Let's hear it for the Refs !

I’m disappointed with all the posts that are roughly of the following form:

"I’m not complaining about the refs, I know they are volunteers, and the job is hard and they miss some things, but in this this match, the ref blew the call and as a result, we lost the match by less than the 5 point foul that should/should not have been called. It ended our season, caused pain and misery, blah, blah, blah, video replay, better ref training, refs were awful, etc. etc. "

Consider a different style of post, one that I’ve never seen before:

“We were the #1 alliance and picked the team 9999 as our first pick. But in SF2-3 which was a very close match they made a very poor decision to go for one last high shot from the middle of the courtyard (and missed) and then didn’t get on the batter in time and as a result we lost. Team 9999 has been around a long time. The mentors and drive coach should have been more aware of the correct strategic move in that case and the driver should have known what to do. As a result we lost the match and were eliminated, blah, blah, better mentors, blah blah.”

In most cases, folks that feel like a ref’s choice caused their team’s loss are very willing to post the video link, refer to the exact time of the occurrence, and provide their detailed analysis of why the ref ‘messed up.’ You wouldn’t do this to your own team mate if they messed up, you wouldn’t do it to an alliance member or team. You’d not post the video link if the ref clearly messed up but did so in your favor. You only post ref issues when they directly negatively affected YOUR team.

If you feel a ref has made a bad call, go to the question box (which I’m sure most have done in these cases) and if you need someone to commiserate with and validate your take on what happened, feel free to do that with your team mates in a a very limited way, but don’t publicize that you think a ref messed up on CD where hundreds or thousands will see it, including the ref or other refs or potential future refs.

Ref’s don’t want to see their calls analyzed in a public forum, if they did, the refs would be posting videos here and saying “In this match at 1:30, did I make the right call?”

If you think the current referee crew is doing a less than adequate job, contact the volunteer coordinator (preferably after the event – they are busy!) and politely state your case. If they get enough complaints AND have more ref volunteers than they need, they’ll likely go with the ones that don’t have complaints.

You don’t publicly call out your own team mates for their mistakes on CD, and in a real sense, we all (including the refs) are on the same FIRST organization team whose purpose is to inspire and change the culture outside

We all (I hope) cheer for the refs when they get recognized on the field during opening ceremonies, but I know this community is very capable of expressing much more substantive appreciation to them in other more meaningful ways. I’ll start:

A big thanks to all the FRC Referees that give so generously of their time to help provide a massively fun way to spend two or three days for so many students and adults.

So, someone who volunteers to ref a world championship event attended by hundreds of teams from around the world, all paying thousands of dollars to register (IE excluded), plus thousands of dollars to travel to the event, shouldn’t expect public discussion of their mistake?

I agree that the volunteers are doing an amazing job 99% of the time. A higher percent than me! But when you put yourself in a position of power, you have to expect some dissent and criticism.

There were 8 divisions with about 125 matches each, plus elimination rounds and then Einsteins. And only a handful of questionable calls that **may **have swayed alliance selection. All in all, a fantastic feat. And one worthy of congratulations.

But immune from gripes? Never gonna happen.

I don’t think any of these types of posts are in any way meant to play down the immense contributions of time and energy that volunteer refs give to FIRST. But being grateful for all the refs do and having an open discussion about the validity of calls are not mutually exclusive. Saying that all refs should be immune from public criticism is absurd.

Most posts of this nature that I’ve seen have been predominantly constructive. Yes, people can get heated and angry if a bad call (something completely beyond their control) negatively impacted their team. But most posts also contain suggestions for FIRST in future years, such as to clarify ambiguous terms in the manual. Simply saying “Oh well, bad calls happen” and ignoring the issue doesn’t fix anything and isn’t constructive. By having these open conversations and providing suggestions to mitigate problems in future years, we help make future games more enjoyable for everyone involved.

If refs don’t want their calls analyzed publicly, perhaps they shouldn’t be making said calls in front of thousands of people.

That last statement is out of line. But it’s true. That’s why I didn’t volunteer to ref at CMP, on top of having reffed 4 events already.

Let me put it this way: The only reason I reffed 4 events was because there weren’t enough refs, period. And I rather suspect that half of the reason there weren’t enough refs is because if they make a call (or no-call) that is the slightest bit controversial, 47 CDers who haven’t reffed FRC jump all over it and complain about something that was perfectly clear from the stands (but, if you REALLY think about it, was unclear, or perfectly clear the other way from the refs’ point of view). [/hyperbole]

And, the GDC didn’t help–no offense to any GDC folks reading this, but if you don’t consider referee sightlines when you’re designing field elements, you need to. There really isn’t an excuse for the sally port opening to block the outerworks refs’ view of sally port crossings that they’re supposed to be scoring!

A better way to discuss calls is:
Here’s the video, here’s what the refs called, why would they call that? 7 times out of 10, it’s something that you didn’t notice. 2 times out of 10, they’re using judgement where a rule allows them to. And the remaining time, they might have actually made a mistake (not seeing, wrong rule, something like that). That’s something that refs (and teams) can discuss and learn from.

I’ll agree with you on a couple of things-- many accusations against referees are needlessly personal and nonconstructive, and refs, like all the other volunteers that make our competitions possible, deserve our respect.

However, I don’t think that this means issues with refereeing should stay between teams and the volunteer coordinator or internal to teams. Many issues that appear to be the fault of referees really trace their roots to combining the jobs of scoring and refereeing into one job when it really, for the sake of everyone involved, should be two. FIRST has never seemed to recognize this except for in years where it was impossible/impractical to do automated scoring (2015), so I think people are more that within their rights to continue to point out issues with reffing and suggest solutions to the issues of inconsistent or incorrect reffing.

And yeah, part of this is stemming from the fact that I’ve been on both sides of wrong calls. Pointing them out and learning from them can be constructive even if it isn’t particularly so in most cases.

So yes, thank you to all the refs and other volunteers in stressful roles. I’ve filled a much larger variety of roles in FTC than in FRC (where I’ve only been field reset), but one of those has included being a referee, and I think it’s completely illogical for me (in such a public-facing role) to expect my decisions to be out of the public light.

When I volunteer, I am putting myself in a position to be responsible for helping teams have a good, fair experience at the tournament. When I screw up, I appreciate someone letting me know so I can correct my behavior in the future. Many screw-ups are caught on the spot, but some slip through and only come to light online.

At the end of the day, I’m volunteering to improves teams’ experiences at their regionals. Yeah, some people are a little rough when they don’t feel you contributed to that, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. As my leadership instructor told me: “Ya gotta listen for the song beneath the word.”

I haven’t refereed in FRC (I have in FTC, but I feel like that’s a bit of a different ball game), but none of the complaining on CD dissuades me from putting on the stripes. I fully anticipate that one day, probably sooner rather than later, I’ll find myself a zebra and will probably blow a call. When that happens, I full expect my fellow volunteers will let me know and I’ll do my best to avoid making the same mistake twice. After that point, well, Chief Delphi is going to be Chief Delphi.

Hi, I’m a ref. I reffed at two events on opposite coasts this year in back to back weeks.

Yes, we do a hard job.
Yes, we sometimes get calls wrong.
Yes, I want to hear when I’ve gotten something wrong, because I would like to be able to explain what I saw vs what you saw.
Yes, the GDC could ‘fix’ a lot of these problems by giving scoring aspects back to non-ref volunteers.
Yes, most posts I’ve seen on CD have been “This call happened to us, we think it was wrong, what do you think?”.
Here is a quote from something someone else wrote that I didn’t feel was constructive or helpful in one of those threads:

This should have been a field fault and had the match replayed.

I was not impressed with the referee quality at CMP this year.

No, I don’t think that ref calls shouldn’t be talked about on CD.

Here’s something else.
As a ref, I defer to how my head ref interprets the rules and calls them. In my experience reffing under different head refs, some things are slightly different, more or less lenient, etc and so on. This isn’t usually that big of an issue for regionals/districts, but when you mix all those refs from all over at CMP and then have rules that are ambiguous or can be read different ways after 7 weeks, then some calls will appear bad to some and fine to others.

On another note – I love wearing the zebra stripes because I can have a bit of fun seeing students nervous as to why I’m in their pit, then exhale relief when I just want a picture of their robot :slight_smile:
However, this season I was thanked for being a volunteer (without any prompting) exactly once, and it happened to be a Thursday morning in my ‘street clothes’. I’m not saying treat your volunteers like they walk on water, but that one girl saying “Thank you for volunteering!!” as I walked away honestly made my weekend even more enjoyable.

Being a volunteer isn’t an excuse to be bad at your job.

When a ref gets a call wrong, why should all the repercussion be placed on teams? Their season could be over, and they won’t hear so much as a “oh sorry, I made a mistake” in response. The goal is inspiration and volunteers are obviously working towards that but FRC is a competition. The inspiration happens because it is a competition. When you mess up on the competitive aspects, you mess up the inspiration.

A couple of choice quotes from the past six years:

“I did get the call wrong, but I didn’t want to waste time replaying the match.”

“Technically [the team that drove into your frame perimeter] should have gotten a red card, and they did break parts of your robot, but I don’t think it would have mattered.”

And totally rude behavior towards anyone in the question box.

Well said my man. Very well done.

It was funny. Yesterday I saw a post from a member of 16. He said he never knew how needed video replay was until his team had a bad call at their expensive.

I have volunteered in many positions and will be reffing in the off-season. And guess what I am the same person who will say this year’s reffing was terrible. Was it all the refs fault? No. Some of it was the game. But, when you go to the question match after wrongly losing your last elimination match of the season and the ref says to you that she thinks they were wrong but they have a schedule to keep… I think you will have a different reaction.

I hear from many volunteers who were refs say they no longer want to ref because of what is said about them. Keep it up guys in no time flat you’ll drive them all out then you’ll really have something to cry about.

I agree, but sometimes that is First’s only option.

I was chatting with Refs at Champs, and they said they could have used more Refs. One Head Ref complained about a Ref not being up to the task.

IMHO, each seasoned team (teams at least a few years old) should be required to put a Mentor through Ref Training. All the Refs would be required to ref a few practice matches. It would give the Head Ref the option to sub-out a Ref if a Ref is not up to the challenge. The trained Mentor gives the Team a different perspective on the game.

BTW: I also think that every team (including rookie teams) should put a Mentor through Robot Inspection certification, and have to complete the inspection checklist for their team’s robot before Stop Build. It would help to identify problems in advance, and guide building of the robot next year (make certain things more easy to inpsect).

Refs must be pretty thin-skinned, because no one is attacking them personally. No names are named. We could name names - there are refs here in Michigan that I like and those I don’t, based on their track records - but we choose not to name the refs, but rather identify just the poor calls and the mistakes. And let me tell you, there are far more mistakes than get posted about on Chief Delphi (missed crossings for days). If FTAs or Lead Queuers screwed up as much as the refs, they’d be run out of town.

I don’t like it when good but tough calls are questioned. I’m talking about the situations where neither decision is great. The Newton SF non-replay is a good example. Referees need to make tough calls and questioning them doesn’t make it any easier. But the truly bad calls? What can I say, they were bad.

Re-posting from this thread: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?t=148072

Why do you believe that ChiefDelphi is the place for constructive criticism for referees?

My opinion is there are many other more official ways to handle a poor reffing situation (because, yes, they do exist. Yes, they need to be addressed.)

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Question Box at the event. This is the quickest and most official method of questioning a referee.

  2. Talking to the Volunteer Coordinator in person about your concerns. Usually the VCs contact information can be found on the event website. As a VC myself, this is extremely great information to know. Sure, I may ask if you want to ref yourself, or if you know of anyone who will (I’m always trying to recruit everyone around me anyway), but I’ll listen, I’ll note your concerns, and I may reassign the guilty ref to a different position at the next event IF POSSIBLE.

  3. Talking to the Head Ref about your concerns. The HR won’t be able to explain much about a call after the event is over, but they can listen to your concerns and take them into account for the future.

  4. Talking to the Event Coordinator about your concerns. (similar to the VC).

If you absolutely must address it via social media or ChiefDelphi, then don’t simply say, “The reffing is poor. This call was wrong.” Because that isn’t constructive criticism at all. It’s acting like a backseat driver. If you truly believe that CD is the media to use and the way to make change, then suggest a solution to go along with your criticism. Otherwise it’s not CONSTRUCTIVE, and it’s just complaining and whining.

I disagree. Indeed I don’t recall any ‘names being named’ but the ref is usually in the video. The ref (if following CD) knows the name, the entire reffing crew at the event knows who you are talking about, the ref’s team’s(and former teams’) members know who you are talking about, many volunteers at the event knows who you are talking about, and so forth. They *are *being attacked personally. Would you say “The driver of team #### really messed up and it cost us the match”-- no because that would be attacking them personally, even though you did not name them.

Would you be willing to sit down with the ref and say “I think you made the wrong call, I’m going to post a video of the match on CD and state my arguments so hundreds of people can also make judgments about your call, many of whom will post in agreement with me.”

If I have a co-worker who is screwing up, I don’t blast an email to the whole company describing the situation in enough detail to identify the person, but avoiding naming names. I go through proper channels, which for FRC as was stated partially in the OP and re-iterated in another post is the question box, the VC, and the regional director, and then HQ (though I hope very little would rise to that level)

Perhaps FIRST should formalize a referee ‘complaint’ system that codifies this. Head Ref would still have final say on the field, but the complaint system would help sort out the more qualified refs for advancement to head ref positions and DCMP and CMP roles. Unfortunately, it is likely such a system will have its own disadvantages.

The biggest unintended (and mostly hidden) consequence of these public airings (and I have personal knowledge of this occurring) is that many people who would otherwise volunteer to be a ref don’t even start, and others who have ref’d stop doing so, especially at DCMP and CMP events where the stakes are greater.

Keep in mind when using the question box that there is very little time between matches. You are going to get one chance to ask your question. Think through your question. Ask a clear question to get a clear answer. You are not going to get time for many follow up questions. If it is a rule question it doesn’t hurt to have a copy of the rule available. Be tactful. Don’t come across as if you know the rules better than the referee. (Even if you think you do :] ) Keep in mind the referee’s call is stressed and under time constraints. Don’t confuse a curt answer for a lack of caring. Even if you think the answer is wrong, it is the answer and the head referee is final, except it with GP. In the end the some total is more than one bad call.

After every event a survey is sent out by First. I think it goes to the primary mentor, but it is meant to be filled out by everybody. It is meant to be filled out by every body.

This is exactly the toxic mentality the OP was hoping to avoid. When you have this mentality, you provide the ref with two options: be perfect or don’t volunteer. As the first is an impossible task, you’ve just eliminated every ref.

You forgot to add, “It’s all about the robot.”

Another ref chiming in. As my first year as a referee it was definitely interesting to be on the other side of the table. I was a driver when I was a student, and now I occasionally drive coach (depending on the season). This year I happened to be both a ref and drive coach.

It is understandable that people won’t go out of their way to post positive opinions. That takes effort and motivation that you lack when compared to when you are angry about something. I’m not surprised that the number of posts that are criticizing referees outnumber the posts thanking us by a large margin. But, I will shout out the teams and mentors at CHS district events. Going off of the posts here, you ALL showed us love that was scarce in other places. Unlike some of the posters here, I was thanked numerous times while wearing the zebra stripes, and drive teams were all awesome to work with.

We are all human. Referees are trained for their roles, but that doesn’t make them immune to messing up. It will happen. I refereed something like 247 matches over the season. To think that I didn’t make a mistake in one of those matches would be foolish. Not only that, but it is my first year reffing. I know I made mistakes, and I learned from them.

Overall, the reactions here on the forums are expected. The only thing that I have issue with the jump between complaining about some calls, and calling all reffing this year bad. Yes, specific instances may have been questionable. Yes, people have the right to complain about us. But, when you look at the sheer amount of matches that went on, and then compare the amount of calls that are complained about, it paints a VERY big difference on how “bad” reffing was this year.

And again, shout outs to the teams at the events I reffed at. You were the definition of Gracious Professionals, and made my day with your comments.

I will admit that as the rule expert for the team, I had the whole game manual (all but section 1) printed out booklet style, separated by section, and folded in my back pockets for the whole regional (I had been going over the rules quite a bit the week before, so I had the game rules somewhat memorized already). And it did come in handy a few times (mainly when we needed to look up a rule and my iPad with the manual downloaded on it was back in the pit and we were qued for a match).

The refs at KC did this too, along with pulling up the q&a occasionally on my phone. ::rtm::