Story by Mike Zweifel

A side profile shot of Kevin Raher, holding a whistle in his mouth.
Kevin Raher leads the RecSports referee training program at MizzouRec. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

From the tip of a basketball game at the Mizzou Student Recreation Complex, RecSports coordinator and graduate research assistant Kevin Raher focuses on part of the game most others never do — the referees and their overall performance.

As a part of his responsibilities of overseeing approximately 80 student employees, Raher trains and guides new and experienced student referees in 11 sports sponsored by RecSports, including volleyball, soccer and basketball.

“We have approximately 900–1,200 RecSports teams each year,” says Raher, a full-time staff member and full-time student. He expects to graduate next May with a master’s degree in positive coaching, an online program in the College of Education. “We have a definite need for student referees and umpires each year.”

The RecSports referee training program provides more than just an opportunity to be a part of campus-level sports, though. With enough training and experience, students can become a certified referee with the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA).

MSHSAA, like most state high school sports associations, has a shortage of referees in sports such as indoor volleyball and basketball. “RecSports is an avenue for students to learn how to be a referee in those sports,” Raher says.

Kevin Raher, dressed in officials' stripes, holds his hand up and blows his whistle.
Raher blows the whistle during a basketball game at Fr. Tolton Catholic High School. Raher officiates college and high school basketball games. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

So far, there have been 18 RecSports referees who have become certified by MSHSAA for athletic events, and one has been certified for college sports.

“The program overall is great for students to learn how to solve problems, resolve disputes, communicate effectively and diffuse difficult situations, which are skills needed in any job or profession,” Raher says.

Raher — who earned a bachelor’s degree from Mizzou in 2017, majoring in sport management in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources — is a collegiate and high school basketball referee. The job has taken him to Alabama, New Orleans and San Antonio, among other places. Raher has been a referee at every level of college basketball, including Division I, and his dream is to be an NBA referee.

“I believe in following your dreams – that’s what I’m doing. I can control my own destiny with hard work and effort and try to reach the highest level of officiating,” Raher says.

Raher also attends referee camps to develop into a better official. But the benefits don’t stop there.

“What I learn at these camps to help me improve, I bring back to teach students as well,” Raher says. “I want to give back, develop officials and give the same training and development experience I received when I was a Mizzou student working here in the rec center.”

Raher, it seems, was born to be a referee. When he was young and dressed up for Halloween, while most kids dressed up as their favorite player, Raher dressed up as a referee for five straight years. His aunt had to tailor the smallest referee jersey she could find so Raher could fit into the jersey.

“It’s my passion,” Raher says of being a referee, “I do not even consider it being work. The relationships that I have made with other officials, I am so fortunate and blessed.”

Raher likes to play golf, travel and to hang out with his friends and family in his hometown of Chicago — when he is not running up and down a court.

“I don’t have much free time from October to March,” Raher stated.

Interested in being a referee?
For more information about becoming a RecSports official, visit the referee training program webpage.
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