Local Referee Glock Reached Officiating Pinnacle, Serving as Crew Chief in World Men’s Lax Final
GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY: Referee Keith Glock giving instructions during the pregame lineup before the gold medal game at the World Lacrosse Men’s Championship on July 1 as the U.S. faced Canada. Glock, a resident of Lawrenceville and a guidance counselor at Montgomery High, served as the lead official in the contest that was won 10-7 by the U.S. (Photo provided by Keith Glock)
By Bill Alden
On the afternoon of July 1, Keith Glock was standing on the field at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, Calif., but felt like he was on the top of the world.
That day, Glock was serving as the lead official of the gold medal game at the World Lacrosse Men’s Championship as the U.S. faced Canada.
For Glock, 42, a resident of Lawrenceville and a guidance counselor at Montgomery High, that assignment marked the pinnacle of an officiating career that started in 2001 when he was a student at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).
“It was one of the most humbling things that I could possibly ever feel and experience, that is the best way I can describe it,” said Glock. “Not only because of the people that have come before me and the people who have been mentors, but just focusing on 2023 and the group of people we were with. This is why we do this. I got a number of emails and texts from people. I got a text from somebody I haven’t talked to in 10 years, one of my high school coaches reached out to me.”
The road to San Diego began for Glock in Jersey City when he took up lacrosse at St. Peter’s Prep, playing for the school’s first-ever lax team. Glock started as a goalie in high school and ended up as an attackman. He went to play for the club program at TCNJ.
While at TCNJ and covering local lacrosse games for the Trenton Times, Glock was urged in 2001 to give officiating a try by Bob Nuse, the former sports editor of the Princeton Packet and a longtime official and assignor who is in the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
“Lawrenceville was playing Princeton and I had on USA Lacrosse shorts,” recalled Glock. “Bob was like, ‘Who are you, are you a lacrosse guy?’ We were both covering the game and he was like, ‘You should referee.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I should do it,’ and that was it. Like anything that I end up doing, and knowing myself and my personality, I committed to say I was going to do this thing, so I just started doing it.”
By 2006, Glock was officiating several high school games a week and moving up the referee ladder. In 2008, Glock officiated a state semifinal game.
A year later, he took things to a higher level as he added college games to his referee portfolio.
“I still remember being so green with three-person mechanics like the whole first year I was out on the field,” said Glock. “I was telling myself, ‘Why I was running at a certain place on the field?’ I was telling myself what my job was — I was thinking about the out of bounds on the end line. I was always so used to only blowing the whistle on the end line when we were running to the right and not it was like I had to do it in the other direction. It was not intuitive.”
Glock developed a comfort level with the college game, pointing to an early season contest between Stevenson and Haverford in 2011 as a key confidence builder.
“It was like No. 2 versus No. 7; it was clearly the biggest game I have ever reffed,” said Glock, who was the substation box official at the 2019 NCAA Championships and has worked NCAA Division I, II, and III postseason games. “The wind is blowing in the pregame and I am thinking to myself, ‘I am so nervous, like what am I doing here? I am going to mess this up.’ Then the game started and I was like, ‘come on.’ I swear to God that is the last game I have ever been nervous. I just don’t really get nervous. I am very lucky.”
Developing that poise led Glock to believe he was ready to test his skills on the international stage. He tried out to earn a spot in the 2010 U19 world championships but was not selected. Keeping at it, Glock was selected to officiate at the 2014 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship in Denver.
“It was intimidating, the rules are very different and they have not evolved at the rate that American lacrosse has,” said Glock, reflecting on his worlds debut. “Nobody cares about that, least of all the folks who play international lacrosse.”
While Glock got up to speed with the international game, he developed bonds with officials from other nations.
“It is so much fun, everybody speaks English,” said Glock. “The most challenging to communicate, I would say, is the Japanese. All those guys speak English, we just go a little slower. It is also an interesting challenge because the mechanics are very different, like the mechanics of where to stand and literally how to blow the whistle. They don’t want double whistles, we get graded down in evaluations if you don’t blow a singular whistle. It is very, very specific — where to stand, how to point. We don’t put our hand in the air when the ball goes out of bounds. These are the kinds of things that they look for.”
Heading to Netanya, Israel, to work at the 2018 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship, Glock ended up facing a painful personal challenge.
“I went to Israel and a day into it, my sister sends me a message on What’s App, saying we have to talk,” said Glock. “She knew I was in Israel, and she told me my mom died. She had an aneurysm rupture in her brain. Literally I was there for 23 hours. We didn’t get to any of the pre-orientation stuff yet and I was on a plane back. I was on the plane back from Israel literally less than a day after landing. It was just tough.”
With this year’s world men’s tourney being held in San Diego, Glock was excited to get back on the international stage.
“To say that I was fired up was such an understatement; there was certainly a lot of emotion and meaning for me because of what happened with my mom in 2018,” said Glock. “When you put that in with the relationships and wonderful friendships I have developed over the years with the guys and girls that are involved in this, getting to do this with them every few years is so special. It is this fraternity and sorority. I love doing this because this is everything to those guys. It is hearing the stories from them, like how the German guys drive six hours to get paid five euros to ref a game.”
The opening ceremony was special for Glock as the officials entered the stadium as a group.
“We march in just like a country and we are the largest team at every international event,” said Glock who had the honor of reciting the officials’ oath at the ceremony. “We had 52 this year.”
Once the tournament started, Glock was in a competition of his own as he looked to earn plum assignments for the final stages of the event.
“They had pre-identified 16 of us that were going to work Pool A over the first three games,” said Glock, who stays fit by playing pickleball six times a week. “Then based on our grades, they were going to do some promotion or relegation, and then after the seventh day they were going to re-evaluate again.”
On the eve of the final, Glock found out that he was not only going to be on the crew for the gold medal contest, but that he was going to be the lead official.
“It came out at halftime of the Japan-England game,” said Glock, who had worked the gold medal game at the 2022 World Lacrosse Sixes tournament at the World Games in Birmingham, Ala. “I felt very happy with the job I did during the tournament to that point, so I felt like I was in consideration for it. It was the first time in the history of the world championships that they did not use a neutral country official as the crew chief.”
Glock and his crew had a good game in the finals, keeping control of a heated, physical matchup as the U.S. prevailed 10-7.
“You don’t want the game to get out of hand physically; we are thinking about that every game,” said Glock, noting that the five-man crew was comprised of U.S. and Canadian officials. “The gold medal game is a little bit of a different animal because you look at it and because this means so much, they are probably not going to go crazy fouling each other. That is not to say that there is not going to be physical play. One of the things that we have the advantage of as Americans is that the level of violence between guys that are that big and that fast is something we are used to seeing. The crew was very strong, I was really happy.”
For Glock, branching out internationally has changed his world on and off the field.
“It is one of the most memorable experiences of my life and not only because of the gold medal game, while that game certainly was a highlight,” said Glock. “It is the whole experience from the tryout in 2009 through this. This was like a humongous, humongous exclamation point on everything because of how much the international game has meant to me with the relationships I have built and what happened with my mom. You combine all of these things together and I have a new family that is all around the world.”