First Person: Staying in the game

Kayne Gutierrez, 27, spent his high school and college years playing football and running track. He stays in the game as a referee with the New Mexico Activities Association.

At the beginning: I’ve been a referee for seven years. I ref football and basketball. I started in college for the extra money. As I did it more, I realized I really liked it and started taking it more seriously.

By day: I work as a compliance officer for Eastern New Mexico University’s athletic department. This is my second job. I moved to Portales in 1999 to go to school at Eastern. I studied sports communication and had wanted to go into print journalism. But I became a graduate assistant at the athletic department at ENMU after graduation and I liked it.

On the road: We ref 27 different schools. I’ve got a game next week in Tucumcari. I’ve been as far north as Clayton and as far south as Jal.

Still in the game: I like being a ref because I like still being part of the game. And the kids are a blast. And the coaches, even if they’re yelling at you, it’s not personal. You meet a lot of good people. I’m usually the youngest ref by 15 years, so I get to hear some old stories.

White noise: When people yell, it depends on the sport as to how much you deal with it. In football, you deal mainly with the head coach because the fans are 40 to 50 yards away. But even in basketball where the fans are almost right on top of you, you get to where you don’t really hear it. It just becomes white noise. You’re there to do a job and you know that part of it is to take some flack.

Instant replay: If I could, I would stop and back up time to see if I made the right calls or not. Sometimes with how much people yell, you start to second guess yourself. It’d be nice to be able to look back and know for a fact whether you were right or wrong. It’d help your psyche.

— Compiled by Liliana Castillo