Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Working conditions for female refs

Need a decent-paying part-time gig? Are you a former female athlete? Try refereeing.
This article from an old Baltimore Sun addresses the need for refs at the junior and high school level because of the growing number of girls playing youth sports. This piece focuses on the lack of refs in lacrosse and field hockey but the overall trend is a lack of female refs in all sports.
Because the pay might be good and it's a great way to stay involved in a sport you grew up around, but the work conditions are not always ideal. The article speaks to "the increasingly hostile environment for officials at games" and related the story of one new referee who quit after a season because of all the bad language directed her way.
And one has to think, and there seems to be some research to back this up, that female refs get more crap than their male counterparts. A good example was Celtics commentator Cedric Maxwell saying that NBA ref Violet Palmer should "get back in the kitchen and fix me some bacon and eggs" last February.
This past weekend I saw something I had never seen before in my entire fan career: three women refereeing an ice hockey game. The UNH/Wisconsin game in Durham on Saturday featured an all-female referee staff. Hockey fans can be pretty tough on refs--the student section at UNH games enjoys singing "three blind refs, three blind refs" when they skate out before the players at the start of every period. And there were a lot of penalties called Saturday night against UNH which made many in the crowd none too happy. Hard to tell if they were getting more derisive remarks than male referees might. I listened as best as possible (it was kind of noisy in there) for remarks that seemed gendered and/or sexist and couldn't find anything obvious. But I have to say, if I was a ref at that game I would have been glad for the plexiglass barriers. They're there to protect fans, of course, but I think they provide referees a certain amount of comfort as well.

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