This is the beginning of a mini-series where we will be introducing you to the top notch people that slayed from the ref stand at Worlds. We will be focusing on the four refs that took us through the finals as the tournament dwindled from four courts to two. On the Republic/Origin 8 court we had Zach Blackburn and Robin Cunningham, while on the Chunk court we had Joe Rstom and Bruce Wahl. The first ref we will be introducing you to is Bruce Wahl. Poloverse, meet Bruce Wahl.
321Polo: When was the first time you reffed at a tournament?
Wahl: The first time I officiated was at this year’s North American Championships in Minneapolis.
321Polo: What do you think of fans heckling you?
Wahl: Personally, fan heckling doesn’t bother me. It comes with the territory and my expectations are that I will be hassled in each and every match that I officiate. Just like in all sports, spectators have their bias towards a team so whether or not you make a right or wrong call, it will always and forever be scrutinized. As a referee you simply need to focus and be resolute on each and every call despite the persistent badgering from onlookers.
321Polo: Are there any major changes you hope to see in the reffing world next year?
Wahl: I believe there are many things we can do in bike polo to help facilitate a better environment for consistent officiating. One, I feel strongly that our sport needs multiple referees officiating a match. As a head referee it is extremely difficult to see everything that is going on off ball and extra sets of eyes would be paramount in catching important infractions that are potentially changing the outcome of games. A repetitive issue at Worlds was it was increasingly harder and harder to catch infractions near and around the net. With so many bicycles stacked within that area that I feel goal judges need to be trained referees with the capability to blow a play dead and make a call which would be hard or almost impossible for the head referee to see. So in a perfect world I think a match of bike polo needs a referee crew of at least 4 to 5 officials. There are also things within the rule set that I would like to see changed to make our jobs as referees easier but that’s another can of worms for another day. Ultimately, I would also like to see the referees get compensated for their time. I realize our sport isn’t gushing with money but if you want an individual to be dedicated to something that is demanding as officiating, you need to pay them. Personally, I enjoy officiating bike polo but I would much rather be enjoying a beverage and cheering on the teams when I travel to beautiful places such as Minneapolis or Florida. Make it worth my while to referee a game because I’m missing out on being a fan which I was first and foremost before I picked up the whistle. The final thing I would like to see in the referee world is more participation. More referees will lead to better play across the country at local tournaments and qualifiers, which in turn will create a better brand of clean, beautiful bike polo.