Students learn valuable lessons through reffing, coaching

Emily Bauer, staff reporter

In a tied hockey game, sophomore Hugh Toomey skates over to the center of the rink, ready to resume the final minutes of play in the game. There is an intense rivalry between the two 6-year-old athletes as they ready their sticks with determination for the face-off and Toomey lowers the puck to the ice.

Toomey enjoys his job as a hockey referee. Having played hockey throughout his childhood and now onto his second year of reffing, Toomey explains how his job has helped him immensely with decision-making in general.

“A lot of times during reffing, something will happen that I don’t know [how to handle], so I have to go with my best judgement and stick with what I believe,” Toomey said. “In real life, [reffing] has helped me stick with my gut and stay strong with my opinions when I don’t know exactly what to do.”

As a Level Two certified referee, Toomey can ref any age group up to 13. Yet, Toomey is only a few years older than many of the kids he refs as well as much younger than many of the coaches he works with, making it difficult to gain respect as a referee at his age. This being said, reffing as a teenager comes with many challenges, but there are ways to work through them, according to Toomey.

“As a player, it’s always funny when your coach is yelling at the ref, but being a ref it’s not as funny when the coach is yelling at you,” Toomey said. “Dealing with coaches and players that won’t listen to you is tough, but there are rules protecting the ref and we are taught what to do when dealing with coaches or players that don’t listen.”

Reffing is a great way to learn order and fairness when working with others, which is something no other high school job can do, according to Toomey. Senior Annika Newell agrees, as she has coached lacrosse for four years.

“[Coaching has] made me more understanding [and I have] realized that not everyone has the same learning style,” Newell said. “By being a coach and in charge of 15 girls, you have to adapt [practice in a way] so that everyone can understand it.”

Newell began with reffing her freshman year but stopped due to an injury. In contrast with reffing, coaching has more positive parent reactions during games and a higher reward overall, which is much more enjoyable in Newell’s opinion. This past fall season, Newell co-coached a team of 15 9-year-olds for the Illinois Girls Lacrosse Association.

“We were undefeated,” Newell said. “[When] we won [the last game], they all came and jumped on us [at the end]. Seeing how excited they all were and knowing that all [their hard work] paid off was really [rewarding as a coach].”

Instead of controlling the flow of the game as a referee, coaching allows for more personal interactions with the kids, Newell explains. Although coaching can be  challenging at times, working to improve kids’ weaknesses is extremely satisfactory, according to Newell.

“It was frustrating to have girls that are naturally gifted and then girls who are afraid of the ball,” Newell said. “But by [working individually with the girls], by the end everyone was at a level where they could play competitively and [confidently].”

Although very different, both reffing and coaching are a clear way to extend one’s love and knowledge for the sport to the next level, according to Newell. Working with kids provides a new perspective, Newell says, and only with patience can one see the benefits of this type of job. Specifically, Newell has noticed that all of her kids learn in different ways.

“Everyone grows at their own pace,” Newell said. “Just because somebody may not latch on to an idea right away doesn’t mean that they are [not good] at the sport.”