This article was published in the Feb. 1, 2018, Badger Beacon

At this time of year, it is always fun writing for the Badger Beacon, from officiating at the local Badger Region Boys event at Center Court to working a NCAA Division 1 men’s match at Lewis University as they take on California Northridge, there are so many things going on.

First, I want to say that the fans and parents have done a great job working on their code of conduct and sportspersonship. At both events, I had only one team’s parents behave poorly to the officials and line judges, and when I mentioned that to them, many of them apologized after the match. This is something we can all continue to work on. As both parents and players, encourage each other to only cheer for your teams, because many of the men and women across the net will be teammates in the future on other teams and at their other colleges.

I recently spent the weekend at Judson University officiating a 23-team men’s tournament. Those men had so much fun and treated the game the way it was meant to be treated. In the words of the tremendous quarterback Tom Brady, they played with “Joy and Love.” The teams played with tremendous sportsmanship and treated their opponents and the officials with respect. This event was a lot of fun to officiate because of this respect for their opponents and the referees.

Secondly, I always talk about how the game is a small world and what amazing connections you can find even after decades. I was officiating an event at the Milwaukee Sting Center and a young woman came out of the stands and said, “Coach, how are you doing?” I could not believe it, Lisa was a former player of mine at University of Minnesota Duluth back in the ’90s, her daughter was playing for Sting. In the same event, Sarah, who was coaching for 360 Volleyball Academy club, played ball at Marquette University for their women’s club team who won five trillion National Championships or something like that. She was coached by one of my favorite friends, and I spent some time with her and the team when I was coaching the varsity team at Marquette back in 2002-2008. Meeting old friends happens so often now, I love it.

Thirdly, I find great joy in mentoring the younger generation. The most fun I had was working with the Madison Starlings club in Madison in January. Their coaches were college students who went home during Christmas break so I was asked if I could help fill some practices. My true love is coaching so I jumped at the opportunity. What a fun experience that was, the team was so welcoming and fun to work with. I was with them for four practices which allowed me to use some progression drills and see them develop, my hope is to go watch them play if my schedule allows. Developing volleyball across all socioeconomic groups is so important for the expansion of the game as well as the growth of community in our towns and cities, giving every child the chance to reach their full potential.

So what is happening of interest now? I am taking off to the Dominican Republic on Feb. 22 to attend a FIVB International refresher course. I have not been to the Dominican Republic and am looking forward to seeing everyone. They have a sport center and we will be staying there. This will be a tremendous opportunity to visit with fellow colleagues and see the country, as well as work on our skills as referees.

Fourth, the craziest thing that is happening is my daughter Madison who is 23 is taking off to South Korea, yes Korea. One of my best friends from FIVB officiating and whose picture you often see in international matches and on my facebook feed is from Korea, she is so kind and has offered to be like a big sister to her. This makes my husband and I feel good about her having someone if she needs anything. It is not easy being so far away from her. However, my plan is to go visit soon and see her and my friend. Oddly, I have never been to Korea, and with the Winter Olympics at the end of this month it will be a fun time for her to go. She is spending all her time now getting ready, packing, and figuring out what a teacher needs and what she will need to have organized to be living there for at least a year. I am guessing maybe a few years. I told my husband, who is a farmer at heart, to prepare for her to be gone gone. We may never get her back. She loves the culture in Korea and we are excited for her to teach the little ones like her brother is doing.

My son Graydon is an English teacher at Ronald Reagan High School here in Milwaukee, and he loves it. I think Madison is following in his footsteps; however she will be working with the little ones. She is now organizing her residency paperwork for tax purposes, working on her bank needs, clothing that a teacher is going to need, etc. I love it. Such important things to learn to do and plan. I do very little for her besides pay some bills and answer questions she may have about forms. It is so important we allow kids to do these things on their own, no matter how stressful. She has had to call the IRS and ask about tax issues, she has had to work with the Korean Embassy in Chicago to figure out what forms she will need. All of this she is more than capable of doing even though I could do it a lot faster and more efficiently, she is doing it so she can gain those skills as well. It will become less stressful in the future and it is fun for me to drive her down to Chicago, hang out as she does her thing, eat at some of the cool restaurants in Chicago like the Moon Palace Restaurant in Chinatown as well as the amazing bakery a few blocks away, Tasty Place Bakery and Café. Seriously next time your child plays in Chicago you have to go.

Finally, a thank you to all of you working on your sportspersonship. It’s an important thing to take on, so please commit to it. I personally tell them to knock it off, it’s embarrassing, we are at a youth event and there really is no place for it, ever. It’s in the code and we know you all can do it. Coaches, players, officials and administrators appreciate the work you put in to yourself and your fellow parents and fans to help with this. When you hear someone next to you that is a part of your team, behaving against the code of your team and the code of the Olympic Spirit tell them they are representing not only themselves but the entire sport of volleyball. It is a tremendous game, we should all work to enjoy every minute of it.
No matter the issues.


This article was published in the Dec. 22, 2016, Badger Beacon

Hello, my name is Pati Rolf. Thanks to all of you, I have been on the Badger Region board as Metro Milwaukee representative since 2014. I have enjoyed my time on the board and want you to know what a pleasure it has been for me. I appreciate the opportunity to write to all of you and discuss what I have learned and to give you my thoughts.

By the time you read this the Final Four will be over and a winner will have been crowned. On Sunday, Dec. 11, I received a call telling me I was to referee the final four. I will have the opportunity to officiate with other tremendous officials, and I can’t tell you enough how lucky and honored I am to work this amazing event with this crew, these teams, and their players. It is just crazy to think about.

I thought being invited to the Olympic Games last January was wild, but this is just as insane. The reason I want to talk about this is it has become such a ride for me. I think it applies so strongly to you, to the young student athletes that may read this, and some of the older folks. People have asked what has led me to these moments. The Olympic Games and the Final Four. At times I want to say I have no idea. At other times I know exactly why. It is the most logical answer and of course the one that makes complete sense.

I have spent my life in sports and most expressly volleyball. I was a player first, just like all of you out there playing right now. Then I became a professional player for a short time. Then a college coach at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Marquette University and East Carolina University. I retired after 25 years to focus on my officiating. Why officiating? I have been a referee since I was a juniors player. I enjoyed it and felt it was an important duty. However, it was only when I went full time and became a professional that I really began to excel. I have spent the last two years overseas and in the states working numerous matches, 10 times what I worked prior to 2014.

First and most importantly, refereeing has changed my life. I have met so many wonderful people from across the world and developed such a diverse network of friends and work mates from all over the globe. I see the world differently now. How connected we are, how we must work together.

Second, I have spent so much time on the road in other countries and cultures. Last summer I was gone for two months, to Peru, then to Japan and my final stop in Puerto Rico. I had my own fan club of young girls in Peru: Every time I walked into the gym they would scream and smile and give me the heart sign, to this day we all still talk on Facebook, they are amazing.

Now let me get to the point of this story. I have had some serious losses the last four years. The retirement from coaching, the loss of my oldest sister to suicide and a serious challenge with finding an interesting direction. Recently, just a few weeks ago we lost fellow ref Dan Apol, my Olympic Beach colleague to an aneurysm. He was 44. Officiating has been the balm and spending time with the greatest coaches and players in this country and in the world has helped all aspects of my game. However, the level and volume of my work has led me to a new understanding of the game, as well as of the players and coaches.

By keeping my mind open to new ideas and by watching the best in the world, my knowledge has expanded. As I often tell my colleagues, I am able to keep a calm about myself that allows me to stay open to all elements of the game. To keep my vision wide, rather than narrow. To approach captains, coaches and players with an open mind and peaceful demeanor. To ignore the distractions of the crowd, facility, TVs and cameras. To in a sense be FLAT as one of my dear friends from the international game mentioned.

As I write this, I am heading out for the Final Four; I am going to focus on my colleagues, my friends and most importantly the players and coaches and my crew. I am going to practice just like all of you, for this amazing opportunity. Just like the athletes and coaches, I have been training all year with my fellow officials and it has led us to this moment in time.

I want to thank my fellow officials/teammates who have helped me reach this level of fitness in officiating. Without this group of teammates it really would not have worked. To folks like Julie Voeck and Jim Momsen from the Badger Region and the many others who have always been there, I want to say thank you.

I am the luckiest woman in the world.

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