Referee focuses on game, not fans

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tom Drummond sat in the stands, off to the side, intently watching the Oak Ridge-Woodland game Thursday. The referee wasn't scheduled to officiate the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament until 1:30 p.m., but he arrived nearly two and a half hours early to simply enjoy watching the tournament unfold.

After refereeing at the Show Me Center, he packed up to officiate another two games down in Poplar Bluff, Mo. He has also spent his December refereeing the Pepsi Showcase and the Perryville Shootout.

"I stay pretty busy," the referee of 22 years said.

Refereeing is often a thankless task, featuring low pay, sporadic hours and the occasional name-calling from fans.

But Drummond loves the job.

"I enjoy the sport. I enjoy the kids. I enjoy seeing the kids develop," he said.

Drummond, originally from Baltimore, moved to Cape Girardeau in 1992 to teach a senior ROTC class at Southeast Missouri State University. He has since retired from the military and is the principal at Central Middle School in New Madrid, Mo.

He's never coached, but he was a basketball player in high school and for one year in college.

Refereeing the Christmas Tournament every year, he has grown to recognize players and develop a relationship with them. Some approach him before games to say hello, he said.

"You have to have a good rapport with the kids, as well as the coaches, because they are going to have questions," he said.

He has trained himself to block out parents' or fans' screams or questioning of calls during the game. Afterward, he said he will answer questions if asked.

"When you're on the court, you can't worry about people calling from the stands," he said, adding that all refs are going to miss some calls. "We're human," he said with a laugh.

But he knows his overall purpose and takes it seriously. "We're there to make the game fair," he said.

He looks forward to the basketball season every year, working out beforehand to prepare for games requiring he run up and down the court.

The best part of the Christmas Tournament is the range of talent displayed, Drummond said.

"The kids getting to play in this atmosphere, this type of court, is a great thing, especially for our small schools," he said. "There's a lot of young talent here in Southeast Missouri."

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