Meet Your World’s Refs: Joe Rstom

Published on November 18th, 2013

The fourth and final ref that we would like to introduce you to is actually the head of the NAH Reffing Committee. After seeing him handle reffing duties at North Americans and then Worlds, anyone can clearly see why he is the prefect candidate for this position. He is a simple man with a lot of heart dedicated to the growth of hardcourt bike polo. In the countless personal conversations that I’ve had with him, I know he has a game plan to better the state of reffing for the 2014 season. Not only that, he has the drive to actually put the game plan into action so that hardcourt reffing, and the sport as a whole, can take two giant leaps forward! Everyone, I proudly introduce to you Joe Rstom.


321Polo: What is your home club?
Rstom: Mankato, MN

321Polo: How long have you been playing bike polo?

Rstom: 4 years

321Polo: When was the first time you reffed at a tournament?
Rstom: I refereed a bit at the Midwest Open 3, but the Battle for the Midwest was the first tournament I felt confident refereeing. Then Midwest Champeenships, North Americans and now Worlds.

321Polo: What do you think of fans heckling you?
Rstom: The fan heckling never really bothers me, and overall it was much better at Worlds than any other tournament. The spectators that bothered me would come up and tap me on the shoulder in the middle of a game and say “Hey, hey, hey, hey ref, hey, you need to watch for that steering arm and mallet hack and toppling over in the corner”. You can imagine my responses…

Anyway, I’d like to note that the respect coming from the players was noticeably improved. When I saw a new team I would introduce myself and set the expectation for respectful dialogue. I think this combined with confident whistling dictated the overall dynamic of the game; from the way players treated me to the way they treated one another. There were exceptions to this, but I saw a lot less bickering amongst players and referees than in the past. That is something to be proud of as a community.

321Polo: Are there any major changes you hope to see in the reffing world next year?
Rstom:  There are 3 major changes I’d like to see for tournaments next year:

1. An organized Referee Association and Certified Referees – Online certification is going to be my big project over this off-season. The system was built this year to simply get people ready for a fully developed certification test. There will be videos, there will be graded testing. We will see how this goes, but the idea is that if you are hosting an NAH tournament, you will be required to have a certain number of certified referees. This leads me to my next desired change:

2. Incentivized Volunteering – Referees simply need to be paid for standing in the sun (or rain) and maintaining this level of focus for hours on end. Even with scheduled and assigned goal judges, they still disappeared without notice, which means the other volunteers need some incentive too. Tournament Organizers should start budgeting for this, because you will see an immediate return on the investment. (On a side note, I think cash prizes should become the norm too, but that’s a different issue).

3. A Scalable, Multiple Referee System – The first 2 days of these large tournaments should have 2 referees on each court, all day long. It can be done with 6 people if the two take turns with the whistle. The 1st referee watches on-ball play, or the most important off-ball play, and the 2nd referee tracks peripheral off-ball play. As you cut out courts, you add referees. A 3-4 referee system, mirrored on the other side, or goal judges who can actually signal for infractions would be the way to go. Also, we shouldn’t have to sit on fences and stand on boards, but being on the court is something I have yet to experiment with. Maybe in 2014!