Matt Spaans has been a referee with Saanich Tigers Lacrosse for seven years. This year, Spaans, 18, was chosen to represent B.C. and referee at the 2019 Canadian Minor Box Lacrosse National Championships in Langley during August.
During the yearly referee re-certification course, Spaans, a former lacrosse player, marked down that he’d be willing to cover a variety of championship events throughout the year — including the minor nationals.
Andy Stuart, president of Saanich Lacrosse, explained that Spaans and the prospective referees had to go through an intense evaluation and selection process to be approved as a referee for the championships. The nationals referees are nominated by their head referees and then a committee observes the nominees in action.
As a testament to his skill as a referee, Spaans was assigned to oversee one of the bronze-medal games, Stuart noted proudly.
He also pointed out that Spaans is known for making consistent calls and being a fair and professional referee.
“Being a referee is something that is overlooked and they are often the subject of abuse, but the reality is you can’t play a game without them,” said Stuart. “They’re the unsung heroes.”
Spaans said he understands that people get worked up about sports, but the scene in Saanich is usually pretty good. However, he once had to kick two coaches out of a game and noted that he’s had games where he should have kicked some parents out for their behaviour.
“People don’t come to cheer for the ref,” he said with a laugh.
The Saanich Lacrosse executives are proud of Spaans for representing Saanich at a national level and hope that other young referees and players will be inspired by his dedication and hard work, said Stuart.
Spaans hopes to become a police officer, but plans to continue refereeing lacrosse for the foreseeable future.