The Role of the Referee-In-Chief

By Rad Joseph

Veteran lacrosse referee Mark Gardonio has taken on the important role of Mann Cup Referee-in-Chief.  He graciously gave us some time to share thoughts of his career as an official (he is still active) and to discuss the role of the RIC for the Mann Cup.
#1 When did you first begin refereeing?
I started when I was 15 years old. I did minor Lacrosse in Guelph Ontario. I was carded as a level 3 referee.

#2 Who introduced you to refereeing lacrosse?
While I was playing minor Lacrosse, some of my teammates were referees - my parents asked me if I would like to officiate. Given that we lived in a rural area, my parents would have to drive me into town to ref. So, I certainly owe them a big thanks for all the support to get me started. In addition, without the continued support of my wife and family at home, I would not be able to continue to complete this career in refereeing this great game.

#3 When did you realize – “I like refereeing” and why?
I suppose it was within the first summer. I loved playing the game, but refereeing was equally rewarding in a different way. Being a referee gave me a better appreciation for the men who refereed while I was playing.

#4 Did you have any particular referee mentors along the way?
As I got older and started to referee Provincials, there were a few referees that had a large impact on my development. Those men would include - Gary Martin, Bill Fox, Harry Benham, John Herd, Don Brockie. Gary Martin was my mentor for a number of years. There are so many lessons and knowledge that he passed on – in my opinion, truly the GOAT of Lacrosse referees.

#5  How many National Championships have you officiated? (Mann, Minto, Presidents, Founders championships)
I have officiated in 17 National Championships.

#6  What are the most important skills for a referee to have?
They must need - honesty, integrity, good communication skills and most of all, thick skin. It is personal for each referee to perform the best they can each and every game, but it is not always personal when negative comments are made during the game.

#7  What are the most important aspects of refereeing a game?
I think having a feel for, and the atmosphere of each game, this helps with game management. Being honest at all times, assures that you will gain the trust and respect of all involved.  Respect is always earned, never given! Once you have it, work hard every time to keep it.

#8  As an on floor official, presumably you strive to enforce the rules fairly for both teams. How do you ensure you treat both teams equally?
With every game or every period that you referee - the momentum, flow, energy and intensity changes. It is up to the referees to have the ability to change as well. Take each moment as it presents itself and deal with it as it needs to be dealt with at that moment. The ability to move on and forget the past, helps with the ability for a clear mind to make better decisions.

#9  What makes an official a “good fit” for refereeing in a Mann Cup series?
They would have to be able to use the items that I have described above. The Mann Cup is unlike any other National championship, you have to be able to adapt on the fly. You must be able to communicate and remain calm and in control when everything around you, may not be!

#10  Can you please offer an example of a time when you had to make an exceptionally difficult call in a Mann Cup series game?
It was game 6 in the 2007 Mann Cup contested between Coquitlam and Peterborough.  The Lakers were up by 1 goal in the third period. That year there was an extreme enforcement of the chinstrap being fastened at all times during dynamic play. The ball was in the Peterborough end, when a Coquitlam players chinstrap had come undone. I had made 3 verbal warnings for him to fasten it back up. Just as he was going to attempt to do so, his teammate passed him the ball and he caught it. Given that everyone heard me give these 3 warnings, I had no choice, but to call this. Peterborough scored on that powerplay. They won that game by 1 goal to win the Mann Cup.

#11  Do you perceive technology impacting on the future of officiating  - such as tracking game information?
I do - as the athletic ability of the players and the competitiveness to win continues to grow, everyone at some point will resort to using more video to create a stronger more positive environment for winning.

#12  Given you are still active as an NLL referee – you may want to pass on addressing this question, but if you can - please share your thoughts on the difference between refereeing a Mann Cup vs. NLL officiating?
There is nothing like the Mann Cup. What it takes to get there and what it takes to win it!

#13  What is your role as the RIC for the Mann Cup?
The RIC is responsible to provide direction and guidance to the officiating staff. This includes responsibility for breaking down each game - assessing the good and bad. Then you must convey this message in a positive way, to create confidence. At the end of the day, when a referee knows deep down, they did not perform well, they know! It’s the RIC’s responsibility to provide direction to better manage those situations to help them understand this was a valuable learning experience, if they are willing to learn from it.
The RIC will also provide assistance and direction for both teams with any questions or concerns pertaining to rules, and/or situations that happen in a game. I also schedule the referees for each game. As per the Mann Cup agreement, the first 4 games are to be scheduled accordingly. For games 5 to 7, I have the discretion to schedule the referees. I base that decision on the performance, ability and cohesiveness through the first 4 games.

 #14  You mentor young officials along.  Any thoughts you would like to share about this?
I believe that every official will only get better through experience. What I try and help with is imparting my experiences and teachings that I have learned along the way. Instill trust in your teammates and protect them when needed. Show them you care and be honest. In my opinion that’s how you manage to get the absolute best out of someone. Attitude reflects leadership and I learned from the best in the game!


So, there you have it lacrosse fans.  Truly informed fans know – there are three teams in a Mann Cup series - the two teams contesting the game and the team of referees.  Reality is – no referees = no game.  You can be assured each Mann Cup series includes the very best referees available.  And for that – be grateful and appreciative.

Rad Joseph
Major Series Lacrosse
Media Team