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Referees know they’re the most hated

Jimmy Allgood, left, and Gary Parnham both coach at local schools and referee on the court. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

When Gary Parnham steps on to a junior varsity basketball court in Mississippi, he knows fans see a giant bullseye on his back instead of the stripes he is wearing.

Parnham, who coaches in Vidalia, is one of many area referees who has learned to overcome being the most hated man on the court.

High School referees are only noticed when parents and fans are angry, yelling and quick to criticize because the hopes and emotions of children are riding on the next whistle.

No one claimed it would be a glamorous life, Parnham said.

“You are never going to make both sides happy, and you have to have thick skin and can’t listen to all that (talk),” Parnham said. “I’ve heard all the stuff from the bleachers like, ‘You need glasses,’ and I say, ‘Well, I’m wearing contacts.’”

Natchez-native Jimmy Fuqua’s job is to find people willing to wear the bullseye for just $45 a game. Fuqua must then prepare them to make the right call in the game-deciding moments.

Fuqua, the MAIS assignment secretary for officials in southwest Mississippi, is responsible for each official that takes the floor for every high school basketball game in the area.

Fuqua uses his 20 years of officiating experience and feedback from coaches, schools and other officials to determine who his best officials are and what games the top officials need to be at each day.

“I’ve got some guys that strictly call junior high games,” he said. “We have different levels of officials. Seniority plays a role. It depends on the game and who is playing to determine who I send.”

Fuqua said he tries to send his best officials to the biggest games that will have the toughest atmosphere, and he depends a lot on feedback to determine those top officials.

“It helps when coaches call me and say this guy did a good job and this guy didn’t,” he said.

“We have camps all through the summer if (the official) can afford to go. Normally we use scrimmages or jamborees and get the newer guys to get their feet wet, and some people go and find out they don’t want to do this.”