Pickleball Hero: Doug Bates

Our referees are our pickleball heroes. They keep us in line. They are experts in the game. They are crucial for tournament success. At Picklebilly, we recognize referees' contributions to our sport, which is why each referee has a special designation next to their profile; we encourage our members to give referees special consideration in housing requests. (go to www.picklebilly.com for more info about this!)

Doug is a USAPA Certified Referee - number 8 in California. He was evaluated for his certification at West Regions on October 6th, 2018. Doug has lived in Paso Robles, for 21 years, and largely trained himself for Referee Certification, as there were no other Referees in this area. However, a couple of months before the scheduled evaluation, Doug was teamed with Mark Peifer for fine-tuning. It made a huge difference and is the reason why Doug strongly supports the California Referee process of teaming up candidates with mentors.

1. I've tried taking the referee exam.  It's a beast.  How did you prepare to pass the test?  What was it like for you? 

I take the test on a regular basis. At the start of the year when the new Rulebook is released. Before every tournament, I will take the test several times - until I get all of the answers correct at least 3 times in a row. This is so I get my mind into the 'referee mode', ready to respond to play on the court without having to stop & think during play. The test is tricky - questions are changed regularly now, in order to keep people from memorizing the answers. The best way to prepare for the test is to read all 3 sources - the rulebook, the referee handbook, and the referee casebook - before taking the tests. Of course, I know the person who creates the questions, and I know his thought process. He makes the questions purposefully tricky & challenging - it makes you focus. However, knowing him, I can usually see through his 'trick'.

2.  What do you enjoy most about being a ref?

The first reason I became a referee was that at some point, I realized there was no way I was ever going to play Center Court at Nationals. However, I could referee Center Court at Nationals - which I have now done several times. I love being by the court - but I live by the idea that the best referee is the one that the players forget as soon as they walk off the court. A referee should never, ever become the focus on the court. If we do become that focus, we have done something seriously wrong - the game is about the players, not about the referee. The focus required for a referee, watching the feet near the NVZ and not watching the play as it occurs, the mental concentration required to make calls immediately - these are all things I love. I also really enjoy the referee 'club'. There are only about 210 Certified Referees in the sport. So few that it feels like a real honor to be a Certified Referee.

3.  How is the ref program evolving as the sport continues to grow?

The referee program has seen some amazing evolution in the last year. The biggest item being the introduction of the Level 1 & Level 2 referees. These credentials are given to people who have shown a commitment to refereeing through reading & knowing the rules, and exhibit these skills on the court. A Level 1 is developing skills, a Level 2 is about ready to take the next leap - into the Certification process. These referees will give more tournaments the ability to have Sanctioning for their tournaments, without the stress of trying to get several of the only 210 Certified Referees in the US to come to their tournament. 

4.  Can you tell us about one challenging moment reffing a game?

This one is tricky. Every match can have its challenging moments. A couple that occur to me are these: at West Regions in 2018, I was given a singles match. The players had a few questions for me as we got ready to start, including "How do we know where to serve from?". I answered the question for them & we got rolling. All was well, until a, longer rally that caused a side out with a score of 7-5. Of course, you know what happened - he served from the even court. Fault. Then the other player proceeded to do the exact same thing - serve from the even court. Fault. Amazingly, this proceeded to happen 8 straight times. Fault, fault, fault....Finally, I stopped play. As a referee, we are not supposed to do ANY coaching. However, as I could see this day was going to get very long, I pulled them together at the net and told them what they were doing wrong. I timed this so that the person who committed the first serve fault was ready to serve again. They didn't commit another fault the entire match. The other one happened to me at last year's Nationals. I had a match that was very even. However, one team made a call on a ball that the other team strongly objected to. I did not see the ball, as both teams were at the NVZ, keeping my focus there. One team had friends in the stands. They tried to interject, and the team who objected wanted me to take their word for the call. Obviously, I can't do that. I also had to tell that team to keep their 'fans' quiet when it came to calls. Upset, they did kind of tell them to cut it out. However, as the match proceeded, their 'fans' proceeded to start taunting the other team. Finally, after it got distracting, I called a fault on the team that they were supporting. This set them off, saying they can't control what is happening in the stands while they are playing. I told them, fine - we have a 1-minute referee timeout going on now. It either stops now, or the next call is a Technical Warning, followed by a Technical foul, followed by a forfeit. Amazingly, after they ran over to the stands, it stopped. They ended up winning the match, apologized to the other team, and to me. After a very tense few minutes, it worked out in the end.

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