Referees and Human Players

DISCLAIMER: This post is my personal opinion, and has not been discussed with or approved by any other member of my team. This post does not necessarily represent the opinion of any or all members of my team.

We just got back from our second regional, and it was great! The referees did a marvelous job, but they were hampered in the following way:

There were no referees who could see behind the driver’s stations. As a result, many human players committed fouls that were not called. I can personally vouch for the fact that when I or our Human Player asked a few of the individuals concerned about the rules, all were simply unaware that they had committed a foul. So I don’t think there was any malice or attempt to cheat; these all appeared to be innocent mistakes. Problems included stepping out of the driver’s station tape lines; not removing balls immediately from the corral (which could affect a match); stepping over the four-foot line.

The four referees on the field are busy watching the bridges, alleys, and robots, and usually cannot see behind the reflective drivers’ station walls. So this is NOT a complaint against any referees.

My question is, do we need six referees, so as to station one behind each drivers’ station? Is this really important, or am I just being obsessive about a trivial glitch in the competition? Is it worth the increased resources, i.e. needing to arrange for two more referees at every regional? Should there be a human player meeting before every regional, like the drivers’ meeting, to go over the rules?

My apologies in advance if I am wasting everyone’s time.

I’ve refereed 4 events this year, so I can say what has worked for me at the events I’ve worked at.

Normally, during qualifications we would have one referee on each side hang back and stand near the driver’s station. This would be on the side that the Inbounder slot is on. They would split time between the field and the humans, usually focusing more on the humans. The one across from them would be completely focused on robots. Although this isn’t perfect, it worked fairly well.

During eliminations, we used a slightly different system. At events where we wer lucky enough to have two extra referees (which we had at 2 of my events) we would station one of each behind the drivers stations and they would signal fouls, allowing the other refs to focus on the field. However if there weren’t the extras we used the staggered refs like in qualifiers.

I know this isn’t perfect, but this is just one system that seems to help keep a close eye on the human players.

This is no waste of time. The refs are there to enforce the rules, otherwise we’d all be keeping ever ball our human player comes in contact with. If the rules aren’t being enforced, something is wrong. From what you said, the refs were being good, and doing their jobs, so it seems like it’s a number problem. Maybe more referees would make things more legal.

In a game where the robots, the drivers, the coaches, AND the human players can cause fouls, there needs to be people watching them.

This has been happening for years and is rarely called. It happened this weekend at Wisconsin when a human player sunk a last second game winning basket, only to step out of the box in celebration which should have lost them the match. In 2009, during the finals of Wisconsin or Midwest, a human player made a game, and regional, winning super cell shot, and stepped out of the box which should have cost them the match. In 2010, it happend frequently as human players passed balls to the tridant guy.

I guess I’m ok that these penalties are not called as it doesn’t really affect the matches, but it is a little unfortunate for those who do read the rules and make efforts to stay inside the box.

I was doing field reset at St. Louis, and saw some kind of driver station penalty in probably every other match - teams with coaches driving or throwing, grabbing the balls early (happened constantly! Eventually the refs told everyone to stop), throws from over the line, stepping out of the box, teams with 5 people in the box, and more… I tried to let the referees know about the penalties, but I guess they had other stuff to watch. If FIRST is going to make games like this one where human players can make a big difference, then maybe they should get an extra referee or two for each regional to keep an eye on them…

Volunteer coordinators were explicitly told to have five referees and one head referee - no more, no less.

Referees: Strict limit due to desire on FRC’s part for greater consistency in the calls. VCs are saying that recruiting and retaining referees is difficult due to stringent cap on number of volunteers. VCs state they need more flexibility in staffing, and not be limited in terms of numbers. VC request to fix the situation this year.

Referee Update: Why can we only have 5 referees, not more? Update from FRC – no solution for this season but to update [FRC Volunteer Coordinator]. If this rule is affecting your event, please alert [FRCVC]. [She] needs more solid feedback so she can advocate for the VCS regarding referees.

Sounds kind of like a Harrison Bergeron approach to the problem: if you can’t improve, at least make every event equally bad. Instead, I think people would be willing to accept a small systemic inconsistency due to some events having more (properly qualified) referees, because it simply represents an effort above and beyond FIRST’s minimum standard of enforcement.

Incidentally, the head referee is entitled to rely upon information from sources other than referees, per [T13]. So even if an event can’t station a true referee there, they could theoretically have another trusted, competent volunteer relay notice of the infractions observed. This could be useful in terms of catching coaches operating robots, or illegal human player shots.

This thread brings up an interesting point. At the Northville District, I witnessed a student rack up close to 27 penalty points for stepping over the line everytime he tried to throw a ball on to the field, during an elimination match.

As P.J. detailed there was a ref standing right behind him signaling to another ref to input the penalties.

This poor kid had no idea he was doing anything wrong. I don’t think he was aware of the line or any rules about stepping over it. I am not even sure he knows what happened now. I believe after that match his team (which I don’t remember) was eliminated from the tournament.

At what point, should a referee step up to a student and let them know they causing fouls? I mean we have flags and hand signals to let the drivers know when they are committing fouls. Shouldn’t someone let the human players know when they are committing fouls too?

I think this topic is usually covered by the Head Ref during Drivers Meetings. I have also seen some referees speak to students after matches about how to avoid causing fouls in the future.

IMO, a referee should not talk to students (even to advise that they are causing fouls) DURING a match. That job belongs to the coach.

I’d like to think I’m competent… trusted, who knows. As a field reset volunteer and wannabe ref, I’ve tried to notify referees about fouls I’ve seen… in previous years I was told off by the FTA, and this year the refs seemed to mostly ignore me (as I stated earlier).

I did notice the refs notify the human players several times, including during matches, why they had incurred fouls.

I did this at GTR east, I was an inspector but was assigned to field rest also. I just relayed things I saw to the head ref to look out for. One team had 5 players. And I kept reminding teams to stay in the box

I’ve always worked under the assumption that I’m not supposed to try to correct people during matches, but after a match I definitely go to teams that incur a lot of penalties and tell them what they were doing wrong.

And Adam, was that the match with the line penalties or the one where the human player was wearing the coach button? Because that was another match with over 20 points in penalties. But that was a qualification match, I believe.

Just another thing to check before your matches. Wear the right button please oh please.

This was definitely for line violations. I was sitting right next to the field waiting for our next match.

I just felt really bad for him, since he obviously wasn’t taught how to inbound the ball effectively, nor was he paying any attention to the line.

The ref behind him would hold his hand up in the air everytime he crossed the line and the ref at the penalty station would input the foul…but never was there an indication to the student or the alliance that multiple fouls were occurring.

I agree with Richard that the responsibility is 100% on the coach to teach and correct this type of behavior, but in this instance I don’t think anyone on that side of the glass knew fouls were occurring.

Just seems like a flag should be raised and pointed at the offending human player or something, so we (drive team and coaches) know what’s going on during the match.

The refs at GTR east seemed to notice the human players [me included (whoops)] step over the line and take balls during hybrid fairly often. It was so common, that if my memory serves me well, the MC specifically mentioned these 2 common fouls on friday at lunch. After that, the number of human player fouls reduced from slim to none. :slight_smile:

The problem is, the refs who can normally see this happen and are calling these are standing in a line pretty much parallel to the drivers, so when we do this (At least that’s what I always try to do, point at the offending person that is) they don’t necessarily see. The field is not idealized for reffing this year, unfortunately.

FIRST in the last few years has been deemphasizing calls made “behind the glass” so to speak, so TKM’s post doesn’t surprise me, though I still find it interesting. I agree, we should go back to the days where, manpower willing, there are referees to watch the HPs/Drivers/Coaches as well.

Tristan,
That is exactly the approach FIRST has taken in the past. When I was lobbying FIRST to raise referee standards by instituting a “Referee Test,” I was told it was unfeasible because it was hard enough filling volunteer roles in general. I think that was also one of the original reasonings behind the split-off of Michigan from FIRST, in the hope that they could “Raise the Bar” so to speak.

Adam,
I think you nailed the question. Why didn’t the referee step up & notify the student after maybe the 2nd infraction, instead of getting flag-happy? The worst part is the kid in your situation probably never knew what hit him. I know it’s the Elims, but maybe that match was his first as HP. I see the goal as a Ref as to help teams prevent potential infractions, as well as award actual ones.

I notice some people in general get uptight when you try to help like that and think you’re telling them how to do their job. They’re likely insecure because they aren’t performing to their own expectations, but they should realize that nobody can see every penalty, and appreciate the help. Unfortunately, you can’t tell them that, so all you can do is shrug it off.

I have reffed two events this year. If I had to flag an inbounder during qualification I always try and tell them what their infraction was to help them from making the same mistake again. If they don’t know the rule by the elimination matches I make no effort to tell them their infractions.

It is almost impossible to police the drivers station during a match. A ref has their zones to watch and that can keep them very busy. About the only time I make sure and watch the inbounders is when I know they are holding a lot of balls and game altering infractions can be made.

As a spectator the last two weekends I have seen many many fouls go uncalled because the ref was engaged somewhere else. I even saw one operator come clear around the drivers station almost all the way next to the ref himself but with the ref watching some close robot action near the bridge he didn’t ever see him!

I think a back-judge is necessary if FIRST want’s to have these rules enforced.

This statement is a bit disturbing to me, are you saying that there was more than the standard 4 ref 1 head ref configuration in this match?

Yes there was. I didn’t know that we weren’t supposed to do this I guess. At Kettering and Northville this year, we were fortunate enough to have 2 extra certified referees on staff. So during eliminations we put the two extras behind the player stations to watch for human fouls. I was the one who suggested this, and I apologize if this was somehow against the rules. I don’t see how this is really an issue, we made an executive decision to help us make sure the matches stayed clean. But if there is something against this I was unaware.

Yes, I believe so. There was definitely a back judge on both sides of the field. I was watching the blue side during this specific match in question. I also noticed one behind me during our elimination matches on the red side.

I am not a volunteer or ref, so I have no idea how many refs are supposed to be present during a match.