In Home Replays, This Ref Is In The Middle

December 08, 1991|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Contributing sports writer

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the Morningstar household after a biggame.

On one side of the dinner table is 17-year-old Stephanie, aguard for the Westminster High girls basketball team, and 15-year old Johnny, a guard for the boys junior varsity squad.

On the other side is their father, John, a 44-year-old women's college referee.

The implications are many. Consider one of Stephanie's games:

Dad criticizing that big technical foul in the third quarter. Stephanie arguing the steps she took en route to the winning layup did not constitute a travel.

You get the idea.

Both fatherand children say although it's not the norm, sometimes a discussion of officiating is unavoidable.

"It's weird," said Stephanie. "He sees it from a whole different point of view. When my dad comes to my games, he gets a little crazy, but it's not that he disagrees with the calls. He's just used to a much better brand of competition."

Refereeing big-team Division I women's hoops accounts for that. John Morningstar has blown his whistle for the Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeast Conference and Big 10 during his 10-year college career.

But the Howard County elementary school principal says he rarely questions calls at his children's games.

"The only time I get upset is when I see officials who aren't working hard," Morningstar says.

"It doesn't matter what level you're refereeing at -- you have to workas hard as you can for the kids."

For the Morningstars, hard workhas become a family trait.

While Stephanie and Johnny are both three-sport athletes in high school, father John and mother Ruth Ann, when not working, scramble to see their children compete.

"We watchevery game, every meet, every race we possibly can," said Ruth Ann Morningstar, a 42-year-old insurance and real estate agent. "It's justas important for us to be there as it is for them to play."

Over the years, they've seen a lot of games. Through rec leagues and high school, the children have competed in basketball, soccer, lacrosse, cross country and track.

Quite a schedule, but one the parents can't blame entirely on the children.

"When they were little we had them involved in everything," said Ruth Ann Morningstar. "We're very active people, so, naturally, we got our kids involved. We didn't want them coming home and watching TV all night."

Stephanie, one of thetop high school runners in the area, says she'd rather be on a trackthan in front of a television. But that can't be said of soccer -- asport she played for three seasons before making the switch to crosscountry.

"I just didn't love it," she said of soccer. "I love track, and I love running the mile. It's a lot more individualized, and I do better at it."

How much better?

In this, her first year ofcross country, Morningstar won several meets, including the prestigious Baltimore Metro Invitational. Last spring, she ran one of her best races, placing high in the Penn Relays 1,500 field with a personal-best time of 4:40.

Morningstar said he and his wife didn't realizethe extent of their daughter's athleticism until Stephanie took up running during the eighth grade.

"We really never realized she had that much speed and ability," John Morningstar said.

Soon, they discovered her court prowess as well. Stephanie currently starts at point guard for the Owls basketball team. Ruth Ann Morningstar said Stephanie was often the only girl on recreation teams.

Johnny said seeing his sister compete was what made him decide to play basketball, though he downplayed the competition between the sibling point guards.

"There's no real competition. We just both try and play our best," he said, noting that when he was younger, he often played his sister one-on-one. "The last time was a couple years ago . . but we were just fooling around."

Johnny said another activity he might pursue is refereeing. Morningstar has used his perspective of the game to school his

children on its intricacies.

"I'll tell them, 'Make sure you stay still on a pick,' or 'Don't reach in from the rear,' " hesaid. "But the main things I've tried to teach them are to have a sense of fairness, to be a gracious winner or loser."

So far, that advice has worked well.

While Stephanie says her short-range goal is to break the 5-minute mile, Johnny strives to create his own niche as a sophomore in high school.

No matter what sport the children end up playing, the nightly rules discussion will most likely persist at the dinner table.

It's the byproduct of hard work.

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