Rod Symington, WSF Referees and Rules Committee
A couple of years ago Jonathon Power was indulging during his match in one of his periodic “discussions” with the Referee, when he looked up at the packed gallery behind the court (at least 20 rows of seats) and said: “Who am I talking to anyway?”
During the week of the tournament the officials had been seated in the twelfth row, but for the final they had moved down to the second row. However, nobody had informed the players about this, so Power thought he was still talking to row 12—from which, however, he was getting no reaction.
This illustrates an important, but often overlooked, aspect of refereeing: Informing the players before the match about such elementary things as where the officials will be seated—particularly when there is a large gallery.
Before important matches (such as a semifinal at the US Championships), it is always a good idea to introduce yourself to the players, and make sure you have their names correctly spelled and know how to pronounce them. This personal approach may well serve to reduce tension and to promote a better mood on court.
This is also the time to remind the players of the scoring system (there are at least three in use nowadays!), and to ask them to call “let” when they wish to request one. If there are problems with communication (such as a completely glassed-in court) or if there are no microphones, inform the players now, so that they are prepared. Problems in communication can often have a negative effect on the behavior on court.
Point out any irregularities in the court (e.g., a door that doesn’t close properly, or a part of the front wall that produces a strange bounce). The court plays “as is”—there are no lets for bad bounces. Again, it is better to inform the players about this, than to wait for them to be surprised—and annoyed—when something strange happens.
Nowadays there are also several different refereeing systems being employed, so make sure the players know which system is in use and how it operates. As I predicted would happen in an earlier column some months ago, the three-referee system has recently made a comeback in PSA events and seems to be here to stay. However, in the new incarnation of the three-referee system all three referees vote at once—and there is no appeal. The players need to be made aware of this before the match begins.
Finally, inform the players about where the officials will be seated, so that they may direct their appeals accordingly.
All these may seem like trivial and perhaps unnecessary details, but that is far from true. In a squash match the referee has to handle many matters and do so under stressful conditions. It is, therefore, only wise to reduce the number of factors that may cause friction and stress. You cannot predict what is going to happen in a match, but you do have full control of the technical matters outlined above. By dealing with the above issues before the match begins, you can help reduce your own stress and contribute to a positive atmosphere on court.