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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

RecSports student referees share challenges, benefits of job

Many members of the Notre Dame community are involved in RecSports, the organization that facilitates the vast array of recreational opportunities and services on campus. Playing for a club or intramural team, working with the media, attending fitness classes or working various job positions are just a few ways students incorporate the organization into their lives. What most don’t realize is the success of RecSports programming would not be possible without student referees.

Year-round, Notre Dame RecSports student referees brave the South Bend cold, ice rain and blazing heat in order to do their jobs.

Paul Jensen
Paul Jensen refereeing in the Notre Dame football stadium for the intramural flag football co-recreational flag football championship.

Sophomore Quinn Hogan began working for RecSports the fall of her freshman year and currently serves as a student referee supervisor. This year she refereed for flag football, which she began to understand much better through RecSports.

“I wanted to embrace the novelty of it all … try something new and different outside my norm,” Hogan said. “It has been really rewarding.”

Being a student referee allows students to gain invaluable interpersonal skills. Each referee develops a mental toughness through the rigor of the job and becomes better at making difficult decisions during high pressure circumstances, Hogan said.

“No two nights are the same,” she said. “You always have to think on your feet. The job requires your own confidence. You learn to trust yourself.” 

She said she has to do what’s necessary even when it’s difficult.

“It’s vital it doesn’t deter you,” Hogan said. “Referees can get a lot of attention or backlash from a team.”

However, Hogan said the community that comes with the job allows referees to develop the mental toughness needed to handle the rigor of it.

“It was really reassuring to know there were people [refereeing] with you who had your back,” Hogan said. “Sometimes [refereeing] requires you to make hard decisions.”

The dedication of her fellow referees and athletes also inspires her, helping her overcome challenges that come with the job. One of the most memorable games Hogan refereed included a three hour shift in the freezing rain.

“We were approaching play-offs. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘This is miserable, and I’m really cold.’ But then I remembered looking at the players on the field, who were out there just like me, some in T-shirts and shorts,” Hogan said. “The majority of the players had grins. … In that weather you would expect forfeits, but they were all there. It was fulfilling knowing I helped make the experience really fun.”

Paul Jensen, a junior RecSports supervisor and student referee, also noted the strong community that comes with working with RecSports. Jensen decided to become a referee his freshman year and has refereed for multiple sports since then.

“It’s a family,“ Jensen said. “We all look out for one another. … We’re always there for each other and love to work together.”

Jensen played various sports growing up, and he said being a student referee has allowed him to continue to live his passion for athletics in a flexible environment.

“There’s definitely flexibility in scheduling. You get to interact with a lot of people and make games as fun as you want them to be,” Jensen said.

He said he enjoys when athletes approach him after a game and say they had a good experience.

“It’s the best feeling when a player finds you and tells you you did a terrific job,” Jensen said.

Chris Adams, a RecSports sports programs coordinator, said student referees are essential to the success of RecSports programming.

“Without them, programming simply wouldn’t happen,” Adams said. “I can’t think of any other job on campus where you get yelled at for simply doing your job.”

Adams’ fellow sports programs coordinator Kyle Osburn said seeing student referees grow in character over the years is one of the best parts of his job.

“It’s been really cool to not only see their development as an official, but their overall holistic growth as a college student,” Osburn said. 

Osburn invites any interested students to join the inclusive RecSports family and explore information and applications on the RecSports website.

“We’re always looking for more officials,” he said. “We take people from all walks of life.”