One of the largest topics of discussion among referees in the USA is the Referees Commission (RC) meeting that takes place after Summer Nationals, typically around Labor Day in Denver Colorado. By having a fresh set of eyes and ears on the meeting, we as ombudsman feel that there should be some visibility into it. This article will discuss the scope, process, attendees, and outcomes of the meeting.
First and foremost, this nearly 2 day meeting serves as a wrap of the previous, and to kick off the next fencing season for referees in the United States.
It is necessary to know that everyone aside from USA Fencing staff in this meeting is a volunteer for the commission. The elected members members of the RC and the arbitrage represnetative, give their time to the administration of refereeing in the sport and it is often forgotten. They convene in a hotel conference room and sit together to discuss the past, present, and future of refereeing for the year, and the referees that will represent the USA for teams competing abroad. The members of the Commission and their roles are:
Sam Cheris – Chair of the Referees’ Commission
Kelly Koehler – Vice-Chair of the International Referee Development and Assignments
Patrick Webster – Vice-Chair of the Domestic Referee Development
Devin Donnely – Vice-Chair of the Rules and Examinations
Anne Crocket – Vice-Chair of the Domestic Assignments
Derek Cotton – Referee Ombudsman
Iana Dakova – Member of the FIE Refereeing Commission
An agenda is sent out prior to the meeting with the bullet points for discussions that will take place. All attendees prepare a report or presentation that is submitted to the chair and distributed among the other members of the commission.
Additionally a member from USA SEMI, an athlete’s representative, and employees of the national office present their work on topics within the scope refereeing and provide feedback over the course of the meeting.
These presentations serve as a way to update members of the commission on the intricacies of happenings the other member’s responsibilities. The floor is then open for other members of the commission to ask questions of the member presenting, and moving onto the next topic for discussion.
Last year, some (but not all) of topics that were discussed were: a review of the job descriptions as the RC evolving from the FOC, strategic plans for the year and quad, how the RC reports to the board of US Fencing, assessment program evolution, recertification of referees domestically, referee compensation, candidates for the international exam, establishing a referee recognition program, minor referees and the issues surrounding their participation, using video to educate referees, ethics process reviews, scheduling and the transition of the RC website to US Fencing’s ownership, among others too. Over 35 topics were discussed. The members of the commission do an excellent job of holding dialog on the topics discussed.
The topic where most discussion occurred was minor referees and their participation at events, because of a balance of safety for the referee. It was a very long and touched on many topics within the sport and the spirit of refereeing.
Because there are so many topics that are discussed, there is an adjournment for dinner on the first day, which provides an opportunity for members of the commission to be social and share a meal with each other. The next day, topics are resumed and the bullet list is completed. After this, the commission recesses to executive session where they discuss referee ratings.
Often referees think this is the most important part of the meeting because it represents the commission recognizing their work in a measurable way. It must be understood, however, that this should not be the only measure on which referees should judge their work. A referee’s work itself is more valued than their rating and that is what is discussed.
This process is as follows. The names of referees that have worked a national level event (NAC, JOs, Summer Nationals) are compiled on a spreadsheet that is assembled by the Domestic Assignments committee, along with their work history and feedback from the assignors for those events for the year. Each name is read out and a conversation begins about the referee. Sometimes the conversations are brief and boisterous, sometimes they are long and tenuous, but it is important to know that each referee’s work is reviewed directly and discussed by the commission and does not go unnoticed.
Members of the commission are then given the opportunity to nominate that person for an increase, renew the current rating, or give an opinion on why a referee should maintain their rating. A discussion happens and recommendations are made by members to increase, hold, or decrease ratings (although no decreases were made in 2018).
After this, the next meeting date is set for the next year and the meeting adjourns.
Topics for discussion at this years meeting will include: video projects for testing and for training of referees, an update on the referee assessment program, discussion of plans for succession for Chair, Ombudsman and Domestic Development, a new version of the referee exam, conflict of interest among assigners and coordinators, referee compensation, recognition of referees, rules proposals, and as always, the ratings review for the season.
We hope this provides a window into the previous and upcoming RC meeting and gives some visibility into the process of administration of refereeing fencing in the United States.
See you at the next one!