lost a match on his mat and showed me that some refs do actually care about the competitors, and their knowledge of the rules.
Why do I referee now? Because in all honesty I love seeing the progression of the same people I see at the same tournaments and watch their Jiu-Jitsu expand. I genuinely want to help people understand the rules and have fun. That and I do it for extra cash.
Become a ref and see what’s its like on the other side of the match. I truly appreciate Jiu-Jitsu a lot more since becoming a referee.