Refereeing done right: Student, teacher collaborate over calling signals

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Isabella Kellermeier

BLOW THE WHISTLE. P.E. teacher Daniel Dyra coaches junior Kennedy Coats on specific refereeing signals. Mr. Dyra, who has been a basketball referee for 30 seasons, taught all of his basketball classes the basics on refereeing signals and commands.

By Madeline Welch, University of Chicago Laboratory High School

Students run up and down the court of Upper Kovler Gymnasium, dribbling and passing  the basketball. Kennedy Coats runs alongside with a whistle in hand, carefully watching the game as the referee. Physical education teacher and longtime referee, Daniel Dyra, pulls Kennedy aside from time to time, gesturing the calls for her to make with his hands. 

Mr. Dyra started teaching Kennedy refereeing in the beginning of February, at the start of the basketball unit in his class. Mr. Dyra hopes to get students involved in refereeing to provide them with knowledge of the game of basketball as well as job opportunities. 

“I wanted to give it a different approach for kids who might be interested in refereeing and also playing basketball because they kind of go hand-in-hand,” Mr. Dyra said. 

Mr. Dyra, who has been a referee for 30 seasons, describes it as a hobby that pays. A basketball player all his life, he started refereeing as a sophomore in college to make some money. 

“I enjoy the social aspect and the camaraderie of the fellow referees and being able to provide a really fair and fun game,” Mr. Drya said. “I get some exercise out of it and I get some money out of it.”

Aside from the money, refereeing provides students with life skills that are applicable in many situations. 

I think students can gain confidence, leadership skills, people skills, negotiation skills, and also an opportunity for a job in the future”

— Daniel Dyra, P.E. teacher

“I think students can gain confidence, leadership skills, people skills, negotiation skills, and also an opportunity for a job in the future,” Mr. Dyra said.

Mr. Dyra mentioned that in Illinois, there is a lack of officials in every sport. This is why Mr. Dyra started teaching Kennedy how to referee — he wishes to get the next generation involved. In addition to helping Kennedy one-on-one, he also teaches his entire class the rules and signals to further their knowledge of basketball and emphasize the importance of referees.

“I wanted to referee because it’s a different part of basketball you don’t usually get to learn,” Kennedy said. “When Mr. Dyra first mentioned it, he talked about how you could get reffing jobs in college, which seemed like a good way to make money. I like it because I get to be in charge.”

Mr. Dyra teaches all of his students the calls for refereeing because it helps them learn the game of basketball. Kennedy in particular showed interest in refereeing, so Mr. Dyra gave her more instruction. 

“He gave me a whistle, a referee shirt and a list of calls. He had me practice the calls, then we started reffing full court games for the class and some half court games,” Kennedy said.

Students interested in the opportunity to become a referee should reach out to Mr. Dyra to make a connection with the IHSA. 

He said he would be happy to offer mentorship to kickstart students interested in becoming officials and put a whistle in their hand.

This story was originally published on U-High Midway on March 9, 2020.