Ref Resources

WDS Referee Training & Certification Guide

Eligibility & Certification

  • All certified refs are eligible to be hired, assuming they are in good standing with WDS.
  • Refs are hired by a League Manager for one season on a per-league basis.
  • Being hired in one league does not guarantee being hired in another. Additionally, being hired for one season does not guarantee being hired for a second season.
  • Certification carries over for ONE calendar year. Refs are then required to attend an in-person recertification course after that one year period.

This process is meant to elevate the standard for refs in all of our WDS leagues. WDS is always open to suggestions for ways to improve our rules and referees. If you have any questions or comments, please contact our league director, Sum-Sum Chan at sum2@dodgeball4ever.com.

Welcome to Reffing!

How Does a Certified Ref Become a Hired Ref?

Certified refs are hired by individual league managers at the beginning of the season based on their own needs and opinions. 

  • Attending ref certification does not guarantee being hired by a league manager.
  • Hired refs are expected to ref at least 4 weeks (or the majority of the season) and will be given one free season of dodgeball in return.
  • New refs must ref at least 2 matches with an experienced ref before they are eligible to be hired but can opt to shadow matches and forgo being hired in order to gain experience.
  • The total number of hired refs per league is typically # of teams + 2 (i.e. an 8-team league can hire 10 refs).
  • Refs for WDS events may be compensated with monetary payment and/or league discounts, depending on the event.

Playoff Referees

All certified referees are eligible to ref playoff or finals matches for any leagues they do not play in. Any refs that travel to other WDS leagues for playoffs will be compensated with a $10 discount per night reffed.

Referee Guidelines

RESPONSIBILITIES
  • Safety
    • The primary responsibility of any ref is to ensure the safety of players on the court. Be attentive to hazards on and off the court as well as responding to injuries by stopping play and summoning a league manager or WDS staff member.
  • Game Flow
    • Refs are on the court to maintain the flow of the game. While they are expected to make any necessary calls, they are not hired to police the game. This responsibility falls on the captains and players.
  • Rules
    • Refs are expected to know the rules and make calls based on those rules correctly.
    • A league manager or staff member cannot overrule your call while playing but may correct you after the match and only regarding the correct application of the rules.
    • You may ask a league manager for clarification of the rules at any time.
  • Making Calls
    • A ref should only make calls they are certain of.
    • If a call is unclear, err on the side of “safe” or “no play.”
    • Calls should not be made by sensory cues alone (i.e. “I heard it” is not a valid call) and should generally never be overturned.
  • Communication
    • Refs are expected to communicate with their fellow ref(s).
    • Do not be afraid to stop play to discuss what you saw as it is more important to make the correct call than “your” call.
    • If no agreement can be reached, the default call is “no play.” No ref can overrule another ref.
  • Clarity
    • Be loud, clear and confident while reffing. Be polite but firm.
    • Use your whistle effectively as well as the appropriate ref signals.
  • Missing Matches
    • Referees are expected to arrive prior to their assigned match time.
    • Refs should promptly inform league managers when they are unavailable or cannot make assignments so suitable replacements can be found.
    • Multiple missed assignments could result in a forfeiture of hired status.
BEHAVIOR
  • Good Standing
    • Referees are expected to maintain good standing as a WDS player to maintain their eligibility as a certified ref.
    • Always be a model player on and off the court, both while reffing and playing. 
    • The severity and frequency of yellow cards may affect your standing as a ref.
    • A red card will immediately disqualify you from being a referee and disqualify you from any discounts that you may have earned until the point of being red-carded.
    • Refs who lose standing will also be ineligible to return to reffing for an entire season after the incident before their eligibility is reviewed.
  • Dealing with Players
    • Do not engage in aggressive behavior while reffing.
    • If a player or captain becomes confrontational, take a step back and ask them to cool down. Ask the team captain(s) to help manage the offending player.
    • Call the league manager immediately if you are being harassed while reffing or ask for backup if you feel things are spiraling out of control.

Reffing Matches

  • Setting Up
    • Arrive prior to your assignment in order to gather all necessary equipment (stopwatch, score sheet, pen, whistle). Additionally, you must:
      • Determine who the captains and co-captains are.
      • Roshambo for ball control or side.
  • Courtesy Checks
    • You are not obligated to but, as a courtesy, may:
      • Check that subs have paid their sub fees and signed the waiver.
      • Ensure the correct number of players are on the court (#s vary per league) and the 3:1 guy/girl ratio is met.
      • NOTE: If a captain does not fulfill the ratio, you or a league manager must ask the other captain if they are willing to waive the ratio for that match. Captains cannot change their minds once the match is underway.
  • Explaining Calls
    • Only captains can approach you during a game to discuss complaints.
    • Avoid explaining calls or rules during gameplay, but do not blow off players. Offer instead to explain a call/rule during a timeout or after the game.
  • Captain Disputes
    • Captains can only approach you during games (i.e. while shagging a ball) for a reasonable amount of time to dispute calls but cannot leave the court just to speak to you.
    • If captains or players are standing on the court and get hit while speaking to you, the hit counts.
    • If the captains need to discuss things for a longer period of time they must either call a timeout or remove themselves from the game entirely.
    • If you feel the point they are making requires and deserves more discussion, you may call a “ref time out” and continue the consultation with the necessary parties (refs/captains/league managers).
  • Injuries & Safety Procedures
    • Once you notice a player is injured, stop play immediately. Raise your hands, blow your whistle loudly and step onto the court. It is better to err on the side of safety than not.
    • DO NOT move the player or ask them to move off the court if they are hurt. Quickly get the league manager or a WDS staff member if the incident appears to be severe.
    • Based on the severity of the situation, you may need to help clear the area around the injured player of all non-essential players and bystanders and/or clear the other court as well.
    • You will never be asked to perform any lifesaving techniques as all league managers are CPR certified. However, be ready for any instructions or requests from the league managers such as calling 9-1-1, locating park staff or flagging down emergency vehicles.
    • If you saw the injury occur, you may need to submit your own witness account for the incident report or help find individuals who can relay what happened.

Reffing Signals & Whistles

  • General Guidelines
    • Know the standard signals for OUT, SAFE and CATCH.
    • Do not blow your whistle at everything. It becomes disruptive and players will stop paying attention.
    • Use your whistle to get players’ attention before walking onto the court.
  • Game Start: One Long Whistle
    • Check that each team has all its players with one foot behind the back line.
    • Raise an arm to each team and make sure both are ready.
    • Blow whistle to start play.
  • Stopping Play: One Long Whistle
    • Blow whistle to stop play.
    • Raise both arms out and step onto the court (only after it’s safe for you to do so).
    • All play stops and all balls in the air are immediately dead. If players continue throwing balls after play has stopped the other team is not obligated to return them.
  • Restart Play: Two Short Whistles
    • Make sure both teams and the other ref are paying attention before you restart play.
  • Calling Players Out: One Short Whistle
    • If a player does not take his or her out once you see the play occur, point at the player, blow one loud, short whistle and signal OUT.
    • If a player cannot hear or does not listen, stop play, step onto the court to enforce the call.
  • Vantage Point
    • Feel free to move up and down the sidelines to keep up with gameplay.
    • If the sidelines are getting crowded and visibility of the game is becoming restricted, ask players step back from the sideline.
    • Always position yourself so that you have a clear 90° view of both teams.

Keeping Time

  • Stoppage of Time
    • Once the game starts, the clock is always running.
    • Only stop the clock for:
      • Captain Timeouts
      • Ref Timeouts
      • Injuries
    • NOTE: Time does not stop when switching sides or turning over ball control.
  • Timeouts
    • Captains may call one 30-second timeout per match.
    • Timeouts may be called at any point in the match unless both courts are operating off one master clock.
    • Timeouts can be requested by the captain but initiated by the referee.
    • If a non-captain calls a timeout, all balls must be turned over to the other team unless that player is simply calling your attention to the timeout request by their captain.
    • Make sure play is at a lull before stopping play and granting the timeout so as not to interfere with the momentum of the game.
    • During a timeout, all out players must stay in the outline. Captains may enter the court to talk to any remaining players.
    • NOTE: In the heat of a game, a captain or co-captain might accidentally call for a second timeout and be granted one. Possession is turned over as soon as the opposing captain and/or ref(s) realize the mistake and confer with the other refs that the illegal timeout occurred.
  • Switching Sides
    • Switch sides at or slightly after 25 minutes, never before. For leagues with shorter match times, switch at or slightly after the midway point.
  • End Game Warning 
    • Verbal warnings to both teams should occur at 3 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds and the full 10-second countdown.
    • Time may be given at a player’s request at any point in the match.
  • Counting Down 
    • Once a countdown begins, even if it does not synch up with your own, all refs should count down together in order to ensure all players can hear the count.

Keeping Score

  • Scorekeeping
    • Official score is kept only on the WDS scoresheet (even in leagues that have scoreboards).
    • Tally games immediately after they’re finished – don’t rely on memory or the scoreboard.
    • Use hash marks for each game won and a cross hatch for every fifth game won. Do not keep score in numerals.
    • If you mark an error, make sure the error is clearly scribbled out.
    • If you forget the score, get confused or if there is a dispute between the captains regarding the score you should:
      • Confer with the other ref(s) to determine the correct score.
      • Talk with the league managers.
      • Use any means available to create certainty. This includes asking observers.
      • If no score can be agreed upon, then the score as recorded on the scoresheet is final.
    • Protip: Mark on the scoresheet which team starts off with ball control and when each team has used their timeout for the match.
  • Carded Players
    • Record any card infraction and the players involved on the score sheet in the space provided.
    • Include the player’s first and last name and the infraction.
  • Signing the Scoresheet
    • At the end of the game, both captains should certify the score and sign the score sheet.
    • The final score should be rewritten in numerals and circled to ensure the league manager records the proper scores for standings.

Warning Teams & Players

  • General Guidelines
    • When making a general warning, stop play and bring all captains in.
    • If you warn an individual player, ensure the other ref and the player’s captain(s) are aware.
    • You may warn and/or card players for any of the following:
      • Dangerous Play: Any player colliding into other players without regard for safety.
      • Unsportsmanlike Behavior: This may include, but not be limited to pointing at the opposing team, yelling, heckling, slamming/kicking the ball, blatant or repetitive cheating, approaching the other team in an aggressive manner, etc.
      • Headhunting: Most leagues operate under the “standing headshot” rule except for rec-level leagues. Refs should fall back on the rules regarding safety and sportsmanship when dealing with high throws.
  • Issuing Yellow/Red Cards
    • A card may be issued without warning. Remember that warnings are a courtesy.
    • Never card a player based on your own emotions. The purpose behind the carding rule is to discourage bad behavior and the threat of a card will often achieve this purpose.
    • Note: Rec-level leagues do not have red cards. A red card in a rec league means the player is immediately ejected from the gym and their player status will be placed under review.
  • Carding Players
    • Blow your whistle once, stop the game and raise the physical/imaginary card in the air towards the offending player.
    • Loudly call out, “Yellow/Red Card!”
    • Bring the player’s captains in and ask for the player’s first and last name.
    • Explain the infraction and notify the captains that the player must sit out the current game and the following game or leave the gym immediately if red-carded.
    • Write their first and last name on the scoresheet and infraction. The other ref may restart gameplay in the meantime.

Rules Clarifications

COURT BOUNDARIES
  • Soft Sidelines
    • In standard WDS leagues, the sidelines are “soft” lines. Accidentally walking on the line or stepping over does not make a player automatically out.
    • Players are only out for crossing the sidelines in the process of dodging a ball.
  • Shagging
    • When a player leaves the court from anywhere except the back to shag a ball, they are NOT out. The proper penalty is the loss of the shagged ball.
    • The player should be instructed to re-enter the court through the back.
  • Clearing the Ball
    • For a ball to be considered “clear,” both feet of the player in possession of the ball must cross behind the clear line.
    • If the ball is thrown before it is cleared, anybody it hits is considered safe.
    • If the ball is caught before it is cleared, the catch still counts.
BALL INFRACTIONS
  • Leaving the Court
    • When a player leaves the court with a ball, the ball in their possession should be awarded to the other team. The player is not out.
  • Ball Control
    • Players in the outline cannot assist their teammates in turning over ball control.
    • If an out player rolls a ball across the center line for their team, ALL balls go to the opposing team.
    • Note: Infractions regarding ball(s) = ball(s) turned over to the other team.
GAMEPLAY SCENARIOS
  • End of Play
    • A play is not over until the ball that is involved in the play is dead.
    • This means a player hit by a live ball can continue to make valid plays (i.e. catches/hits) until the first ball that hit them is rendered dead.
    • If the ball leaves the court (i.e. crosses over the net to the other side of the gym), the ball is not dead. It is only dead once it hits an inanimate object or out player.
  • Jump-Catches
    • If a deflected ball pops up and Player A jumps to catch it but is hit before his/her feet touch the ground, Player A is out and the catch does not count.
  • Catching Out of Bounds
    • If Player A is hit and Player B jumps to catch a ball but lands out of bounds, the catch does not count. Player A is out and Player B is safe (due to soft sidelines).
    • All valid plays are confined within the boundaries of the court:
      • Scenario 1: Player A is a live player and gets hit near the sideline. The ball pops straight up into the shagging area. Player A jumps up to tap it back in and lands out of bounds. Player B (a teammate) catches the live ball.
      • Ruling: Catch is good. Player A is safe.
      • Reason: Player A was not dodging out of bounds and interacted with the ball while live and in-bounds/mid-air. 
      • Scenario 2: Player A is a live player and gets hit near the sideline. The ball pops straight up into the shagging area. Player A walks out of bounds to line up in the outline. Player A sees the ball falling above him/her and taps it back in. Player B (a teammate) catches the ball.
      • Ruling: No catch. Player A is out.
      • Reason: Player A left the court once he/she was hit, rendering him/her a dead player. Because Player A was not mid-air and touched the live ball while out of bounds, the ball is now dead. Player B caught a dead ball.
  • Blocking
    • If Player A blocks a live ball but loses control of the blocker ball and Player B catches the blocker ball, Player A is safe.
    • It is not a catch because it was not the thrown ball.
  • Returning to Play
    • If a player is hit and walks towards the outline thinking they are out but a teammate catches the ball and “saves” them, they are allowed to return to the court to play.
    • If you believe a player to be 100% safe but they take their out because they’re unsure, call that player safe and wave them back into the game.
  • Stalling
    • When referees see that play is at a standstill and the winning team is stalling in an obvious way to their benefit (i.e. throwing a ball 10ft. above the opposing team), refs may ask players on the winning team to throw an actionable ball – one that has a chance to hit a player out or get caught.
    • If the winning team continues to stall in an obvious way after the initial warning, refs may award all balls to the losing team.
    • If the match is tied, it’s up to the refs’ discretion as to who must throw an actionable ball and when.
  • Stray Balls
    • If a stray ball from another court enters the match, players from the other court may not run in and shag the ball.
    • Refs are not required to stop play to shag the stray ball.
    • If within ~5 seconds, no players have retrieved the stray ball, refs may stop play.
    • Players who are returning a ball from another court or have stopped play to draw attention to the errant ball are considered temporarily immune to plays.
  • Pinching
    • A pinch is defined as rubber-to-rubber contact and is against the rules.
    • You may warn the player or immediately call them out whether they pinch intentionally (throwing) or not.
  • Guy/Girl Ratio
    • The 3:1 ratio cannot be waived during playoff matches.
    • However, if the opposing captain is willing, the league manager may forgo this rule for the sake of good sportsmanship.
  • Countdowns
    • Countdowns end with “zero.” (i.e. “5-4-3-2-1-then blow the whistle when you would have said “0.”)
    • The whistle is the zero count.
    • The correct verbal count for ball control is:
        • A silent 15-14-13-12-11 seconds in your head when you notice which team has ball control.
        • An audible “10 seconds to throw ____” (the number called here is locked in even if the team gains more balls).
        • A silent 10-9-8-7-6
        • An audible “5-4-3-2-1-*whistle*”
    • An audible 10-second countdown is given to signal the end of the match.
  • Outline
    • The first five players out must line up in the outline and are ineligible to shag on the far side. This includes shagging a ball that landed in the other matches’ court.
    • If a catch is made and player #6 if on the far side shagging, he/she must make their best efforts to return to the end of the outline.
    • The penalty for line jumping or stacking the outline is a forfeit of the current game.
    • When a catch is made, the first player in that team’s outline has ~5 seconds to enter the game.
    • Unless they’re shagging a ballI, players are not allowed to enter the court if they take longer than the allotted time (i.e. not paying attention or stalling so as to not get hit) and must wait for another catch to be made.
    • A player who is out and walking to the outline may not interfere with any live balls in play (i.e. screening incoming balls or shagging in the court). If they do, those balls are turned over to the other team.
    • If the outline order becomes unclear, refs may (but are not obligated to) ask captains to ensure that their players line up in an orderly and clear fashion or risk forfeiting the game for line jumping.
  • Late Arrivals
    • If a player arrives at the gym a few seconds after the start of a game and has asked and been granted permission from the refs and/or league manager to enter, they may do so.
    • If any play has already been made (i.e. someone has been caught or hit on either team) the “late” player may no longer enter the court.
    • If a player arrives several minutes after a game is already underway, they are not eligible to jump in at any point but may shag for their team.
    • Only registered players may shag for their team.
  • Overtime & Sudden Death
    • In the event of an overtime or sudden death match, the game is not officially over until the refs deem it over by blowing a final whistle and declaring a winner.
    • Out players should stay off the court until the refs announce a winner.
    • Any IN player who wanders off the court while refs are making their final count cannot reenter the court unless they were shagging a ball prior to the final whistle being blown.
    • If the refs can clearly determine a winner and an OUT player enters the court before the winning team is announced, the game is NOT forfeit.
    • If the refs cannot clearly determine a winner because an OUT player has entered the court before the winning team is announced, the team of the out player automatically forfeits.