Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rules & Officiating

This is the continuation of the Name That Penalty trilogy of posts found here, here, and here. If you missed them first time around (or skipped them) or just plain forgot them ‘cus it’s been so damn long do a quick review because the content of this post assumes familiarity with the ‘Name That Penalty’ (NTP) trio of posts. (If you are wondering why I didn't stick with the 'Name That Penalty' series title for all related posts you haven't been here long, have you? I'm afraid that would be too easy and make too much sense. That, and I'm switching gears a bit with these follow-up posts. What can I say? Embrace the eccentricity. Or, for the geek crowd, resistance is futile.)

Each of the NTP posts posits a very common situation in the format formerly known as xball. Each of the NTP posts asked readers to describe the outcome as a decision made by the refs. And as one might have easily predicted there was no unanimity in the responses. Now this could be attributed to the limited information supplied or an incorrect understanding of the rules–since at least theoretically Faction’s interpretation must be correct given that he wrote them–but regardless, the point was (and remains) that situations that occur potentially dozens of times in a single match are open to interpretations that include no penalty assessed to possibly minor or major penalty assessments. Each one requiring the judgment of a referee. And in less time than it takes to read, much less, a referee must decide what the appropriate outcome should be and act accordingly. (And we haven’t even begun to touch on the touchy topic of whether a particular penalty really is appropriate given the game we claim we want to play. That’s tomorrow.)
In the running and gunning a corner scenario the player may or may not know he was hit and cannot know if the ball broke. The question then becomes what do the rules require him to do? Apparently he is allowed to finish his run but not continue shooting. So how many steps is he allowed if any? For that matter how long does it take to recognize a possible hit and then stop shooting? How does the ref know whether or not the player in question did or didn’t stop shooting? The whole run takes no more than 3 seconds.
At this point a couple of factors come into play. Let’s consider this first in terms of risk/reward. As a practical matter would anyone trade two seconds of shooting their gun for two players removed from his team? Of course they wouldn’t but not everyone acts sensibly all the time either but the real hazard here is the ambiguity. What does the player understand the rule to be? Will the ref call it or not? Did the player realize he was hit? And so on.
The other question I have here is about the fairness–or appropriateness--of a penalty assessed and its’ deterrence value. (I’m not a big advocate of penalty as deterrent, btw.) As a practical matter we have a gun being fired for anywhere from 1 to 3 seconds too long and the penalty is the removal of one or two players; 20% or 40% of the team for a given point. Is that an appropriate penalty or is that an attempt to deter a behavior? Can it be both at the same time? Does it in fact deter or does a combination of inconsistent interpretation, the speed of the game and the value players and teams assign to the ability to run and shoot simply create an oft-repeated situation that results in a frustrating crapshoot? [This applies to divisional play as this is not a call made in the pro game 99% of the time–though every once in a blue moon ...]

In the second NTP scenario we have a snake runner hit in the legs below the hips. Break or no break? When, and where, does the player check? (Here’s where a case could be made that Faction got his own rules wrong as 2.8.7 says a player in motion must move to the "nearest cover.") So unless the possible hit occurs at the last possible moment the snake runner, and the corner runner for that matter, should not continue running to their primary but stop at the "nearest cover" and, in fact, be liable for some assessed penalty if they don’t in any situation where the player may or may not be eliminated and can’t know which at the time it happens. Is that the way you want to play the format formerly known as xball. Me either.

Look, I’m running long so I’ll stop for now. Real world officiating is not and probably can’t be as clean and simple as rule book rulings because the rulebook can’t cover all the possibilities. For example, the current PSP rule book doesn’t even include a definition of playing on–it simply assumes in a couple of places that everyone knows what playing on is.

First things first, penalties need to be appropriate to the infraction and refs need to know the whole rule book. In addition a handy item for promoting consistent officiating might be a Referees Guide to the Rule Book written by somebody other than Chris.


Missy Q said...


Crusificton said...


Anonymous said...

well said...refs have one of the hardest jobs in paintball. that being said i dont think its fair to assume someone who knows the rule book can ref. as you put it the game is to fluid to be judge by a print page of rules, but rather a skilled and experienced judge can determine events of the field and apply the rule book accordingly.

Jii said...

Nice post!

I think a lot of the quality of reffing comes out of the refs being as active as possible. The referees are there to provide a safe, fair and equal competitive environment, and dishing out excessive penalties just for the sake of "it says so in the rulebook" is not in line with fairness. I see my responsibility as a referee to inform the players effectively so they can make the calls themselves. If we look at the example of the corner runner getting hit, I usually show the elimination signal and run towards the player. Normally that gives the player enough to eliminate himself - no penalty necessary. If I reach the player and have to pull him, I assess a 1-for-1. I really don't go nit-picking how many steps he may or may not have taken etc. If I see a hit, I start to act immediately to benefit the players ability to react to the hit. I see the players reaction or lack of one as the basis for penalty assessment.

raehl said...

Jii is a prime example of one of the reasons paintball reffing is so marginal. He thinks he knows how to ref, but is really the cheater's best friend. I think this results from so many years of referees just being players who are not playing that weekend instead of people who are actually trained in how to be effective officials, and players adopting their play style to be successful under Jii's reffing style. Refs like Jii are a big contributor to many people's perception that there is too much cheating in tournament paintball because refs like Jii make cheating a winning strategy.

Jii, unless you are talking about unobvious hits, you are not qualified to be a paintball ref. You have changed the standard of officiating from "You will be penalized if you should know your hit and don't call yourself out" to "You will be penalized if I tell you you are hit and you keep playing."

The result pretty much like bird-dogging snake players - just like telling the other team exactly where in the snake their opponent is, you're telling the other team whether you have seen the hit they just got or not, letting them hide/ditch it when they realize (since you have not motioned them out) that you missed the hit.

You can see the effect of this just by watching paintball - especially in environments with a history of marginal officiating - when you see players adopting crazy postures to keep hits they know they have against the bunker and keep playing as long as they can, because they know they usually won't draw a penalty for it.

There is always room for improvement in the rule book. I'd say right now there's probably more room for improvement than usual since there was just a major revision. But, most things in the rule book are there for a reason, and just because you don't understand the reason doesn't mean you're doing anyone any favors by substituting your (incorrect) judgment for the rules.

(I want to be clear here that I'm talking about obvious hits. If you see a player get knicked in the pack on the break, or have something spray off the edge of his goggle, then by all means get the guy pulled. But if you see a guy get shot in the leg, it's his job to get himself out of the game and you should give him the time he needs to do so and assess the major if he doesn't.)

raehl said...

Short version, since I once again word spewed:

If referees only assess penalties if players keep playing after the ref has signaled an elimination, players won't (and should not, if they like winning) stop playing until the ref signals elimination, and will (and should, if they like winning) do everything they can to prevent refs from signaling an elimination.

And that's not a game of paintball. That's a game of hide-the-hit-from-the-ref.

Jii said...

Raehl, thank you and congratulations on your delightfully insightful analysis of me as a person and as a paintball referee - I'm sure you had ample data at hand, seeing how deep my first comment was in analyzing the issue.

I can understand your point when it comes to the cheating aspect, but hey, paintball is hiding the hit from the referee. Or have I missed something, really? But yes, I can see the flipside you are pointing to.

As for the obvious/unobvious part of your comment, do we still have a self-check zone? I thought that had passed with renegade knee protectors and sock hats?

If we really take an interpretation of your approach to extremes, why do referees even signal for eliminations? Just penalties would do, right? Aah, I'm forgetting tha paint check. In the perfect world a referee sees a hit and waits if the player calls for a paint check before signaling an elimination - or otherwise assessing a penalty. I think we fixed paintball now, good job!

And forgive my sarcasm.

Jii said...

@Raehl still: And after (being late in) reading the clarification on your first comment I think that ultimately we were on the same page from the get-go, I just did not consider every and all possible aspects.

raehl said...

Refs should signal an elimination when they see a player get a hit that it's not reasonable to expect the player to know about, or when the player gets a hit they can't check on their own and asks the ref to check it. The player should make it easy for the ref to check that area (i.e. if a player gets hit in the left arm and puts their left arm against the bunker so it is as challenging as possible to see that hit and yells 'paint check', that's a major.)

But outside those two circumstances, refs pulling players with hits should be assessing penalties; minors if it's unobvious and didn't get caught when it happened, and major for obvious.

And when you eliminate a lot of cases where players are playing on with hits, you ALSO prevent a lot of other chaos before it happens.

Side note: It's a stretch to say I 'write' the rules. A better description would be 'transcribe'. PSP says what they want, I put it in writing, they review, edit, and release it. Additionally, Tim also has to train the refs to have a common standard of officiating. (Any team sport can be called "tighter" or "looser" and you'd like to get the officials on as common of ground as possible.)

In response to the blog:

How does the Umpire know if a pitch was a strike or not?

They are called judges for a reason. Listing off all the things the judge has to take into account (how long does a player have to stop shooting, how many steps can they take, blah blah) is an act of sillyness. They have as long as the judge thinks they need to stop shooting. I don't know if it's two tenths of a second or five tenths, but I know it when I see it.

'How does the ref know if the player stopped shooting?'

Because the player stops pointing their gun downfield. A player who decides to stop shooting and continues to run with their gun up anyway is in need of more practice.

"As a practical matter would anyone trade two seconds of shooting their gun for two players removed from his team?"

Maybe, if they think they can eliminate a key opponent. And if a player WOULD trade the penalty for the infraction, it isn't a penalty, is it?

"Of course they wouldn’t but not everyone acts sensibly all the time either"

If the player is not sensible, then the player sucks.

"What does the player understand the rule to be?"

Doesn't matter. Player's responsibility to know the rules.

"Will the ref call it or not?"

Are you suggesting players will keep playing if they don't think the ref will call a penalty? Duh.

"Did the player realize he was hit?"

Getting hit in an obvious location and 'not realizing it' is no different than aiming at your opponent and missing. If a player is having trouble noticing when they get hit in obvious locations, they should pay more attention, cut down on the padding, don't play with their car keys in their pocket, etc. If players can escape penalty because they "didn't realize" they were hit, all you get is players trying very hard to not realize they are hit.

If your snake runner gets hit 20' out from the start box, then no, they can't continue to run the other 80' into the snake. If they get hit at a point where they're going to be in the snake by the time they can change their momentum to go somewhere else, then there shouldn't be any problem with the player finishing the run. But again, this gets back to the standard of the officiating.

You are right that the penalties don't get called nearly as often on the Pro field as the divisional field. That's a bit because the officials are better, but a lot because the Pro players are used to the reffing. They expect to draw a major if they get shot and keep running and gunning anyway, so they don't do it. Divisional players are unfortunately used to playing 'at home' where penalties are not called but for the most egregious of infractions, and when they bring that play style to tighter reffing, are going to do things that (rightly) draw penalties. It's why the UK refs are often simultaneously the most liked and most hated refs at an event.

Missy Q said...

I agree. I asked a guy who the best refs were, and he said 'the UK refs'. I asked the same guy who the worst refs were, and he said 'the UK refs'. There was a gap of around 10 seconds, so it wasn't quite 'simultanious', but Chris is right on again with this one...

raehl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Baca Loco said...

I won't argue rules with you because it would be a waste of both our times but a couple of comments are required.

You can call what you do transcribing but we both know better.

With respect to identifying a partial list of all the things a ref must take into account it isn't silliness -- it's in order to make clear the complexity of the decision-making process and how little time is actually involved. You are satisfied with the arrangement, I'm not. (Although you'd probably prefer more majors called more quickly if truth be told.)

With respect to shooting and gun position you once again display your ignorance of actually playing as any properly trained player keeps his gun up ALL THE TIME. Dropping your barrel tip and having to re-sight and re-align provides unnecessarily frees an opponent to act in the gaps.

With respect to your interpretation of what's happening on the pro field, well, it's laughable at best.

raehl said...

I can call what I do transcribing because I do know better, since I'm the guy who actually does it, and gets the emails/phone calls telling me what has to be done.

The decision-making process is not complex. It may take some talent and practice to do very well, but that's true of pretty much any activity. Sports officials have to make good judgments based on their observations in short periods of time. No set of rules is going to change that.

With respect to gun position:


We have four possibilities:

The player is hit in an area they can check without breaking their aim, and it bounces. Player knows they are not hit and continues to play as normal.

The player is hit in an area they can check without breaking their aim and it breaks. They know they are hit and are going to get a major penalty if they don't call themselves out.

The player is hit in an area they can't check without breaking their aim. They can decide to keep playing, or decide to check the hit. If the keep playing, they're going to get a major if it broke and no penalty if it did not. And if they decide to check the hit, they are going to have to break aim before they can shoot again anyway.

So continuing to point your gun downfield serves no purpose unless you are continuing to play. And continuing to play when you are hit in an obvious location is a major penalty.

So, yes, the refs can tell whether to assess the major by whether the player still has their gun pointed downfield. IF the player stops pointing their gun downfield, then the ref has an easy call - don't throw the major. If the player wants to keep pointing their gun downfield even though they know they might hit, then they are 1) still trying to play, and should get the major, or 2) not bright enough to realize they are creating a situation where they have turned an easy call into a more challenging call, and have no one to blame but themselves if they draw the major.

Part of playing any sport is minimizing the chances that you get penalties called against you. And part of doing that is not doing anything that makes a call that can easily go in your favor one that may not go in your favor - like continuing to point your gun downfield when the only thing it is going to accomplish for you is drawing you a major penalty you don't need.

Baca Loco said...

Thanks Faction
That seems instructive. Did you notice what you did? I'm sure you didn't but it's precisely my point.

raehl said...

Yes, I know exactly what I did there.

I just explained how a player should act in a particular game situation to increase their chance of success.

What is that called?


I've played several sports in my athletic career. Do you know how many rule books I read? None. Zero. Zip. In fact, I don't think I ever even saw a rule book for a sport I was participating in until I played competitive paintball. Why? Because players don't really need to know the rules; they just need to know how to play. And who tells players how to play?


It is not the league's job to teach the players how to play. That is the coach's job. If the players have not been taught how to act to maximize their chance of success, for example, if no one has told the player to stop pointing their gun downfield if they are hit on the break so they don't get a major penalty, that's a coaching failure.

Of course, in order for players to be coached properly, you need a qualified coach to do it. I think that's one of the reasons, for example, that the Russians do well so consistently.

Reiner Schafer said...

Having played a few sport in my day, I gotta agree. That's one of the main jobs of the coach. If players are getting too many penalties (penalties that have a negative net affect - not "good" penalties), that's a direct refletion of coaching. Many a coach has been fired for the inability to teach his players how to avoid excessive penalties.