Local referees reflect on the great times
Nick Becker, Arei Stokes, Tom and Jim Harty have over 100 years of combined experience officiating sporting events
Among the people in Jamestown, there are a few that have the unique side hustle of being a referee for high school and college sports.
One of the referees is University of Jamestown women’s soccer coach Nick Becker, who officiates high school hockey and soccer.
Former Jimmies basketball player Arei Stokes has transitioned into being an admissions counselor at UJ and being the only female high school referee in the area.
Two others who are veterans of the striped shirts are Jim and Tom Harty from Harty Insurance. Becker, Stokes and the Harty brothers have more than 100 combined years of experience officiating games.
After Stokes’ Jimmies career ended, she said being a referee gave her a platform to stay in the game that she loves.
“I get a lot of enjoyment,” Stokes said. “It was something that allowed me to stick around the game even though I couldn’t play it anymore and show especially other females there is another way to be around the sport other than just playing it. I have a lot of fun doing it.”
As one transitions from just starting to being a veteran official, their enjoyment of the profession changes, Becker said.
“I think it changes over time,” Becker said. “I think as a kid you enjoy it because you’re around the sport all the time, you’re always learning, grasping for more information. As a player, sometimes you’re smarter because you know all the rules and you can manipulate them from a young age. I think then it turns into you’re making money, this is pretty cool, I get to do something I like and make money. As you get older, it’s more about giving back to the game, protecting the players, more of a supervising type of role.”
As a result of being a referee, Becker said he thinks he is more intelligent about the rules and puts himself in an official’s shoes during contentious moments in games more so than if he did not have any experience officiating games.
Jim Harty said the memories that stick out the most over his years as a referee are the times when he traveled to and from games with his crew.
“We worked a lot of big games, but it wasn’t the games you remember so much as the times that you were with the guys that make memories,” he said. “We worked football, we did a high school game on Friday night and then Saturday morning, we’d be leaving at five, 5:30 in the morning to drive to Sioux Falls (S.D.), or Mankato, Minnesota, or to Duluth, Minnesota, or we’d go down to Nebraska to work. We worked in the Northern Sun Conference in football. We’d spend 12 hours, leave 5:30, six in the morning, get home at midnight. The drive and the fun that you have driving and the chit chatting with the guys and working the games with the guys is what you remember. The good times.”
The Harty brothers have been able to officiate games together, which Tom reflects on very fondly.
“I’ve gotten to ref with him for many years,” he said. “I’ve also gotten to officiate basketball for the last four or five years with my son, which I really, really enjoy. What’s kept me in it is the people I work with. Obviously I enjoy the game and the competitiveness but working with my brother has been great and like I said it’s been a real, real joy working with my son. I’ve also gotten to work with my son-in-law on a college football crew. I’ve been blessed to have family get involved.”
One of the current issues facing officials is veteran referees retiring and younger ones not sticking around to become veterans, which is a trend that the Hartys, Becker and Stokes hope can be reversed.
“I think it starts with the parents and coaches,” Becker said. “I think those are the two biggest factors why people quit. The secondary principle is when you have younger officials, they quit and so they never get to that longevity of their career because they are quitting in their teens because maybe their parents made them officiate to get into it and then all of a sudden you got the parent who is irresponsible on the sideline or the bench yelling at a teenage boy or girl. I think that scares them away and they quit. So, that’s why you see the only people left are older officials and they get worn out over time.”