Why would anyone want to be a referee, an umpire or an official in today's sports world? Every call is scrutinized, motives are almost always questioned and reputations are considered worthless. No one – coaches, participants or spectators – ever seems satisfied with the officials' effort.
Mike McCoy has never had any of those problems with his part-time job and always knows exactly why he pulls on his uniform and grabs his whistle.
For the last four years, McCoy, 56, has been one of the world's top power soccer referees. He calls about 75 matches a year, traveling all over North America and even to Paris for last year's World Cup.
McCoy jokingly calls his hobby a cross between demolition derby and soccer. Four players on each side direct their powered wheelchairs with guards on the front to knock a ball around a basketball court. Each 20-minute half consists of continuous action.
"I do this just to be part of these kids' lives and watch them have this fun," said McCoy, owner of The Framery, 5907 Covington Road. "When you see that chair turn and you see nothing but smile, there's no better pay in the world."
Sometimes the referees practice, McCoy says with a grin, by directing traffic on Interstate 69 because there's not a lot of room for them to run around the court. That's kind of the point, though, because it gives people who have never had a chance to be an athlete plenty of room to operate.
"This is an outlet to them, a way to compete because they can play and play well," McCoy said. "We hear so many stories of these kids who were in a shell, and when they began to play this sport they just blossomed."
And McCoy has the best position of anybody to see that happen. After calling able-bodied high school and college matches for 17 years, he and a buddy decided on a whim to join a one-day power soccer clinic. McCoy was immediately hooked.
"The good Lord blessed me with three healthy kids, and I see how these parents and kids face their challenges," he said. "Getting to a game is work for them, but they love it so much they keep doing it."
Getting an athlete who is confined to a wheelchair to a practice is not a matter of dropping them off at the gym or throwing them the car keys. It takes commitment and involves everyone in the family.
It also often involves taking two chairs, which can present problems on airplanes. When McCoy went to a national tournament in Virginia a few weeks ago, he didn't receive his luggage for two days because more room was needed on the plane for wheelchairs.
Not a big deal, McCoy said, because he was on his way to work the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
"I didn't serve, but these guys did and they gave up something, whether it be a leg or an arm or whatever," McCoy said. "Just to be able to go out there and serve them for a week is a blessing in itself."
He gets paid $15-$25 to work a game and usually just tries to get his expenses covered because a trip means he'll be closing The Framery for a few days.
"I do it because it makes me feel good, I guess," he said. "It's like going out and refereeing for your family. We do it for the love of the game and the love of the kids. It's hard to describe what you get out of it, but it's that good warm feeling where you know you are doing something right."
As long as he can walk, McCoy will keep officiating power soccer games. This weekend he'll work the United States Power Association Champions Cup at IPFW. Over three days, 27 games will be played.
But what's he really get out of this? A lot of thank-yous and the best view of some wonderful experiences.