Interview with Referee Chuck Bartlett

Russ Thompson
Water Polo Planet

Chuck Bartlett1. Tell us a little about what you do vocationally

I manage the Design Engineering group for the America’s division of the world’s largest Industrial Battery Manufacturer, EnerSys.  We design batteries that are used in Motive Power applications such as Forklift trucks, Mining Vehicles, Airport Ground Support Equipment, and Locomotive Diesel Engine starting batteries; and Reserve Power applications such as Power Plants, Cell Phone Towers, and Data Centers.  My group designs about 600 custom battery configurations a year.

2. Did you play? If so when did you start playing?  At what age?

I played for 15 years.  I started in 1979, when I was 13, in the Berks County Summer League.  This was an Open League 13 and over.  My mom was concerned at my first game when she saw some of the college and adults that I would be playing with and against.  She was OK with it after the first summer as she saw that the older players watched out for the younger players and it was a great lesson in stewardship of the game to see the interest that everyone took in teaching the game.  

The Berks County Summer League eventually evolved into what is Kingfish Water Polo today.  There are age divisions starting at 8 years old.  My son Sam has played in the Kingfish league for three years now and I am trying to get my daughter Mia interested also.

3. Where did you play and what was it like?

I continued to play in the Berks County Summer League for my entire 15 years of playing.  I played for four years at Wilson High School, in Reading, PA.  High School Water Polo programs were few and far between.  We played Reading, Cumberland Valley, Lower Moreland, Perkiomen Valley, Germantown Academy and Hill School.  High School Water Polo in Pennsylvania has grown significantly since then with 25 schools playing and a State Championship Tournament. 

I then played for the Lehigh University Club team for four years.  I was President of the Club for two years.  Lehigh only played about 8 games each semester.  This was before CWPA, so club teams had to find their own games and tournaments.  During my Junior and Senior years I organized a four team tournament at Lehigh.  That was a tremendous amount of work for an undergraduate to undertake.  I have a great appreciation for the support CWPA has given Club programs establishing conferences with regular season games, conference championships and National Collegiate Club Championships. 

I also played in the Summer Eastern Water Polo League for the Kingfish Water Polo Club.  That was a great experience getting to travel and play Water Polo throughout the Northeast and Canada.

4. When did you start refereeing?  Tell us about your experience and your past.

When I graduated High School in 1984, I started refereeing in the summers while I was in college.  The Berks County Summer League urged the older players to referee the games that they were not playing in.  When I graduated college in 1988 Tom Parisi was scheduling referees for Pennsylvania High School Water Polo and recruited me to referee.  Tom was a great mentor and encouraged me to join the Eastern Water Polo Referees Association to referee college games and United States Water Polo to referee club games. 

Pennsylvania High School Water Polo was starting to expand and we needed to grow the referee’s to support the teams.  In 1989 Tom Parisi founded the Pennsylvania Water Polo Referees Association (PAWPRA) and was elected President.  I was elected Vice President.  A State Championship tournament was established and the number of teams playing has been steadily increasing.  In 1998 Tom Parisi stepped down as President of PAWPRA and I was elected President. 

When I started refereeing College Varsity I grew my list of mentors.  I started working with Paul Barren on a regular basis.  Where ever Paul went I tried to get scheduled to work with him.  At the same time CWPA was getting established and offering referee clinics.  I attended clinics run by Paul Barren, Jack Horton, and Loren Bertocci.  Loren Bertocci taught me how to be a student of the game from a referee’s perspective.  Loren also encouraged me to seek out more mentors.  Loren recommended two National referees in the Northeast, Brad Peavey and Jim Lewis.  I found out the tournaments that Jim and Brad were doing and I was able to get scheduled to a few of those as well as a few with Loren.  My off games I would watch and try to extract things that I wanted to incorporate into my own refereeing.

At the same time I was able to get many opportunities in USWP.  I refereed six Junior National Championships, two Junior Olympic Championships, and two Senior Winter National Championships.  Throughout those USWP tournaments I was able to work with or get evaluated by Jim Cullingham, Don Holbrook, Bob Corb, Bill Frady, Bret Bernard, Andy Takata, and Steve Rotsart.  I kept my eyes, ears, and mind open throughout this process and tried to learn as much as possible.

Chuck Bartlett5. You have been head referee in Pennsylvania Water Polo for many years for high school water polo. Share with us your experiences regarding how the game has changed.

That is an interesting question because from a rules perspective the two cornerstone rules of water polo; hold, sink or pull back a player not holding the ball and the advantage rule, have not changed since I started. 

There has been a concerted effort to speed up the game and reduce the physicality.  Offensive fouls and Exclusions are called more often now then in the past.  This has led to more Counter Attack and 6 on 5 situations, which are more exciting.

The two point shot came and went.   It was in an effort to make the game more exciting. However, more outside shooting, and less driving actually made the game static

6. What rule or rules made the game better? 

Reducing the possession clock has helped reduce physicality.  Dropping the two point shot has brought back the perimeter driving game.

7. Which rules made them worse? 

Shooting a free throw from outside 5M’s.  Not the actual rule, but how many teams are changing their offense to fit the rule.  I think the intention was to reduce the number of ordinary fouls on the perimeter, by keeping the fouled player live as a shooter.  While this may have made the defenders play better defense, it has brought into play a new style of offense.  Some teams are swimming to 5M center cage and trying to “get fouled”.  Too often this is achieved by the offensive player initiating contact at 5M.  I think it is important that the referees consider which player is initiating the contact and not reward that player with a free shot on goal. 

8. Share how you train referees for high school water polo.

We have grown from about 10 referees to 43 today.  With that growth we have had many challenges.  We have teams located from Suburban Philadelphia to Erie.  That is approximately 400 miles, about the same distance as Los Angeles to San Francisco.  We are trying to maintain a consistency throughout the state.  However, we do not have the money to have a website like CWPA has developed for referee training and testing.  With limited resources we are trying to use mentoring and peer evaluations to improve the level of refereeing of the group.  This is still in the beginning stages and I don’t think it has enough involvement to have a real impact yet.

In addition, I always recommend that our referees take advantage of the CWPA training and clinics that are available, as well as the Water Polo Academy curriculum.  I have taken both of those opportunities and found them to be immensely valuable.

9. Is water polo in Pennsylvania growing?  Have the budget cuts hurt growth of the sport?  Or is it pretty stable?

Water Polo is definitely growing in Pennsylvania.  State Commissioner Rudy Ruth is willing to spend time with any school administration that has an interest in starting Water Polo.  Budget cuts may be a problem for some schools but that will vary from district to district.  There have been a lot of people who have put in a lot of time and sacrifice to maintain some stability.  Single games have been replaced with tournaments to optimize travel costs.  Referees have absorbed a game fee reduction.  Teams have come up with creative ways to raise funds to support their programs.

10. Back in the day when referees were actually ranked in the CWPA, you made the national collegiate rankings.  You decided to focus on high school polo.  Share with our readers your experiences and your decision making process.

There were many factors that lead to that decision.  Professionally, I started a new job with my current employer and it required more travel than my previous job.  Personally, I married Jeanne, my wife of 17 years, and we wanted to start a family.  That was also the same period of time that I became President of PAWPRA.  I wanted to give my best to that position and I knew that would be difficult with the travel requirements for CWPA.  I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with CWPA.  Dan Sharadin put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into CWPA and is one of the really great people I have had the pleasure to work with in Water Polo. 

11. Can you share with our readers who you would like to name and highlight as the top high school referees in the state? 

We just finished our State Championships and I would like to recognize the referees that worked those games; Mike Davis, Justin Houck, Tom Houck, Chad Quinn, Dan Wise, Kyle Zeiber, and myself.  We also have some guys that are doing a great job for us but are dedicating more time to CWPA; Aaron Chapple, and Josh Kratz. 

Chuck Bartlett's Family