Intramural officials prepare for upcoming season

Jehad Abbed, Assistant Sports Editor

Intramural officials Colin Altenburg and Matt Mullen chose to be referees because of the excitement and the simple necessity of having a job.

“I needed a job,” Mullen said. “I watch people play sports anyway. I might as well get paid for it rather than sit on my butt.”

Mullen is a senior exercise science major at Eastern. He plans to get certified to officiate high school basketball once he graduates.

Following graduation, he will be starting an unpaid internship and hopes to earn money through officiating.

Naturally, there are new students looking to land a job officiating intramural sports each semester. The amount of officials needed depends on how popular the sport is and how many teams are signed up to participate.

Altenburg said they had 30 people show up for their first training session.

Altenburg is a junior special education major and is currently completing the training process for the first time. This will be his first semester as an intramural official.

Students go to meetings to learn the rules and are quickly trained. They are first tested during an abbreviated game with small teams.

Once they have completed their first training game, the trainees are thrown into a full-on practice game where they officiate a five-on-five scrimmage before the actual season begins.

“Through that practice game, they figure out who is the best,” Altenburg said. “Then they decide who gets to ref more games.”

Even if a student is an experienced official and returning for another semester to work for the intramural program, they are still expected to complete the training.

Mullen said there are a couple meetings each year depending on what sport it is.

He said basketball is the toughest sport to officiate and other sports do not require much training other than a meeting to go over the rules.

“You kind of just get thrown to the wolves when you first start off,” Mullen said. “You kind of just learn as you go.”

One of the biggest issues in intramural sports is the fact that both the players and the officials are both students.

In most cases, not many of the hired students have any experience or certification in officiating.

Mullen said because it is just intramurals and the students are playing for free, there are not any significant funds that would allow anyone to become Illinois High School Association certified.

Intramurals at Eastern follow the rules and measurements of the IHSA.

“Not everyone can be a ref,” Mullen said. “It’s not easy.”

Mullen said he was surprised by the fact that many of what he sees as the better officials are students who have not even played the sport before. He said they pay more attention to the games because they had no prior knowledge of the rules.

“Even the best ref is going to miss a call,” he said.

The intramural officials are trained on many different sports ranging from basketball to wiffle ball.

When they perform their job better, an official is going to be asked to cover more games and probably other sports.

“Basketball is easily the hardest.” Mullen said. “But, it’s the most exciting.”

From junior high to the professional level, officials endure a barrage of pestering comments and scrutiny just because of what their job entails.

“I am expecting (to get yelled at) as a ref,” Altenburg said.

As an inexperienced intramural official there is no reason to expect any different.

Mullen recalled one of his first games as a basketball referee where he was teamed up with a fellow rookie referee because of a scheduling issue.

Typically a new official would work with an experienced one.

He said they handed out a couple technical fouls, because players were swearing at him and his partner.

“They had the right to swear,” Mullen said. “It was a pretty badly refed game.”

Altenburg’s first practice game was set for Wednesday evening where he hoped to gain good experience and get a feel for an actual intramural game.

 “I’m excited to get in my first games,” Altenburg said. “I want to see how good of a ref I can actually be.”

 Jehad Abbed can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].