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Bird's Nest: So you wanna be a good ref, eh?


By: Wingman

This week’s article stems from a thread that I wrote over on the X7OG last year. The thread basically summarized all the key points I think are important while reffing. This week I’m going to touch base on topics covered in that article and introduce some new ones. So let’s pull on our masks and get started!

One of the biggest factors, when it comes to being a good referee is movement. The problem that a lot of referees have is they are just plain lazy! They choose one spot on the field and stay in that spot even if all the action is on the other side of the field. What a good referee does is constantly move wherever the action is at. Another mistake, is when you get a large pile up refs in one spot. What good referee does is move wherever the refs are thin, this way you don’t get players calling for a ref when there are none around!

Another point is learning how to strategically place yourself on the field. Whenever I’m on the field either as a ref or as a player I often time see referees getting in the way. This is a BIG no no in my book. A referee has to make him/herself present, but at the same time not a burden. Whenever you pick a place to stand for a bit and watch the field, it’s always a good idea to look behind and in front to ensure you’re not going to end up in a player’s lane for a possible shot. If you do find yourself in the way, there are a few things you can do. For starters you can just move to a new location, or you can either crouch or lay down. A great referee is one who will fearlessly lay down while two players have a firefight over his/her head. Once you’ve got your movement figured out, and you mastered your ability to stay out of people’s way. You are on your way to being a great ref.

Have you ever been on the field and the other team had your side so far pushed back that you couldn’t even get out of your insertion point? How frustrating is that? That is probably one of the hardest things for a ref to deal with. You see all these players getting taken out one after the other and it’s like watching a massacre. This brings up my next point, which is keeping the game even. Often times you’ll notice that the refs will do a few things in order to give the side that’s getting pummeled a fighting chance for a comeback. One of these common practices is pushing back the team that is leading. A point on the field is selected and the team that is in the lead will then be wrangled up by the refs and pushed back to that point. Then the game will resume. Another way, and one of my favorites, is to take a group of 10-25(depending on game turnout) from the losing team and inserting them about 100 yards behind the winning team’s front lines. Most of the time this small group doesn’t make it very far, but they serve their purpose by taking all of the lead teams attention off the front lines, even if only for a short time. This allows the losing team to hopefully make a strong push and reclaim some ground.

Another factor to consider is remaining fair. It sounds like its super easy, but you’d be surprised how often I see refs making calls that I don’t agree with. The calls you make have to be fair to everyone. You can’t favor one team over the other or one player over the next. You are the authority on the field, and you don’t want the players to feel that the “man” is against them, it just ruins the fun of the game. So what do you do? First things first, .what bad experiences have you had on the field where you feel the refs call was wrong? Have you ever gotten into a firefight with someone, and you both hit each other at the same time, yet the ref runs up to you and calls you out? You remember that feeling of frustration as the other player is allowed to just wipe off their hit and keep going? Personally that’s one of my biggest frustrations! I know I hit the player at the same time they hit me, and they know it too, yet they’re not honorable enough to call it themselves. What do you do as a ref? Well anytime I come across two players that are arguing across the field as to who shot whom first, I remove both from play. This in my book is just fair. You don’t know who got shot first, and instead of taking the word of one player over the other, and possibly upsetting someone, just pull them both. It’s a game! They can reinsert in 15 minutes, they’ll be fine!

Stickin’ to your guns. This is one of the hardest things for a referee, new or experienced. You can’t allow a mouthy little ‘baller to make you change a call that you’ve made. If you run up on someone and call them out, and they start arguing, enforce your call. If you let one player make you change your call, then others players will see that and they’ll try to sway you as well.

Another thing to consider that you’ll have to deal with is the attitude you’ll get from players. Let’s face it, its 100 degrees out, 90% humidity, and halfway through the day. What does this all add up to? Attitude! Lots and lots of attitude. As the day drags on and players get more and more fatigued you’ll find more and more players throwin’ some lip your way, and you can’t let it sway you. I’ve had people scream at me, and you just gotta sit there, smile and stick with whatever you told them. And don’t forget, in the end, you have the ultimate say. If you’ve warned a person several times and they just keep doin’ whatever it was they were doin’, boot them from the field for the remainder of the day. This is the ultimate punishment for a player, and should only be used in extreme situations. And whenever you’re considering this as an option, walk the player off the field yourself, pull another ref over and get their opinion. You don’t wanna kick someone off the field for the rest of the day without the opinion of at least another ref.

Another subject of interest I wanna cover is game knowledge. Let me ask you this, how many times have you gone up to a referee to ask him/her something about the game, and he/she just stared back at you blankly? How frustrating is that? I know that every time that happens to me I just shake my head, and walk away. If you’re going to be a referee, why would you not familiarize yourself with game?! This is one of my biggest pet peeves when I’m playing a game. Sometimes I just wanna know the damn score when I’m out there and the refs on the field are too lazy to stay up to date on what’s going on. So please for my sanity, and the sanity of many others, know your stuff! Things you should make sure you know about, at least in my book, include: scoring, missions, play time left, and any other small unique details about the game. Let’s face it, each game and each situation is different, and a lot of time refs volunteer at the last minute. If you’re one of these refs, go up to the pro-shop or head ref and ask for a copy of the rules. They’ll gladly give you a copy and it’s a super simple way of being able to answer any questions that come your way.
One more thing that I’d like to go over is SAFETY! And I can’t stress this one enough. This is the main factor that often earns the paintball community a bad reputation. Accidents do happen, but a lot of them can be easily avoided by stressing safety. More times than I’d like to admit, I’ve see referees promoting horrible safety practices. They’ll be walking around with their mask kicked up on their heads in places where masks should be on. I don’t care if you’re a mile away from where the action is and its 110 degrees, if you are on the field your mask better be down. Barrel condoms are also something that I see people getting lax with way too often. A properly put on barrel condom can stop many injuries. I don’t know about you, but I’ve let a few shoot loose in my barrel condom. Just thinking where that would have hit makes me glad I had the condom on. Many guns have super light trigger pulls, so it’s extra important to stress barrel condom safety! As soon as a player is shot, it should be second nature to put their condom on!

So, basically it’s just takes a few simple skills to become a great referee. Move around the field and stay in the action yet out of the way. Make all your calls fair and stick with your guns when you make a call. Make sure you’re knowledgeable in all aspects of the game and mainly promote safety on and off the field. Try and keep the game even so one side doesn’t get pushed into their deadbox and kept there the entire game. And as always have fun and enjoy the sport you love! The better job you do reffing the game the better the experience the player will have!


Just wanted to give a quick thank you to everyone today.  The site has been growing faster than I ever expected.  I have put in a picture below showing how many people are on the site.  When I logged on today to check some things I saw this ... 87 guests!  This is the most I've seen on at any one time.  Thanks to everyone for visiting and I hope that the site is something that you enjoy and keep coming back to.  We have some great things in store for you in the coming weeks.  Make sure to keep checking back daily!


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