Irwin Pircher a Referee For All Seasons
Chances are, if you have attended any sporting event at the Hobart YMCA which includes the use of a ball and running around, you have seen the legendary Irwin Pircher.
For the seasons of basketball and soccer, indoor and out, Irwin is the main referee.
He’s the guy who will stop a game in mid-flight to explain the rules, to help a little one learn positioning on the field or on the court, to gently let everyone – including parents – know that a game isn’t a game without rules and sportsmanship.
“And I still do a little baseball,” he said. “And I have done 16-inch mushball and softball.”
In his active playing years, he was a hardball phenom
As gregarious as he is, he insists he didn’t want a story done, because he “doesn’t like to brag.”
But he doesn’t mind “having fun.”
So, at the beginning, he was just a guy interested in learning the rules of the games in his Hessville hometown.
“It was a long time ago, 28 years ago,” he recalls.
“I used to ref soccer at Hammond High with Frank Carroll, the soccer coach who started soccer in this area.
“He was also the guy who gave individuals the tests for them becoming accredited referees.
“Frank and I used to referee together in Highland softball and so forth over there.”
He had gone to see his first wife play soccer at Hessville. “Lo and behold, there was Frank and Frank knows I enjoy refereeing. He invited me to come over and talk to him after the game
“I got hooked into Northern Indiana Soccer as a referee, this area’s association that helped formulate referees and train them.
“ I met Don Kime and Ted Jones, who helped make soccer in high school in this area. They were responsible fr the sport.
“Don Kime became my mentor.”
And that’s where Irwin developed his refereeing style.
“He (Kime) was the kind of individual who believed, as an official, you don’t have to show you strength or power.
“You present yourself well. You resolve the problems if you talk to the kids.
“In other words, if two kids came together, to stop it, you would talk to them. You would end it with a handshake.
“And you will tell them: Next time, I will deal with it.”
After he had lived most of his life in Hessville, he got a divorce 18 years ago, moved over the border to Illinois and met his present wife. “And we ended up back in Hobart, buying a home here,” Irwin said.
They had three foster children which they raised through the Hobart schools.
“Two of them, Jacob and Mandy, we fully adopted,” Irwin said. “They went to Hobart High School and were really noticed as soccer players on the Hobart teams.”
Mandy had even more skills, excelling in gymnastics. She and teammates Kara Morton and Megan Cherry became the first Hobart gymnasts to win State, for the 2003-2004 season.
“They went and beat Valpo, which was kind of neat because they were our arch-rivals,” said the proud dad. “It was like watching a dynasty happen.”
Through it all, Irwin kept refereeing.
“I enjoy being with the kids,” he said. “My wives, both of always told me to think of the kids as individuals and it was up to me to explain what is going on.
“Tell them right now, not two or three hours later. Tell them right away right at that time. Then they will know what is to be done.
“You don’t have to holler, don’t have to scream. You can say, ‘The hands can move this way,’ or ‘Here’s where you stand at the start of play.’
“If you do it right at the time, the kids will remember. I think it’s the old saying that your kids will listen to another adult other than you. They will listen to a referee even if the coach has said it a million times. They will hear somebody else.”
Irwin does credit coaches moreso than referees for developing players. He says every great high school team is held together by a coach who cares and he doesn’t mind being the referee who cares.
“I am showing my love for the sport and the kids and how much respect all the coaches there working have formulated a great program” he said.
“You know, if you keep a kid busy, he won’t get into trouble.”
One more thing about Irwin is his unusual gait. That’s because he had both knees replaced about four years ago.
“I look at it like here I am at 65 still running around,” he said. “I am enjoying it.”