Sometimes You Gotta Let the Money Go

Like a classroom session I recently taught several referees, I have to tell you that running the business of being a referee is tricky. While we referees are independent contractors hired each year by several people, we don’t feel that we actually have the right to turn down a job ( or so it seems). To some degree, I understand this mindset of the assignors who hire us and want us to be loyal to them and take all their jobs, since I employee a lot of contractors in my other jobs, but the referee world is just different.

Here is a typical scenario I see year after year. Official A is just now breaking into college officiating. She has been going to Division I camps for two to three years and has finally gotten her big break. In her other job, she is a school teacher or salesperson…or maybe even owns her own small lawn care business. And she is so excited about her big break when she receives the news in early September.

This year, things will be different—she is on her way (at least so she thinks). She does all things correctly: she closes her dates to the DI assignor, pays her dues for her DII, Junior College and high school assignors, and continues studying her rules. But in the back of her mind, she is no longer going to work high school basketball—she is no longer going to deal with those parents, the male chauvinist boys’ coaches and those partners that don’t go to camp and half-ass the games. She is on her way.

And then she gets her Division I contract with two basketball games. Ugh! Two games!? Disappointment sets in, and she is completely discouraged. She guesses she will take all those games at the high school level after all. She will keep working at all levels. And when the high school assignor calls and asks if she can just work one Saturday tournament (three games) two-person, she feels like she can’t say no because he has given her her shot. She owes him and she wants to earn as much money as possible.

Fast-forward three years, and now this young lady is working 15 Division I games, the JuCo National Tournament, the Division II conference tournaments AND the high school playoffs! Wow! She is now working 100+games this season, and her day job is suffering, her spouse is complaining, and her ankles and calves are starting to bother her more and more each morning. What is she going to do? Where is her career going? What should she stop doing?

So she looks at her line items of income and it looks something like this:

  • Division I (15 games @ average pay of $700/game) = $10,500
  • Division II (15 games @ average pay of $250/game) = $3,750
  • Junior College (20 games @ average pay of $160/game) = $3,200
  • High School (25 nights @ average pay of $70/night) = $1,750

EOY referee income = $19,200

EOY day job income: $40,000

Now this young lady has some decisions to make. What I have seen over and over is the referee making a choice to continue refereeing those high school games that make up less than 3% of their total income but take up 35% of the nights away from home. If you find yourself in this scenario, my honest question to you is this: Is it worth it? Does this make good business sense? 

The very toughest thing I had to do in my officiating career was to give up junior college officiating. I live in a region where I can referee a lot of junior college ball and I used junior college games to fill every “off night” of my Division I schedule. Then at the end of one year, I realized the wear and tear on my body and the game schedule was actually costing me in other areas of life. For those extra games, I now needed more physical therapy and more injury prevention gear (all costing me money). The long hard nights driving to and from games was costing me and though I was at the top of the junior college officiating ladder, and I needed to say no.

When I sat down and looked at the “money” of the decision, I decided I needed to give up that money (those games) for the good of my career…and my well being. This was a decision to let the money go!

Ironically, one year after that personal decision, I picked up more Division I games, better Division I games, and oh yeah…more money!!

You are an independent contractor and you should run your business to make as much money as possible, but don’t let money take your eyes off the important things like your “_________.” (you fill in the blank)

Moral of the story — sometimes you have to let the money go to earn more money.

Referencing last week’s post 1 of this series…. 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.




About Rachael Melot

Entrepreneur - Mentor - Speaker - Blogger I find great joy in helping people become their best self by seeking personal, professional and physical success daily.
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7 Responses to Sometimes You Gotta Let the Money Go

  1. Pingback: Attitude is Everything: Take Responsibility for Yours   | To Referee the Game – You Gotta Know the Rules

  2. richripley says:

    I can apply what you’ve written to my situation, though on a smaller scale. I’ve worked over 300 games in the past year and a half. I’ve taken each one seriously, and to that point, have moved up into the varsity ranks of high school games (which was my goal). I’m too old to start working JUCO or DIII games (48 yrs. old) but have decided that I’m going to start turning down offers to work weekend tournaments and AAU games. The wear and tear on my body, working with officials who show up and “half-ass” the game and coaches who are also parents of the players are enough to make me want to quit. So, long story short, less games, more quality games with professionals and my body won’t feel like hell at 5 AM when I have to roll out of bed and get to work.
    Great thoughts!


    • Ref_Writer says:

      Rich – you are right on the money, more quality games not just more games. I think your body will appreciate some of that sleep and rest too.

      And holy moly – 300 games – WOWZA. Let someone else have one, haha.

      As always, thanks for your feedback and insight on the topics here on


  3. Michelle Anzalone says:

    I am a second year DIII official who also does Juco and high school games. Currently I referee full time as my full time income. Lots of AAU games and such. Anyway I was wondering if you had any advice for me regarding how to optimize my business at it’s current and future level.


    • Ref_Writer says:

      Hi Michelle –
      First of all – congratulations on your career choice of becoming a full time referee. You have chosen a wonderful and exciting career! You are at an interesting point in your career where you need to consider your geographic location in your financial and/or advancement goals. One of the things to consider is how many schools are within driving distance to you that are Division I and Division II and how many officials are from your area at that level? (i.e. are there any open spots for you to fill?) This impacts an assignor’s decisions.

      As for financial advancement, one of the things I would recommend is looking into your expenses to ensure that the games you are doing, are actually profitable. For example, are you actually netting any income at the end of a week long AAU assignment? Are you driving so far to work a DIII game that you don’t actually make any money. I would evaluate your current finances, like I did in the post, and consider whether you should say no to some assignments for the greater good of your officiating schedule?

      I guess what I am saying is think about this job as a business – manage your P&L (profit and loss) carefully AND consider all the factors that may impact whether you are able to make more money in your current location. If you don’t see yourself getting hired in your location then would you consider relocating?

      I hope some of these ideas help and I would encourage you to continue reading as we expand on this subject in future posts.


  4. Refwriter says:

    Jason – Thanks so much for passing along to your fellow officials. I am always happy to help others learn from my mistakes (well, and the mistakes of those around me, ha)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jason says:

    This is awesome. I made the decision last year to give up the HS games, and I can fully attest to what you’re saying. I will be passing this along to my fellow referees who have been asking me about this kind of stuff recently. Very well put!


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