All The Referee of the Year Candidates Are Men and You Should Be Pissed About It

By Elizabeth Barcelos

Last week, USQ announced their February Referees of the Month, rounding out this year’s candidates for Referee of the Year. I’m usually happy to see those announcements because I know those referees personally or by reputation, and seeing good officiating be commended is always something I am down for.

Instead, my first thought was, “But they’re all men!”

Disclaimer because I know some quidditch MRAs are gonna come for me: this is not an attack on those six referees. They deserve respect and recognition. They work hard and provide excellent officiating, but you better believe that it is far easier to get good reviews as a male presenting referee, and Referee of the Month/Year is heavily based on reviews.

By the numbers

There are currently 96 USQ head referees. Of those, one is nonbinary and fourteen are women. (If we’re wrong and misgendered you, please drop us a line so we can edit this.) So yeah, if about fifteen percent of head referees aren’t men, then the odds are good that you’re going to have a year like this.

Why are the vast majority of head referees men? Because when women behave like authoritative men, they get called “bossy,” which sounds a lot like “bitch” to me. It’s not just a quidditch problem – it’s everywhere. We get held to higher standards than men, men believe we’re not tough enough for the job, it goes on and on.

But quidditch is supposed to be better! If we’re going to position ourselves as in inclusive and progressive, we need to act like it. Nonmales make up way more than 15% of the quidditch playing population, they should make up more of the referees, too.

Attempting to give credit where credit is due

I wish I could say that I knew six women who deserve to be Referee of the Year, but I don’t. There may very well be at least six, but I can only speak for the non-male referees I’ve seen on my side of the country. Feel free to call me out for leaving out anyone in the comments section. St. Quidditch knows they need the recognition.

In no particular order, I’d like to give these six west coast femme referees the recognition they so richly deserve. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Far from it. But it’s a start.

Ref of the Year tier

Julia Thomas

The only woman I know brave enough to wear a USC hat on the UCLA campus. Photo Credit: Sofia de la Vega Photography

Julia will never be Referee of the Year for one reason: she’s on USQ’s Referee Development Team and it’s gauche to give yourself an award. However, let me make the case for why she just might be the West’s most valuable referee this year.

At the Long Beach Invitational last November, Julia was the head referee in six of ten time slots in bracket play before leaving because she had tickets to the USC vs. UCLA football game she’d had for months. She’s the biggest USC fan I know, and would have been justified in spending the day tailgating instead of refereeing. But she showed up.

At Heroes and Villains, Julia was assigned to the Villains pool all. Damn. Day. You know, the teams that are supposedly hard to ref? Then, at West Regionals, a tournament with a format that cried out for nonplaying head referees, she was the only unaffiliated head referee there.

Julia played a huge role in making three of the West’s biggest tournaments happen. Four for you, Julia. Four for you. It’s a crime that you’ve never been Referee of the Month.

Ra Hopkins

Oh look, Ra found the trash again. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Barcelos Photography.

I may be SJSU’s Coach Mom, but I take no credit for their referee corps. And yes, I am including my year of being a head referee in that statement. Ra was the proctor who passed me, but they were also the referee who gave me feedback the whole summer before, when I reffed unofficial games for practice.

Ra didn’t just do that for me; they do it for anyone who seeks out their help. As NCQC’s Referee Coordinator, that’s what Ra does for all the teams in the Bay Area. I didn’t give them that job; they created it for themselves.I don’t know any other referee, of any gender, that puts as much work into mentoring new refs as Ra does.

Ra also traveled with me to Long Beach Invitational even after the Skrewts dropped from the tournament. Only three of the Long Beach Invitational’s eight teams had head referees, so losing the Skrewts with our cadre of 3-4 head referees (depending on who’s available) was a blow to the tournament. Not wanting to let Long Beach down, Ra made the trek with me when we could have easily stayed home.

Ra was previously Referee of the Month in February of 2017, but so was Michael Clark-Polner, one of this February’s Referees of the Month. Repeats are allowed.

Rookie Referee of the Month: March

Kim Cheng

Smol person, big responsibilities. Photo Credit: SJSU Quidditch.

Imagine that your first assignment after passing your head ref field test was between two teams that had nine current or former head refs on their rosters. Now imagine that your team’s coach played for one of those teams, and the other team was one that you’ve admired for years.

‘A good referee is unbiased,’ you’re gonna tell me. ‘It shouldn’t matter who you’re reffing.’ You’re right; it absolutely shouldn’t. But don’t pretend that that’s an easy scenario to find yourself in, and yet Kim Cheng handled the Lost Boys/Skrewts (the Lost Boys’ only SWIM game of West Regionals, btw) matchup at WRC 2018 like a pro.

She went on the ref the Skrewts, the most chatty bench I have ever been a part of, all damn day. Sometimes it was with her SJSU ref crew, and sometimes it was with ref crews from college teams that didn’t have a head referee. She handled all those games in the community division, where every game held the weight of a final, without flinching.

In my brief time as a head referee, I never had such a high level day.

The Workhorse

Kym Couch

Kym rocking her Day 2 whites in whiteout weather. Photo Credit: Tasha Kiri Photography.

As the Northwest’s only proctor and unaffiliated referee of any gender (the other two head refs in the region are both on the Rain City Raptors), if Kym isn’t at a NW tournament, is it even a NW tournament? Of the region’s three biggest tournaments (Tree City Invitational, NWRC 2018, and Quidditch Conference of the Northwest Finals) this season, Kym refereed at two out of the three. She attended all three; she was just the nonplaying TD for QCON Finals. And while people think the Northwest is small because of population density, the distances involved would make our east coast counterparts cringe. The drive from Boise to Western Washington is more than 500 miles, and she did it twice this season.

As boring as a three-team-triple-round-robin regional over two days is, someone’s gotta ref those games, and Kym was the head referee in seven out of the nine and was the LAR for the remaining two games. No breaks at regionals, even a small one, is a feat to be noted.

As a member of a West team, Kym’s done more of her fair share of reffing down here, too. The Lost Boys didn’t roster her at Heroes and Villains, but she came down to ref anyway and lightened the burden of her teammate who wasn’t up to the load he’d been voluntold to carry. As a member of USQ’s ref team and a regional coordinator, Kym knows what it is to be a team player.

Some LAR honorable mentions

Sam Huston

Had to steal this from her Facebook profile because she has a serious lack of quidditch photos. My camera will be looking for her next time we’re at the same tournament. Photo Credit: Unlisted.

Are these ladies head refs? No, but I’d be thrilled if it happened with these next two. I’d also understand if they didn’t want to deal with the bullshit. Sam impressed me and my impossible to please team by being hands down the most communicative LAR we had all weekend. In a world where ARs can barely be trusted to call beats, Sam knew when it was appropriate to send a beater to get a stray bludger or when to get it herself. She was never distracted from the play her HR told her to follow.

Sam does all this while managing an essentially brand new team in the Utah Raptors. She’s also managing the Salt Lake City Hive for MLQ this summer, and it’s great to see fresh blood step up and take the reigns of leadership and officiating in a state that’s already produced dual threat referees/organizers like Sequoia Thomas, Courtney Savage, and Danika Bond.

McKayla Major

Couldn’t find a photo of McKayla reffing, so here she is keeping during the fifteen minutes THE ARGONAUTS WERE LEADING THE NIGHT RIDERS AT MLQ CHAMPS. (I am forever never going to get over that.) Photo Credit: MLQ/Miguel Esparza.

Imagine that an up and coming team in your area that you practice with and are pretty tight with hosts a big tournament… and then doesn’t invite you. It’d be easy to blow them off and not volunteer. However, McKayla showed up to the Golden Bear Invitational to help her alma mater out and brought the excellent LARing I’ve come to expect from a veteran like her after seeing her on ref crews in NCQC for the past few years.

In a pattern that should surprise no one, she also does this while being a co-captain of the California Dobbys, a team I am always happy to see as my ref crew. I almost wish they didn’t have so much reffing experience, but they’re the exception to the idea of “bad teams, bad refs.” The Dobbys don’t always do well in tournaments, but they’re definitely a team you want sticking around to help ref in the late bracket games, in no small part thanks to McKayla’s efforts.

Let’s not be pissed about this next season

Above all else, do your damn referee evaluations. Not just when you’re mad. All the time. I’ve seen people write novels when they’re convinced that a referee has wronged them, but I highly doubt they put the same detail into positive or even neutral reviews.

And yes, I need to @ myself on this too because I definitely blew off doing reviews after regionals to go to Disneyland like the responsible adult that I am. Kim Cheng’s heroic performance likely got overlooked because of that, hence me attempting to make it up to her now.

Second, if you are a seasoned referee, maybe think about taking an up and comer under your wing? I know I talked about Ra being a big part of my referee journey, but Kevin Oelze and Martin Pyne also helped me get my start as a head ref. Ra has cited Kevin (along with Sequoia Thomas and Dan Hanson) as a part of her development as well. This doesn’t have to be a boys vs. girls thing. Not all of us identify with being either, but we all need help sometimes. It means the world to someone learning how to command a pitch to get a leg up from someone they look up to.

And finally, stop being shitty to refs. Again, this applies to all genders, but if you’re not a dude, the odds are already against you the minute you step into a position of authority. Being a head referee is so unappealing because we make it that way. You wouldn’t be able to have games without these people. Show the head referees we have some respect so that new refs — no matter their gender — don’t just stall out at LARing to avoid the constant bitching that HRs get.

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