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  • Insights from being a referee

    Now I am not the most experienced skeet referee in the world - I have only refereed at a couple of major events - but this was enough to get some insights from a very different viewpoint. If nothing else, I gained a new found admiration for those referees who do this week in, week out.

  • One thing that often gets overlooked by competitors are referees. And more specifically how to get the best out of them. This wasn't something that had occurred to me until I started refereeing myself. Refereeing wasn't something that I was particularly interested in, but when I started shooting skeet in competitions, I realised that a lot of the shooters didn't really know the rules! Including me! The solution was easy - I went on a referee's course and learnt the rules. And in the process I accidentally became a qualified referee!

    What follows might sound obvious, but I have been surprised how many competitors follow a few simple guidelines.

  • Show some respect

    This can manifest itself in a variety of ways, but you will be surprised how many folks overlook this.

    Referees are human too! Just treat them as you would want to be treated yourself and you wouldn't go far wrong. Remember that in a competition environment that the adrenaline is likely to be flowing. One of the side effects of this is that we tend to revert to a very reactive and emotional state. Often our advanced rational thinking suffers as a consequence. I suspect this contributes to the style of interaction that we see with referees! But maintaining your composure and treating folks with respect will get the best result in the long run as well as establishing a positive reputation. Trust me, it doesn't go un-noticed.

    Here's an example from skeet shooting. A squad of five shooters (plus referee) move from one stand to the next - seven stands in all. The shooters each take a turn to shoot before moving onto the next stand. On one particular occasion, I noticed that the first shooter in the squad would look back at me (the ref) and check that I was ready. A nice touch! I would nod back as if to say "OK, let's go" and he then called for his target. I refereed 30 squads that weekend and this only happened once. It makes a big difference - you'll get a better performance out of the ref and he/she is much more likely to be on your side.

    In contrast, I had another squad where the first shooter would rush onto the stand and shout "pull" before I, or any of the shooters (including himself), was ready. As a result, he ended up with a "slow pull" (i.e. a no target) that had to be repeated. It felt like it was a competition to see if he could catch the referee out! He just ended up unsettling himself and the rest of the shooters on the squad - as well as showing little respect to the referee, it didn't show much respect to the rest of the squad either!

  • Watch your language

    No, I don't mean "don't swear at the referee" - although this is probably something to avoid - but more about the tone of the conversation and the words used. It can be subtle, I know, but just remember the referee is trying to make the right decision while treating everyone fairly.

    For example, if you think there is a problem, don't apportion the blame (particularly, to the referee). Ok, something might have gone wrong, but let's not jump to conclusions. Many a shooter has accused the referee of a "slow pull" (a slight delay between the shooter calling "Pull" and the target being released) only to find that the problem was not the referee, but with the trap. So rather than saying "You just gave me a slow pull!" (effectively accusing the referee) it might be better handled by saying "Am I wrong or was that target a bit slow??" Often, you will find that the referee responds with "Ah, sorry, my fault. Take that target again" or "I have noticed that occasionally there is a slow target from this trap. Please repeat the target".

  • Does your technique help or hinder the ref?

    In skeet shooting, the shooter calls "Pull" for the target. The best shooters make it loud and clear when they call. However, with others their call can be really quiet or ill defined. Let's not forget that everyone (including the referee) is wearing ear protection and on windy days it can be really hard to hear. When there are other ranges either side of you, with other shooters also calling "Pull", this can be a real challenge. Make it easier for the ref, make your call loud and proud!

    But there are other aspects of a shooter's technique that can impact the performance of the referee. Taking too long to call for a target can make pressing the button exactly on time very difficult. Alternatively, calling too quickly between targets can give the referee very little time to move their finger from one button to the next. All of this results in a slow/fast pull - none of it benefitting the shooter.

  • Let the referee use his/her discretion

    In most sports, to some extent, the referee will have an element of discretion. If we acknowledge this as being the case, we need to consider how make let the referee use it. Showing respect and knowing the rules all help here.

    In shooting, the most obvious example is not telling the referee what his/her decision should be. In other words, "I missed that target" or "This has gone wrong and you should give it to me as a miss". Yes, it has all happened to me! So just let the referee do his/her job! You might be pleasantly surprised.

  • Know the rules

    In most games, there are rules that are there to help keep the game fair for all involved. But this only works if you know the rules. If you don't know what the rules are, should you really be playing the game?

    For example, in skeet shooting the shooter can claim a "balk" if they were distracting when taking the shot. This might be a target from another range dropping in the background or a bird flying across the range. Only the shooter can claim the "balk". The referee can only give a "balk" if requested by the shooter - only the shooter knows if they were distracted or not! However, you will be amazed at how many shooters are unaware of this and accept missed targets as a result of distractions.

  • The referee's decision is final

    When it comes to decisions, you win some and you lose some. Sometimes the referee has said that I had hit a target that I was sure that I had missed. On other occasions, it worked the other way around. You just have to learn to take the rough with the smooth. At the end of the day, it all evens itself out. I can be tough to take at the time, but you have to respect the referee's final decision.

Further information


There are a number of websites online that can provide more detailed information. I have included a list for you to use as a starting point.


You'll find an extensive list of books included on the Further Info pages. They are all readily available on Amazon.


There are some great TED talks available that cover many of the areas discussed on this website. I have included links to many of them on the Futher Info pages.