On lacrosse, mother knows best

While most lacrosse players can only stew and grumble about calls made by referees, Liberty's Becky Trumbo can go to a higher authority: her mom.

Fran Trumbo, Becky's mother, is an international lacrosse referee, one of 13 Americans qualified to officiate lacrosse games in the United States and abroad.


But if Becky, a talented 16-year-old sophomore who plays attack for the Lions, expects to get any sympathy from her own flesh and blood, she has learned that she is preaching to the wrong choir.

"It's harder to complain," Becky said of approaching her mom about bad calls. "She'll say, 'Do you know how hard it is to be a referee out there?'"


Fran Trumbo has learned to employ a similar policy with her daughter ever since a tutorial on softball pitching more than five years ago led to an argument between the two.

"If she has any questions, she'll come to me," Fran, 46, said. "She's off playing and I'm off reffing. Every once in a while, we meet in the middle."

Fran Trumbo never played lacrosse until she was a freshman at then-Towson State University. A few months after her graduation in 1976, Trumbo began to officiate local field hockey games. Several years later, after some prodding from a friend, Trumbo decided to undertake the training to be a lacrosse referee.

"Back then, officials were scarce," she said. "My friend, Kathy Campbell, said we needed lacrosse officials and she said I would enjoy it. I gave it a try."

Trumbo worked her way through a universal ratings system that classifies referees to officiate from recreation to college and international contests.

In 1994, Trumbo earned an international rating, which allowed her to officiate the under-19 World Cup in Japan in 1998. She is currently working on improving her rating to be a referee in the World Cup games in England in 2002.

Until then, Trumbo, who is the athletic director and a physical education teacher at Liberty Christian School, is a regional director whose responsibilities include assigning referees to 30 college and club games and officiating.

Trumbo said she's not sure how many miles she has put on her car, but between March 2 and 12, she officiated eight games.


"You have to like your car," Trumbo joked.

Becky Trumbo, who eschewed softball for lacrosse when she was 13, didn't waste much time taking advantage of her mother's expertise in the sport's rules and regulations.

In one of her first games, Becky asked a referee to check the stick of a player who had scored. After the official ruled that the stick was illegal, the goal was disallowed, and Becky's team went on to win the game.

Another brush with a referee occurred in a travel team tournament.

After she scored a goal, the official asked the player wearing jersey No. 11 to drop her stick for a stick check. According to Becky, she was wearing No. 6 and figured that the official was asking for a teammate's stick. So, Becky pulled tight the strings on her stick.

But the referee said she was asking for Becky's stick and interpreted Becky's pulling as a defiant gesture to avoid being caught with an illegal stick. So the referee took away Becky's stick and disallowed her goal.


Angered, Becky stomped off the field, telling everyone within earshot that "I was going to talk to my mom about this," she recalled. "I was really mad."

Since then, Becky said she has refrained from berating officials because she lives with one.

"I don't go up to them," Becky said. "It's a whole lot harder for them because no one's happy and people in the stands who are yelling things don't understand the rules."

While there's no rule outlawing referee-player communication even when the referee is the player's mother, Fran Trumbo said she has forbidden herself from officiating any of Becky's games to ward off any appearance of favoritism.

But Fran Trumbo acknowledged that watching from the stands has its drawbacks, too.

"It is difficult to sit on your hands and watch because you have to be on your best behavior," she said. "A lot of times, people in the stands who know me will say, 'Fran, what was that call? Was that the right call?' I think I've gotten better about not reacting to what's happening on the field."


A little distance might not be so bad, says Becky's father Dave.

"Becky was, like, 'I can't get away with anything because Mom's reffing,'" he said.

Fran Trumbo said she doesn't know what she will do when Becky goes to college - something that may wreak havoc on her ability to assign referees and officiate games herself.

But for now, Trumbo said she is content to watch Becky develop into a standout player who leads Liberty in scoring with 39 goals and 30 assists and is a youth referee for 5- to 8-year-olds.

"She's a natural," Fran Trumbo said of her daughter's officiating. "She moves very well, and she's right in there to make the call. It's fun to watch her."

Would Becky Trumbo want to follow in her mother's footsteps?


"I have no idea what I want to do in the future," she said. "It's a good way to make extra money."