March 14, 2022 at 4:08 p.m.

Milking cows, calling fouls

Middendorf enjoys being high school referee
Dennis Middendorf operates a 120-cow dairy near Melrose, Minnesota. He also has been refereeing high school basketball for about eight years. PHOTO BY GRACE JEURISSEN
Dennis Middendorf operates a 120-cow dairy near Melrose, Minnesota. He also has been refereeing high school basketball for about eight years. PHOTO BY GRACE JEURISSEN

By Grace [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

MELROSE, Minn. – Just a few hours before donning his gray and black shirt and black pants to prepare for the tip-off of the game, Dennis Middendorf is wearing his red farm jacket, jeans and hat. The Melrose area farmer finishes up farm chores so he can enjoy an evening of being a high school basketball referee.
Middendorf milks 120 cows near Melrose.
Eight years ago, Middendorf took interest in being a referee and decided to sign up. He completed the test to become a certified basketball referee for the Minnesota State High School League.
“I always thought I would like to referee, but with my parlor and having to milk two times a day, I couldn’t make time for it,” Middendorf said. “With my robots, I have so much more flexibility to do things like reffing.”
Shortly after Middendorf installed robotic milking units, he decided to give refereeing basketball games a go.
“I do it because for one, you get a stress relief; two, you get paid; three, you get exercise; and four, you get to see a basketball game,” Middendorf said.
Middendorf has also played in a slow pitch softball league, goes to bowling two times a week and umpires occasionally in the spring and summer. He said he has umpired for 25 years.
Those few hours a couple evenings during the week between November and March is what Middendorf calls his mini vacations. He said being a referee and umpire is a way to relax and focus on something other than the tasks that go on at the farm.
Middendorf’s son, Aaron, is looking at becoming a larger part of the farm in the next few years. Aaron he will often fill in and finish chores if Middendorf has to referee a game. Middendorf’s dad, Richard, also comes to the farm twice a day to feed cows and help finish chores.
Being a referee was not Middendorf’s introduction to the game of basketball. In fact, in 1989, shortly after finishing a dairy management degree at what is today’s Ridgewater’s Hutchinson campus. Middendorf and a few friends started a Melrose adult basketball league. The league utilized the Melrose high school’s open gym night.
What started as six teams playing Wednesday nights turned into 11 and then grew more.
“The rule was different teams would ref each game,” Middendorf said. “I ended up reffing a lot, but I enjoyed it.”
Middendorf is grateful to have had a good run with the league and to have met many people from around the area.
“Some of the guys we used to play with have kids that I am reffing games for, or they are coaching teams that I ref for,” Middendorf said. “When I see those people, we chat and reminisce on the good old days of playing in the league.”
Now Middendorf stays in shape by running back and forth on the hardwood gymnasium floors of different schools two to four nights a week.
“I have learned a lot, and I am still learning more,” Middendorf said. “We have great mentors, and you learn from everybody. We will come into a huddle during half time outside of the gym to discuss what we can do better, how the game is progressing, and we will discuss different calls.”
Being a referee can be difficult, Middendorf said, because while trying to do the job every fan, player and coach has their opinion. Referees study the rule books and take time to go through seminars and trainings each year to prime themselves for the season to do a better job than the last.
“With anything, you get better the more you do it,” Middendorf said. “One of my favorite things about reffing is watching these kids progress and become better each year. I’ve watched kids go from eighth grade tournaments to being juniors or seniors starting on varsity.”
Referees usually gain skills from reffing in youth tournaments, continuing to do more games and going up another grade level until they feel comfortable enough to ref junior varsity and varsity games.
Middendorf, with his eight years of experience, is reffing JV and varsity basketball games. He will, on some occasions, travel an hour and a half to ref games.
“Starting out that first few games are tough, because you don’t know all the calls, and you have to watch everything,” Middendorf said. “We usually tell new refs that if it looks weird, they probably did something wrong.”
Middendorf said there are three teams on the court, the home team, guest and the referees. Referees have to work together, stay in their zones and support each other’s calls.
“It can be tough making calls, but you need to make sure you’re confident, because once you blow the whistle, you can’t take it back,” Middendorf said.
Traveling is one of the calls Middendorf said can be challenging to make because of all of the footwork involved in basketball. He will often view recordings of games and determine if he should have made a different call. He also looks to ways to improve on his own signals.
“You get out what you put into it,” Middendorf said. “Do something in the community, and don’t complain. Get involved. The farm will be there when you get home.”


You must login to comment.

Top Stories

Today's Edition



24 25 26 27 28 29 30
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31 1 2 3 4

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

oct 4, 2023 @ 9:00am
oct 4, 2023 @ 12:00pm
oct 4, 2023 @