Blowing the Whistle

In the summer of 2012 the Galt Museum & Archives presented “Champions & Challenges in Sports”, an exhibition exploring the challenges and successes of local sports personalities. It featured athletes, coaches and managers, sponsors, game announcers, casual athletes, fans, and officials, like referee Bill Halma.

During his Junior and High School years, Bill Halma played basketball, but when he started at the University of Lethbridge in 1985, he got “roped into” refereeing and found he had a “knack for it and enjoyed it.” He officiated for soccer and basketball; games he had played. Then Official Rick LeBaron asked him to referee a football game; Bill had never played. He spent the drive to the game with the rule book in his hand and asking questions of the three other officials in the car. His colleagues took care of him on the field and made sure he was in the right position to monitor the play.

Bill has had many mentors who provided him with the opportunity to referee all the way up to the national level in basketball. People like Keith Jorgensen, Bob Fettig, Pat Layton, Morgan Monroe and Mike Slavich. As an official Bill feels you always need to challenge yourself and keep growing. He has gone to camps, studied the rule books, and watched videos but he has found the best learning comes from making mistakes. After games, officials gather for a drink and they discuss the play. Bill said you “have to be open to learning and accepting of criticism.”

When Bill referees basketball he has learned to stay away from the play so he doesn’t get run over. He remains objective and non-emotional while calling a game – even when tempers flare on the court or in the bleachers. Bill has never thrown out a fan and only rarely has he thrown out a coach. He depends on his steady nature and a bank of humorous one-liners to help diffuse a tense situation.

Clearly, the referee or umpire is an important part of most team sports. Impartiality, thick skin, and steady nerves are necessary skills for a whistle blower! You can meet Bill too, on the Galt’s YouTube playlist “Champions & Challenges in Sports”. Look for the link on the Galt website,