For those wearing the stripes, game day means the pressure is on. Every point counts.
“Man it is a lot of fun,” says Keith Kinley, Greater Wichita Officials Association referee and board member.
In big time games, big time players make big time plays. But the men and women in the stripes, like Kinley, have to show up in the clutch to make decisive and, sometimes, disputed calls.
“They think they know the rules, but they really don’t,” Kinley says. “It would be a good thing if people would just sit and watch the game and cheer for their kids, but unfortunately, we do not live in a world where that happens.”
Ask Dane Baxa.
“When you start officiating basketball, it is really tough,” he says.
Baxa will be the first to tell you there is a comradery and a special bond between referees that is unmatched. His home court now is anywhere his kids are, but he spent several years officiating. He says it comes with a heavy burden.
“I have been threatened. I have been spit on” – Keith Kinley, referee
“I know it is part of the game, and you know half the people in the stands are probably going to not like your call, but over the years, it just seems to get worse,” he explains.
“I have been threatened. I have been spit on. I have had people say things to me. I have had stuff thrown at me,” Kinley adds. “Just because I called a foul on their child or they felt like we were trying to decide the game.”
The Kansas State High School Activities Association is calling foul. In the 2009-2010 school year, there were 4,288 refs for all major high school and middle school sports. In the current school year that number is down to 3,657. That’s down nearly 15 percent. KSHSAA says it’s because of a multitude of reasons.
In a survey sent out in 2017 to more than 2,288 previously registered officials, 565 responded and the top five reasons for not continuing to be a ref were:
1. Job demand
2. Family and personal conflicts
3. Moved or relocated
4. Wanted more time with family
5. Tired, poor pay and poor sportsmanship and assigner politics
“If I walked in to your job and your restaurant and started yelling, ‘that is terrible, your steak is horrible, cook it on both sides’, what is going to happen? I am going to go to jail, or they are going to kick me out. I do not know why it is acceptable in our gyms,” Kinley says.
Kinley coordinates and assigns officials to basketball games across the Wichita area, and he says it’s a challenge to fill positions.
“I am losing a lot of guys because people are coming in to gyms and saying whatever they want to say,” he says. “You have to understand that some of us are out here because If we are not out here some of these kids don’t get to play.”
Kinley says it is still a job that he enjoys and hopes others will do too. He says they are doing more recruiting to try to get more young men and women from schools like Kansas State.
Becoming a Referee
You can easily become an official by going to the Kansas State High School Activities Association web site. The process starts with registering with KSHSAA. According to its website, depending on the sport, newly registered officials must attend meetings and clinics as well as passing a National Test.
Here is a link of expectations and deadlines for all major sports.
RELATED LINK | Kansas State High School Activities Association
If you would like to receive in person training with Keith Kinley, he will be hosting a 2019 Basketball Officials Camp that is approved by KSHSAA and sponsored by the Greater Wichita Officials Association. The dates are June 7-9.
The flyer for that event can be found by clicking here.