March 1st, 2005:
It's that time of year again, when all the National Referees and National Candidates gather to be tested and instructed in the fine art of officiating at the highest levels of the game. The whole idea of having a national testing session, where all the best referees in the country could gather to share opinions, to learn together, to trade stories, to develop a camaraderie, an "esprit de corps", originated with Robert (Bob) Sumpter in the late nineteen-eighties. Before he gave up the post of National Director of Referee Instruction, he came up with the idea and tried to get the national referee committee to finance it. The money appeared during my first year of office as NDRI, and the annual ritual was set.
I'll write more about the early national testing sessions, but for now understand that the gathering in Colorado Springs was first and foremost, an EDUCATIONAL event. Yes, there were the tests, and yes, there were the high-ranking officials from hither and yon, but they were invited as teachers and advisers. Now it seems, fewer and fewer hours are given over to education, and more and more to ritual.
About the matter of educating referees, we are hearing more and more disturbing things from the national testing sessions and elsewhere about how that education is being conducted. It is worth reminding ourselves that referees are exercising their right to enjoy a sport as an official. They are not members of the military, or employees of some dictatorial corporation. Read on to see what some referees are being put through.