R is for referee.
A longtime member of the Cottage Grove Firemen in Home Talent League baseball, Pat Hawker has been using the last seven years to give back to the community by serving as a baseball umpire, and referee in football and basketball for high school varsity teams.
Pat is a native of Altoona, near Eau Claire, and played baseball at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa. Annually, he referees up to 40 basketball games, umpires up to 30 baseball games and serves as a back judge for eight or nine football games. He has been assigned to games throughout Wisconsin.
“I can go all over,” Pat said. “There is a shortage of officials statewide and nationally. I’ll go to Wisconsin Dells, Platteville, Beloit and Milwaukee, mostly the southern part of the state.”
This past football season, Pat officiated a WIAA Level 4 football playoff game in Oshkosh between Fond du Lac and Kimberly that he considered a fun experience.
Of course, not every manager or coach is going to agree with Pat’s calls. He said the key to handling those disputes is having knowledge of the rules.
“You have to get your head in the rule book and make sure that the situation applies,” Pat said. “Communication is the key with the other officials you are working with and the coaches.”
Pat said on many occasions, he has sat with coaches and players to explain some of his decisions where there might have been disagreement.
As for the shortage of referees and officials, Pat is confident that will change. He said people shy away from the work because of the verbal abuse from fans, coaches and players.
He said there is a movement among state organizations that regulate officials to encourage more involvement among young people who may have played sports in high school.
“We want to give them adequate training and give them confidence,” Pat said. “If you are persistent and patient, it’s a really rewarding career. I think over time, more people will get involved in officiating. We hope that trend can happen not only now but in the long term.”
Next week: S is for studying.