By Greg Royce, Director of Athletics Communications
Dr. Doug Blais '88 calls it a way to give back. Will Flowers '92 says it’s the greatest part-time job in the world. Corey Pothier '96 views it as an easier way to stay involved in sports.
Coaching? Playing professionally? No; officiating.For Blais, Flowers and Pothier, officiating is a rewarding endeavor, enabling them to stay involved in sports without the time commitment coaching requires.
Blais, chair of the Sport Management Department, officiates soccer after a career in goal for the Penmen, while Flowers and Pothier both ref basketball. Flowers, a basketball Hall-of-Famer, works the men’s games, while Pothier, a former Penmen baseball player, calls women’s games.
'As Busy As You Want to Be'Pothier’s most memorable game as a college basketball official was his first NCAA Division II tournament.
''We came off the court and we were excited, we felt like we did a good job and we called the game as it should have been'' he says. ''We came off the court and gave each other high fives; then, when we got back to the locker room, the officials' coordinator came in and told us the same thing, and also told us we were moving on to the next round as a crew. That's a great thing.''
Pothier started his officiating career calling intramural basketball games. However, it was a chance meeting at a friend’s wedding in 1997 that really got him going.
''At the wedding, a friend who was with the IAABO (the organization that certifies high school officials) approached us and asked if anyone would be interested in reffing high school and youth games. I took the plunge and started working high school games'' he says.
In 2005, he passed a tryout to become a college official and started doing Division III games. Two years later, he started officiating at the Division II level; in 2010, he added Division I games to the mix.
''It’s a good way to stay involved, and it’s an easier way to devote time to the sport, as you can make your own schedule and be as busy or as not busy as you want to be. With coaching, there’s a lot more hours involved'' says Pothier, who has a young family at home in Connecticut and a full-time job with Merrill Lynch. ‘‘It’s difficult to juggle at times, but I've got a pretty good support system at home and at work''
'Do a Lot Without the Whistle'As an undergraduate, Blais was a goalkeeper for the men’s soccer program and to this day ranks seventh in program history in career shutouts, with 17.
He has spent over a decade working as an official in the collegiate soccer ranks, working games in all three NCAA divisions throughout the Northeast. He has worked numerous conference and NCAA tournament contests and is widely held in high regard.
He also served as a goalkeeper coach for Penmen soccer programs and found there were several reasons he preferred officiating to coaching.
''When you’re coaching, it’s a very specific commitment. Depending on what level, it could be every day or three or four days a week,''he says.
Instead of calling a bunch of fouls, Blais prefers to control a game by talking to players before things get out of hand. One of his biggest frustrations is players who aren’t willing to work with officials.
''At a higher level, you can talk to the players, they know they did something, and you can talk to them about it and you can do a lot without the whistle'' he says.
'The Best Seat in the House'''I've got the greatest part-time job in the world. I get to watch kids play a sport I enjoy very much'' Flowers says of his work officiating basketball.
Flowers played basketball for the Penmen from 1989 to 1993. He’s one of four Penmen with at least 1,000 points, 700 rebounds and 200 steals.
After graduation, he spent a decade as basketball coach Stan Spirou’s assistant coach, helping to guide the Penmen to two more regional crowns. He wanted to stay involved in basketball, but didn’t want the time commitment of coaching. A friend suggested officiating.
He first reffed for a men's league in nearby Bedford, N.H., then began working high school games. Two years ago he started working contests at the Division III level before getting games at the Division II level this past season. As soon as he started blowing the whistle, he was hooked.
''I love watching good players perform. As a referee you get the best seat in the house, you get to run up and down the floor with them and watch them do special things with the ball'' says Flowers, whose full-time job is at Manchester’s Youth Development Center as a culinary arts teacher.
Flowers thinks back to his days as a player and tries to call games the way he would want them called.
''Most good players want to play. They don’t want something called like a bump. They don’t want 52 whistles, don’t want to shoot 25 free throws,” he says. ''It’s just what I'd call common-sense refereeing.''
A relative late-comer to the stripes, Flowers wishes he had put down a clipboard and picked up a whistle sooner.
''If you start later in life, you’re sort of set in your ways'' he says. ''I've had some excellent guys take me under (their) wing, so that's helped.''