Rolling through summer


Jake Shinkle used to play baseball in the summers. But he got bored with it.

"I got tired of baseball. I was tired of sitting around waiting to play," says the Cinco Ranch High School (Katy, Texas) sophomore.

So in fourth grade, thanks to a quick Google search, Shinkle started playing roller hockey.

He got skates, a helmet with a face shield, a stick with a plastic blade (so it won't break), gloves, pads, mouth guard -- he was set.

He likes roller hockey because there's no standing around waiting, because he can be involved in every play.

Five years later, Shinkle is still playing. And this summer, he has turned his favorite sport to play into a job.

"I wanted to be a ref because I saw other kids doing it and getting paid to do it," he says.

When he turned 15, Shinkle applied to become a roller hockey referee at the Mason Road Skate Center, which is also where he plays. He had to pass a 50-question test -- most of the questions were about penalties -- before he could put on the black and white referee uniform.

One thing he practiced was his positioning. He worked with his stepfather on moving around on the floor and figuring out where to be at certain times in the game.

The best part of refereeing for Shinkle is being active in the game and making the calls.

"I'm getting paid to watch hockey," Shinkle says. "And instead of being on the side, saying 'That should have been called that,' I get to call it."

The best thing can also be the worst, especially when fans disagree with a call on the floor. Fans, and even players, don't hesitate to voice their opinions of calls.

"The hardest part would be trying to block out fans of the teams. They'll yell at you. I just have to ignore them. Sometimes I want to say something back, but I don't."

Shinkle referees for four divisions: 8 & Under, 10 & Under, 12 & Under, and 14 & Under. He plays in the 16 & Under division, so he can't officiate in that age group.

Being a referee has helped Shinkle understand the game more. And it has given him a new perspective for when he is playing.

"If a ref calls something against me, I know that it's the right call."

Shinkle has also played ice hockey, and says that if he gets back into it in the next two years that he might start refereeing for ice hockey, too.

Roller hockey is a fast-paced, no-standing-around sport, so it's doubtful that Shinkle will get bored at his refereeing job any time soon.

Julie Turner is an editor at ESPNRISE.com.