Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Freshman Coaches

I just got home from a great freshman tournament championship game. As with most freshmen level games, it wasn't smooth and plenty of miscues on both sides. However, the game went into overtime (on a buzzer beating 3 pointer) and the final score was 40-38.

Despite the good game, there were things that I thought could have gone better (in my opinion):

  1. Early on, there was a lot of hand checking which I let a few obvious ones slide. I should have gotten those earlier and things might have been a little cleaner during the game.
  2. Coaches box: One of the coaches was on the court and out of the box very often during the game. I warned the coach to stay in the box but never followed through as the game really demanded our attention. Yet, I was aware of it and in retrospect I should have enforced it.
  3. The same coach that was out of box was vocal throughout the game. The issue which the freshman coaches is they tend to harp on a lot of things and you have to pick and choose what you want to hear.
All in all, it was a good game but administrative stuff could have been taken care of better.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Balancing your job and officiating

Wow, it's been a month or so since I last posted. Since then, my basketball officiating has gone into "high gear" (or about as high as it can get for someone like me). I had a busy slate about three weeks ago when I officiated four out of the seven days in the week between youth and high school games. Since then, I've had a sporadic schedule since then.

My high school officiating schedule is a little sparse due to my job. I typically start work at 8:30 AM and leave around 5:30 PM (give or take). We have a little flexibility because my job is supporting a sales team and typically thing slow down by late afternoon.

When this high school season rolled around, I specifically requested that I be given games that started after 5 PM so I don't have to leave my job early. Having some limitations doesn't endure you to your assignors. However, at the end of the day, your full time job is more important than officiating more games.

So even though I've been able to work some games around my job, balancing the two is tough. Sometimes you might have a tough day at work and you wish you didn't have to officiate after work. However, I always give my best and in many ways, officiating is a good release after a long day at work.

In many ways, while my high school officiating is a little sparse, I like it that way. I'm not one of those guys who can officiate seven days a week without a break. I like to take some down time to refresh and energize myself.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Misc / Working with a newbie today

Been a while since I last posted! In the past month, I was actually assigned some youth volleyball playoff games! I was a little surprised since this was my first full year doing the sport. The games went fine though I got some input from a veteran official on certain things I could have done better. Also, in watching the veteran official work, I picked up a few things that I had been wondering about during the season. While I won't be able to put what I learned into practice until next season, I'll commit the knowledge to memory.

Also, I worked some adult league basketball games with a veteran official / assignor that I hadn't worked with in a LONG time. I don't think he's seen me in person in recent years, but I hope I made a good impression. To be honest, I wasn't intentionally trying to impress anyone. I feel I've gained a certain comfort level and confidence and all I wanted was that part of my officiating to be seen.

As the high school season approaches, I feel I'm pretty much ready. I will review the rules a little more as well as the officials manual for some refreshers. I feel fairly sharp on the floor and I'm in pretty good shape.

SIDENOTE: Today, I worked a youth basketball tournament today (6th grade boys). Today was the final day so teams were playing for placement (7th place, 5th place, 3rd place and championship).

The first game was a forfeit as one of the teams couldn't muster enough kids to play due to the holidays. Thanks to the forfeit, I did not notice that my partner had not shown up. I finally called the assignor and let him know what happened. The assignor must have called up the other official as she showed up for the second game.

The second official was a high school girl (a senior) working her first game. All in all, she has a lot to learn but seemed a nice enough girl that we can probably forgive her for forgetting about the first game.

Working with a newbie has it's challenges. You're trying to help them out while officiating at the same time. That doesn't work all that well in certain situations. Fortunately the girl was receptive and did her best. That's all I could have asked from her.

In watching the girl officiate today, I wonder how many of us officials ever got started. The early stages of your officiating career are usually the most brutal. Most new officials have no idea of what they're doing and you're literally in a trial by fire. I told the girl after the game that all I can do is tell her certain things. The rest of the learning would have to come from experience.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Volleyball: "Oh my aching feet......."

It's late so this will be a brief post. I was back in action with three youth volleyball games tonight. I had three games: 4th grade, 3rd grade and 6th grade. The 3rd and 4th grade games went by uneventfully. However, the 6th grade game was interesting for a couple of reasons.

One, the game was extremely competitive. In a 3 set game that went over an hour, the home team prevailed 33-31, 17-24, 15-9. Though both teams were not highly skilled, they were very evenly matched.

I had a feeling the game was going to last a while during the first set. Neither team could pull away from the other as there were multiple ties and lead changes in the early going. When the home team made a brief run to take a 4 point lead, I thought that would decide the set. However, the visiting team rallied and the game remained close. Both team had chances to win but mistakes hurt both sides. The home team finally did enough to pull out the first set victory. Though the home team had the momentum entering the second set, the visiting team rallied to take the second set and set up the third set.

It was during the third set that the second interesting thing occurred. The home team dominated early and led 12-5. However, the visiting team rallied and got to 12-9. The home team managed to stop the bleeding and the score was 13-9 when both teams engaged in a rally.

The visiting team returned a ball that was high but it seemed like it wasn't hit hard enough to clear the net. As I watched the ball drop toward the net, players from both teams converged toward the net. The visiting player was trying to position herself in case her teammates bump was short. The home player was trying to position herself in case the ball cleared the net.

My lack of experience hurt me a bit here. I didn't know what I should focus on (each of the players, the ball or the net) so I ended up not focusing on anything at all. The next thing I knew, the ball had been hit into the home team's court. Since I was standing on the stand, it APPEARED to me that the ball had cleared the net BUT the visiting player had gone underneath the net to hit the ball. If that was the case, that was a violation and it should have been a point for the home team.

Fortunately, my common sense and quick thinking saved me. I realized I didn't get a good look at the play. Fortunately, for volleyball, there is an option to call for a replay. I blew the whistle, thought for a second and yelled: "I didn't see the play clearly, let's replay the point".

There were some murmurs in the crowd but overall no one complained too much. I asked a couple of the people who worked at the gym and the referee who was working the games after me about the play. All of them said calling for a replay was a good decision.

Friday, October 23, 2009

One of those days

One things many people don't realize is that sports officials have real lives. Something things happen at work that carry over into your officiating. Today may have been one of those days for me. I had a reasonable first six hours of work. However, the last couple was spent chasing down something for a customer. It took a while but my team got the situation resolved.

Alas, I had a couple of youth volleyball games to work afterward. The first game was a 3rd grade game. While the teams weren't super skilled, they were very evenly matched. That meant for a lot of focus in the game as the final scores were 25-23, 23-25, 15-11 for the home team. The home team's coach had a minor complaint of me missing a double hit. I'll admit that the player probably did accidentlally do a double hit but given that it was 3rd grade, it wasn't intentional so I let the play go.

The second game was a 5th grade game. Both teams were fairly solid but the home team was the slightly better team. As I went through the first set, there was something I probably missed. A visiting team's play ran into the net while trying to bump the ball. The home coach asked if it was a violation. For the first time this season, I felt like I locked up a bit. I told the coach that it was after the player bumped the ball so I passed on it. I will freely admit that I probably missed the call. I came home and looked up the volleyball rules and did some studying earlier.

The home team pulled away and won the first match. The tough day at work must have tired me out. As I worked the second match, I found myself hoping the game would end soon. The sports officials gods must have been watching as several balls landed in my area where no line judge could help me. I made the best decision that I could. Judging from the reaction of the coach, I may have missed a couple of calls. I also had to deal with the unusual situation of a small gymnasium that I wasn't familiar with as well.

All in all, I don't feel like I did the best job today. I was mentally a step slow and my inexperience in volleyball did catch up with me. However, my confidence isn't down. I realized that I have to brush up more on volleyball basics and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. Tomorrow will be a bit of a different challenge. The gym I will be working at is another smaller gym with a low ceiling. Fortunately, I have little kids so hopefully the balls won't be going as high in the air.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Humbling Thyself

Like many basketball (and other sports) officials out there, I have sometimes wondered why I don't get better games to work, especially at the high school varsity level. I feel I am a good official who deserves a chance. It's hard not to feel envious when you see others who may be at the same level as you get opportunities that you don't get.

Interestingly though, I feel like I have gained a fresher perspective in the five months I was laid off. I can see this perspective when I returned back to work a month ago.

Remember that I was rehired by the same company that laid me off back in April. I easily could have been bitter and angry. While I wasn't thrilled to be laid off, I understood it was a business decision. I remained in touch with my co-workers and my old manager. I believe it was my attitude that convinced my manager to bring me back when the opportunity presented itself.

In returning to work, my attitude was one of gratitude. I appreciated the opportunity to return to my old job. I also had to humble myself a bit. In reviewing my first stint at the job, I realized that I thought that I was better than I actually was. Even though my co-workers appreciate what I bring to the job, I realized that I had a lot more things to learn and improve on. In the month I've been back, I think I've made some strides but still have some ways to go.

Humbling myself also applies to my basketball officiating. I may have a lot of years in officiating experience but I don't think I have learned all my lessons as well as I should have. That was the ultimate eye opener. I realized that my job and officiating have similar parallels. Both involve people and handling different situations. Until you show people (both at my job and officiating) that you can handle certain things, you will be handling lower profile duties. In my job, it may be dealing with lower profile prospects. In my officiating, it may be working junior varsity or lower intensity varsity basketball games.

As the high school basketball season slowly closes in, I no longer worry about the quality of games I will be receiving. I am appreciative of any games that I do receive. My hope is that I will learn something from each of the games I work so I better improve myself in the future.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Volleyball: Officiating on a stand / Line Judges

My volleyball officiating today definitely had some interesting things that occurred. I was working three games (two 5th grade and one 4th grade game).

One, both of the 5th grade games were extremely competitive and went to three sets. These two games were among the loudest I heard the fans in the few weeks I've been officiating volleyball.

Two, for the first time this season, I officiated on a volleyball stand. In my first few weeks, the gyms did not have stands so I officiated from the floor. From the stand, I got a higher view of the players and the court. I haven't decided which option works better for me. There are positives and negatives for each. I think I'll have to work more games to see what works better for me.

Lastly, there was some line judging controversy. During the second 5th grade game, there was apparently some calls that the home team disagreed with. The gym director even got involved at one point and asked me if I could overrule calls by the visiting team's line judge.

Given that I am working with parents and not professional trained line judges, I don't expect much. Alas, what happened was that I noticed that the visiting team's line judge was NOT making the calls immediately. What I chose to do (which may not be correct technically) was to make the call myself. I then noticed the line judge was echoing my calls.

It's a tough situation because on certain calls, the line judge has the best angle to if balls are in or out. Even though I have fairly sharp eyes, even I can't see everything, especially if the play occurs quickly.

In any case, I'm getting the hang of volleyball but there are little nuances that I need to pick up. I'm a decent official at this level but definitely have a lot to learn.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Volleyball: Learning Lessons

Last weekend was my 3rd week of officiating youth volleyball. I originally was scheduled to work Saturday but the games conflicted with a basketball tournament I was officiating on Saturday and Sunday. The assignor later gave me three Friday night games (4th, 7th and 8th grade). I was a little surprised to receive the upper grade games. The assignor had stated during training that they would probably avoid giving upper grade games to newer officials. Maybe the assignor was in a pinch or they felt I could handle the games (the assignor's husband is a basketball official and knows me).

In any case, the games went smoothly without any issues. I'm personally feeling pretty comfortable and got a feel for the games and how to work them.

Afterward, the gym director did point out a couple of things that I missed during the 8th grade game:

First, a girl went up and blocked a spike into her net. The same girl was able to recover and bump the ball. Alas, the play happened so quickly that I didn't see the whole play. I called the girl for "running into the net". Interestingly no one really complained about the play.

Second, during a rally, a girl went off the court to save the ball. She made one heck of a play to bump the ball over back to the other side. While it was a great play, the gym director pointed out that the girl had bumped the ball outside the width of the volleyball court towards the opponent. The ball should have been ruled out of bounds.

Three things worked against me on that play. One, antennas are usually setup to help volleyball officials to judge those kind of plays. Unfortunately, the antennas weren't setup so I had no way to judge whether the play was played legally or not. Two, in high school volleyball, there is usually a "down" judge/official on the other side of the court. That official would have been able to assist with that play. However, since this is a youth league, there is no down judge/official. Third, I was officiating the game while on the floor. Most volleyball officials work above the net while on a stand. Alas, there was no stand for me to work from.

Of course, if I knew the rule in the first place, I might have been able to make the call. All in all, I'm getting the hang of volleyball and it's pretty interesting. I don't know if I will ever make the run to go to high school volleyball. However, this is proving to be a nice diversion from basketball.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Volleyball Officiating is harder than it looks

After taking a week off because I had some things to do, I returned to officiating girls youth volleyball tonight. As I mentioned in a previous posting, my first week of volleyball involved 3rd and 4th graders. I didn't do much more than blow a whistle and do some mechanics. The kids weren't all that skilled so there weren't a lot of game time decisions to be made.

Tonight was definitely a step up. On schedule, I had two high level 6th grade games with a 4th grade in between. I was a little surprised to get scheduled for these 6th grade games as I felt I wasn't quite ready for a higher caliber of volleyball.

However, a game is a game and I prepared myself to work it. In fact, I even talked to a co-worker who played and officiated high school volleyball for a number of years for some tips.

As far as the games went today, the skill level of the two 6th grade games were pretty high. The 4th graders, while not spectacular, actually did fairly well for their age level. While the 2nd of the two 6th grade games was essentially a blowout, the losing team wasn't that bad. The winning team was just very good.

Here are some things I learned tonight:

  1. Volleyball (at least for me at the moment) takes a LOT of concentration. Perhaps it's my inexperience, but I found myself mentally tired after the games tonight. I was focusing very hard on every little detail because I wanted to ensure the games went smoothly. I looked for foot faults, double hits, balls in my area, and worked with my line judges.
  2. I don't know my volleyball mechanics and signals all that well. It's not committed to muscle memory quite yet. I've looked at the mechanics and signals online but some of it doesn't apply since this particular league uses modified rules. Fortunately at this point, I don't need to worry about this. My job is just to ensure the game gets played safely and properly.
  3. I'm almost embarrassed to admit this but I almost let a player with a hard cast play tonight. The gym director, who knows high school volleyball, told me she couldn't play due to the cast. In fact, she reminded me about common sense. A player with a hard cast is a danger to her teammates.
The coach of the player with the cast was obviously upset. However, I differed to the gym director who knew her rules. This led me to poke through my high school basketball rule book a few minutes ago. Though I knew what I was going to see, I wanted to double check myself about the basketball rules. Just as in volleyball, basketball rules state that a player with a hard cast cannot play.

Tonight's situation was an example of why I decided to give a volleyball a try. I'm officiated basketball so much that I am in a bit of a comfort zone. By doing a new sport, I force myself to analyze situations and learn from them. By doing that, I hope it transfers back to my basketball officiating. Look for a longer blog post on this soon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Back to Work - Week 1

After five months of being unemployed, I am now back to the land of the working. It was a bit of a surprise to get called a few weeks ago for a job but I am not complaining. I've spent the first week readjusting back to getting up during working hours.

While there are plenty of positives in going back to the working world, the one negative is that my officiating schedule gets shaved a bit. It's a challenge for any official who is trying to improve but has to deal with the real life problem of earning money.

I also neglected to mention that I officiated my first set of youth volleyball games last weekend. It went by relatively uneventfully but I had some fun.

Despite me being back in the working world, I'll try to keep this blog running. It may not be as frequent but I'll definitely be here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's Volleyball Time!

Tomorrow morning, I will be officiating youth volleyball for the first time in years. Though I've been assigned a partner to work with me, I decided to stop by a local gym near my house. I knew there were games going on and I figured it would be good to observe a few matches to get a feel for what an official does.

After an hour and a half of observing, I came to the conclusion that my role tomorrow will likely be less of an official and more of a caretaker. There are several reasons for this:

  1. The majority of the coaches in the league are parents AND most are not very knowledgeable about the sport of volleyball. Of course, there are always exceptions as I know there are good volleyball people in the league. But they are few and far between.
  2. Because the coaches themselves aren't particularly knowledgeable, the kids skills don't get developed particularly well.
I should note that one skill that MOST kids do well is serve the ball. Even the most novice of coaches manage to teach at least a few of their kids is serve the ball. After all, if you can't serve, the chances of winning are nearly non-existent. On the flip side, bumping the ball and returning the serves is one thing that isn't taught well. If a team somehow managed to have kids who can serve and bump the ball, they are ahead of the majority of teams in the league.

The catch for me tomorrow is that I am officiating younger kids (3rd/4th grade). At this age, the young kids are very nervous and stand around like statues. If a team can simply serve the ball, the majority of the time, the kids on the opposing team don't know how to move and get into a position to bump and return the ball. The matches at the younger grades usually turn into a "who can serve the best" type of matches. If you know volleyball, I'm not expecting to see any "bump, set, spike" plays tomorrow morning.

As an official, there's not a lot of game decisions that need to be done. I have many mechanical things I have to focus on but based on what I saw tonight, there will be minimal game decisions that have to be made with the exception of seeing whether the ball is "IN" or "OUT".

For someone who's officiated youth basketball, it's certainly going to be a different experience. Even in youth basketball, I still have the same decisions (fouls/violations) to make as I do in high school and adult basketball. It's just a matter of using the advantage/disadvantage principle. It appears that with the younger kids in volleyball, I may not have to worry about those kind of details.

The final thing about officiating volleyball? It's certainly going to be strange to be "STANDING AROUND" in one location. For basketball officials, standing around in one location is a no-no. For volleyball, it's the norm. It should be fun!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Introduction to Volleyball officiating

Tonight, I took my first step to officiating volleyball by attending a 1 1/2 hour clinic. The league I will be officiating is a girls youth league that has teams from 3rd to 8th grade. Technically, I did officiate in the league before years ago. An official I knew had some emergency and I replaced him in a pinch. Fortunately, the games I did were 3rd and 4th graders so there wasn't a lot to worry about.

As far as the clinic went, it was helpful in that I learned how the youth league runs versus the traditional high school volleyball game play and rules. I won't comment on any of the specific youth league modifications since there is a ton.

Fortunately, while I don't know much about specific volleyball rules, I know the game fairly well in terms of game play, scoring and some other details. As I'm not going to be working high level games, the current knowledge I have should suffice. This should be an interesting change of pace from basketball officiating but a good one. It's good to try something new and see if I like it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Back in Action / Rewarding the Defense

After a few weeks off, I was back on the court officiating basketball today. I was working a youth league that is run out of a athletic club here in the area. The youth league has different divisions for boys and girls from 5th graders to 12th graders.

Today, I was working three games that featured the younger kids. The games themselves were typical of the games I have worked in the past in this age bracket. You have one or two good players on each side and the rest of the kids are in various stages of development. Because many of the kids are inexperienced, they tend to congregate toward the ball. It's not an unusual sight to see six to eight players (offense and defense) all hovering near the basketball. It makes looking for off ball action a little hard when just about everyone on the court is NEAR THE BALL. :)

There was one thing I learned today from one of the games. The second game of the day, one of the teams (Black) was obviously better than the other team (White). The Black team was up by 12 points pretty early in the game and pretty stayed there throughout. Usually when it comes to this level of basketball (with inexperienced kids), I tend to take it easy on the losing team (when they are down big) when it comes to violations. If the players take an extra step or maybe accidentally double dribble, I might let it slip a bit as the kids are learning.

However, the Black coach (in the first half) was asking for me to call the violations. I know the coach so he wasn't really riding me or anything like that. Unfortunately, the action was pretty much non-stop through the first half so I didn't get to talk to coach. After running up and down the court a few times though, I did realize why he was asking me to call the violations. The Black coach was stressing to his team to play DEFENSE and he wanted to see his team rewarded when they forced the White team into violations. Once that realization dawned on me, I changed my focus a little bit and I did reward the Black team for their defensive efforts and didn't hear from the coach anymore.

All in all, learning this lesson was pretty valuable in many aspects. I never thought of the blowout situation from the winning team's perspective. They might be winning the game, but they may want to work on some things and expect to be rewarded as well. Plus, today's game reinforced that officials have to stay focused throughout a game even if it's a blowout.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All's Quiet Here

I'm still here! I haven't officiated any games in the past week so no interesting situations to discuss. I'm sure there are always other things about officiating I could talk about but I haven't had time to think about it. In any case, I just wanted to get the first post of September up in case anyone was wondering where I was. :)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday Officiating (Part 2): NBA Style Rules

This is part 2 of my series of posts on my experience officiating an adult league using NBA Style Rules. Today, I will discuss the adjustments I had to make while officiating.

I could write pages and pages about all the differences between the NBA, high school and college basketball rules. However, I'll just keep things short to some of the things I experienced on Sunday.

In high school and college basketball, players get ten seconds to get from the backcourt to the frontcourt. The NBA used to also have the ten second rule but changed this to eight seconds in an attempt to speed up the game. This was probably the easiest rule for me to adapt to. I just had to remind myself that it was only eight seconds versus ten seconds. Alas, this rule had minimal effect on the games I worked on Sunday.

The NBA lacks a five-second closely guarded rule. So the perimeter players can hold the ball or dribble as much as they want without penalty. This took some adjustment on my part as I am so used to initiating five-second counts when a ball handler is closely guarded.

Looking over the rules for the adult league I was working, I realized I neglected to watch for the NBA five second "Back to the Basket" rule. Essentially, a player could not back down a player (below the free throw line) for more than five seconds while dribbling. I don't recall this being called in the NBA much and it slipped my mind yesterday. I don't think it had any major affect on the game

In college and high schools, the games use a possession arrow anytime there are held balls between the two teams. In the NBA, the arrows are not used. Anytime there are held ball situations, the officials have the opposing players do a jump ball to decide who gets the ball. The reason colleges and high schools adopted the possession arrows was to speed up the game. However, doing a physical jump ball might be preferable to many coaches and players. It gives teams a chance to regain the ball whereas the possession arrow is pretty much set in stone. There were a few times where my partner and I had to perform these jump balls but it wasn't that big a deal.

Having a 24 second shot clock in itself wasn't much of a problem. After all, I officiate high school games which use a 35-second shot clock. The main issues was that the shot clock was run off of a small laptop computer at the score's table. The sound off of the laptop wasn't all that loud so it proved to be difficult to hear when there were shot clock violations. As a player in the league, it wasn't that difficult to glance at the laptop to see how much time was left. As an official, stealing glances at something at the scorer's table was a little difficult when I was facing away from the table. This is something I will need to adjust to as many gyms that this particular adult league uses do not have shot clocks built in.

For the most part, timeouts in the NBA are handled just like high schools and colleges. The only exception is at the end of the game. In the final two minutes, teams have the option to advance the ball to halfcourt after a timeout after a made basket or rebound, assuming they haven't tried to advance the ball upcourt. This isn't a particularly difficult situation to deal with. It just takes some practice to adjust to the rule and also remember to notice what happens after a team scores or secures the rebound.

This is probably one of the more obscure rules and the most difficult for everyone (players & officials) to adjust to. At every level of basketball, teams can inbound to the backcourt at anytime. However, the NBA is the lone exception. In fact, the NBA did not allow any backcourt inbounding for many years. While I don't have the year handy, I know the NBA eventually changed it's rules to allow for backcourt inbounding in the last two minutes of the game.

There weren't any issues that came about with this particular rule. Most of the players are veterans of the league and are used to it. As for me, I didn't have to call any backcourt violations though I had to remind myself of the rule when players were inbounding.

That's all I have for this post. I probably missed a ton of things, but this should give you an idea of what I went through on Sunday.

Sunday Officiating (Part 1): Be Safe Rather Than Sorry

Sunday morning, I got a call from a guy to work some adult league games in the afternoon at the gym he works at. I had mentioned this adult league in one of my previous posts. It was the league that used NBA style rules instead of the traditional high school and/or college basketball rules. Since I had a fantasy football draft mid-afternoon, I agreed to work the two late evening games instead. The two games generated lots of interesting thoughts so I will share over three posts (at least that's the plan).

The first point I want to discuss is a situation that occurred tonight. The situation occurred late in the second (and last) game of the night. The White team, which had been leading much of the game, had fallen apart. The Black team had clawed their way back into the game and taken the lead. The White team was forced to foul to get the ball back. Alas, on one particular possession, one of the White players tried to foul a Black player and I decided to pass on the call.

The reason was that I didn't think there was sufficient contact before the Black player had passed the ball off to a teammate. However, the White player in question got frustrated with the no call and essentially tackled the second Black player. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed. The Black player was not injured and the White player understood why I passed on the initial foul.

However, I discussed this with my partner and he said I should have made the initial call. After thinking about the situation, I agree with my partner's assessment. I don't think the White player had any intention to harm the Black player that he tackled. If I just made the initial foul call, everything would have been fine.

Not to make any excuses, this was the first time I was officiating the league with it's rules. While the games went alright for the most part, I think I did spend a lot of time adjusting to the different elements. That may have contributed to my late no call. I think once I get used to working the league more, things should go much more smoothly.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Volleyball Official?

This will be a quick posting. Since I am still unemployed, a thought crossed my mind that I should try my hand at youth volleyball officiating. I had done it briefly YEARS AGO but did not stay with it. Since I have a little time, it's worth a shot to try and officiate a different sport. As it is, I like watching volleyball and have played it recreationally in the past. It'll be good to learn more about volleyball and see it from a different perspective. There's a rules meeting in a few weeks so I have time to decide. If I decide to go through with officiating volleyball, I may post about it here as well.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Officiating is a habit

Yesterday, I didn't have much to do, so I stopped by a local gym to watch an adult league basketball game. Weird? You could say so since I wasn't actually playing in the league. However, I knew one of the teams that was playing. I had played with and against the guys on the team so I thought I go support them since they were playing in a playoff game.

Interestingly enough, I knew one of the officials that was working the game (I actually knew the other guy too, but not that well). I got a chance to talk to the official during halftime and breaks about a few things. One interesting thing we discussed was that it was slightly difficult to officiate this particular adult league. It wasn't because the players were being difficult or anything like that.

It was the fact that the league uses modified NBA rules (8 second backcourt count, no backcourt throw-ins until the 4th quarter, 24 second shot clock, etc). The official said that some of the NBA rules are so different to the typical high school or college rules that it takes a while to adjust to them.

The point I learned that is that all basketball officials are creatures of habit. Whether it be how we report our fouls or how we position ourselves (among many other things) during a game, all of this (after the initial learning period) becomes a regular habit. If you develop good habits, then you are in good shape. Alas, if you develop bad habits (and we've all done it at some point), then it will take time to break the bad habit and relearn. It's difficult but it helps to work with good partners and possibly have videotape of yourself to see what you are doing.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Being Decisive

Today, I was working a couple of games with high school aged kids. The original plan was to run a three-person crew but the third had to cancel at the last second so we worked a two person crew instead.

The first game was a bit unusual. The White team took an early lead but let the Black team back into the game in the second half. The White took seemingly took control of the game again but fell apart in the last couple of minutes giving the Black team an opportunity to come back. The Black team had a final shot but missed it and lost. Overall, while there was some jabbering from the players (plus one technical), this game went alright.

The second game proved to be a more difficult affair. The White team had the better disciplined team while the Black team was more one-on-one. However, the difficulty arose from various situations that came up. One of the Black team's players (big 6'4" kid) was frustrated and did a few unnecessary things. The Black team coach was a young kid who probably shouldn't have been coaching. His constant whining about our calls (or lack thereof) and other stuff led his entire team to whine along with him.

Remember I mentioned a few posts ago that I need to learn to take care of situations better? I had a couple of situations that I had the opportunity to take care of potential problems. One was involving two players and the other was with a coach. I took a more laid back approach but it didn't work out. Fortunately, my partner was a very forceful and decisive person. She was there to take care of the issues. She ended up handing out a few technical fouls along the way as well.

I will to have my partner if this is how she generally handles situations in a regular games. Tonight was a reminder lots of people can blow a whistle and officiate a game. But the exceptional ones are the ones who have learned to handle unusual situations. That is something I am still working on.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mental Focus

Last night, I worked a couple of games in an adult league. I was supposed to work three games but the last game was a forfeit so my partner and I got to go home early.

The first game went by relatively quietly as it was a 30 point blowout. The first half of the second game also seemed to be going along the lines of a blowout as the White team led by 15 points pretty much the entire half. However, some guys from the other team (Grey) finally showed up and the game suddenly turned competitive.

However, this wasn't a good thing as I was mentally tired. I had not slept well the night before. Even though I am not working and can sleep as much as I want, this wasn't the case yesterday. I was woken up throughout the morning by phone calls and other things.

When the game turned competitive, I tried to focus but just could not do it. I talked to my partner when things got a little intense and he mentioned he saw a few things that he saw. My partner passed on it initially because he felt I had a better angle. I told him I wasn't quite there mentally and that he should call anything he sees regardless if it was in my area.

Yesterday's game illustrates how difficult it is to be an official. There are just days or nights when your mind or body isn't quite 100% and it affects how you work. It was a little frustrating last night. Fortunately, my partner was there to help out and we took care of things enough to prevent the game from getting out of hand.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Officiating as a Refuge

Regardless of whether you love your job, hate your job or have no feeling towards your job (that's assuming you have a job), I surmise there are at least two things you enjoy while at the job. One of those things would be getting your paycheck. The second thing would be the social aspect of your job. You might hate your job, but there's got to be a co-worker or two you get along with and talk to. during the course of a work day.

For me personally, I enjoyed all aspects of my last job. I liked the job itself, the people and the paycheck. So being unemployed the past four months have been difficult. I'm definitely missing the paycheck and I'm missing the social aspect of seeing and talking to people.

Fortunately, unemployment helps a little bit with missing my regular paycheck. But unemployment doesn't help much with the social aspect of being unemployed. To that end, I've seen some of my friends for lunch that I otherwise would not have seen if I was still working. But even then, it is not like I can see them all the time. They have work and other people (husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends) to see beside me.

I hadn't officiated a lot in the early months of my unemployment. However, I realized that I had overlooked officiating as something that could fill the gaps that had opened when I lost my job. It was only recently I decided to work some more games.

Officiating can help out with not having a paycheck (if only a little bit). The biggest thing was a chance to just talk to different people. It's not like I've never talked to my partners or others at the gym before. However, when you come from a full time job, some days you are tired and may not want to socialize as much.

However, at the moment, I've come to see officiating as breaking some of the job hunting and other routines I've developed since I've gotten unemployed and that is a very good thing!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Coming Home

This past Friday, I was given a couple of basketball games to officiate at the Chinese Recreation Center in Chinatown (San Francisco). For those not from San Francisco, the center is right across the street from the Cable Car Museum at Washington St. & Mason St.

The games I was officiating were first round playoff games for an 18 years old and under summer basketball league that was running. The games themselves went by very quietly. My partner and I were in and out of the gym in about two hours.

What surprised me was the reaction of the folks who run the center. They were both surprised AND happy that a "homegrown Chinatown boy" had come back to officiate the games. It was surprising because I'd officiated at the center plenty of times in years past (Christmas and Chinese New Year's tournaments) though I'd never officiated the league before. To me, it wasn't that unusual to come back.

However, in my recent visits to the center, I noticed they had been putting up old basketball photos from the center's history. To the uninformed observer, the photos may not mean much. For me, knowing the history of basketball in San Francisco's Chinatown, I know the photos and the associated history mean a lot to everyone at the center.

I never thought of myself as a "homegrown Chinatown boy" because I never actually lived in Chinatown. However, I did go to school at nearby Commodore Stockton Elementary and St. Mary's Chinese Day School. For all intensive purposes, I did grow up in Chinatown for good eight years of my life. In addition, I coached basketball at St. Mary's for twelve years. Because St. Mary's did not have a gym, my teams practiced at the center often and that's what a lot of people at the center remember me for.

I definitely had a great time officiating Friday. The games themselves were not the main focus. The reaction from the various people in the center made me realize that my contributions went beyond just the game itself. I felt like I was giving back to the community which had given a lot to me and that felt good!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Basketball is a Contact Sport

In my posting Official Sales Engineer I mentioned that I got up around 6:30 AM last Thursday to officiate three basketball games starting at 8 AM. What I didn't mention was that I had FOUR more youth games in the evening starting at 5 PM. Crazy? Yes, those of us who do basketball officiating for a living are a little off kilter sometime. :)

I'd reffed these youth games the previous three weeks and you never know what you're going to get. The week before, I had a super exciting week with four exciting games. Three of them went into overtime and the point differential between all four games was seven points.

Given that I was tired from my morning games, I was hoping for a quiet evening. For the first three games, I got my wish. Two of the games were relatively low key and one of the games was a forfeit so I got to relax for an hour.

The fourth game didn't start off too badly either. The only difference between the fourth game and the others was there a lot of energy in the gymnasium. The coaches, players and fans were all in the game. Because of the energy, the kids were playing pretty hard but things were under control for the first three quarters.

However, as the third quarter ended, I knew the fourth quarter would be a tough one. The reason for this thought was the league allowed full court pressure defense in the 4th quarter only (for the age level). That potentially meant that kids would be running all over the place. Given the energy that had showed in the first three quarters, that wasn't necessarily a good thing.

Alas, the fourth quarter can be summarized by a few incidents that occurred. For sake of identifications, the teams will be identified by colors: RED and GREY

  1. RED team has the ball in the backcourt and GREY is using their full court pressure defense. RED player attempts a pass to a teammate near half court. GREY defensive player is also near half court. In an attempt to steal the pass, the GREY player knocks the RED player to the ground. I was following the play the whole way and whistled a foul on the GREY player. It was one those cases where both players were hustling and there was a lot of contact involved.
  2. Unfortunately, the RED player was hurt and unable to shoot his free throws (1 and 1 situation) so he was replaced. The RED coach was not happy over what had happened and had some words for the GREY coach. I had to warn both coaches not to speak too each other during the game.
  3. The game proceeded after this. My partner and I kept tight reins on things and things seemed under control.
  4. Unfortunately, a few minutes later another incident occurred. The GREY team got the ball and was on a fast break. I was the lead official and saw the GREY player was at least a couple of steps ahead of the closest RED defender. As the GREY player attempted the layup, the RED player made a wild attempt to block the shot from behind. The wild block attempt didn't go well. Not only did the RED player not get the block, because of the angle of his jump, the RED player landed on the floor awkwardly and hurt himself.
At this points, things went haywire. The RED coach was upset and thought things were getting out of control and informed me he was pulling his team off the floor. He was going to forfeit the game. Along the way, some of the RED parents were yelling as the us to "Control the Game". It was a pure madhouse. Since the RED coach insisted on forfeiting the game, I let him and his team leave. I submitted an incident report afterward as I assumed there would be some complaints from the RED team.

All in all, the ending was frustrating because the game had been close and competitive. The kids deserved a chance to finish the game. Instead, because of the walk out, I don't think anyone (officials, coaches, players, parents) left the gymnasium satisfied. In the future, I hope parents and coaches remember that the "game is for the kids".

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

MLB: SF Giants vs. LA Dodgers umpiring

For this post, I'm going to put my basketball referee whistle down and discuss some major league baseball. Folks who watched the three game series between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers that concluded this afternoon will probably know what I am talking about.

In terms of baseball, what the Giants will take away is the fact that they lost two of three games to the rival Dodgers and are also behind the Colorado Rockies in the Wild Card race (at least for now, pending the outcome of tonight's game)

However, what Giants fans will also take away is the umpiring crew missed several calls over the series, with all of them going against the Giants. The last and most glaring one was in the 9th inning of today's game which cost the Giants the lead and Tim Linecum the potential win. Fortunately the Giants bounced back and eventually won the game on Juan Uribe's walk off home run.

As a fellow sports official, I'm apt to defend other officials in the majority of cases. After all, sports officials have difficult jobs. Unlike broadcasters or fans, sports officials don't get the benefit of instant replay (well, only in certain cases). You go with what you see and like I mentioned in first blog post, you SELL your call for all that it's worth.

However, given the number of missed calls that occurred over the three game series, this makes defending the umpiring a little more difficult. In the post game show, the Giants broadcasters probably said it the best. The broadcasters said that if the umpires had not made the mistakes in the previous two games and then made the one blunder in the 9th inning, it may have been easier to forgive the umpires. Instead, because of the previous mistakes, the frustrations just boiled over. The broadcasters noted that is was fortunate the Giants won today. If the Giants had lost, the fans could have taken out their frustrations on the umpires.

As far as why the umpires made so many mistakes, I don't believe there was a conspiracy or any type of betting going on. That would be a little far fetched. However, perhaps the umps weren't sleeping well or not mentally sharp for whatever reason. Bang bang plays require a lot of concentration and if you're not 100% focused, you are going to miss things. It's not an excuse for the umpires, but the fact is they're human and subject to ups and downs like the rest of us.

One thing I hope is the Major League Baseball talks to the crew and find out what happened. While the Giants can't do anything about the missed calls, I'm sure they can file complaints or demand some explanations. I admit to being curious to how the umpiring crew will explain the missed calls.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Introduction and Welcome

This probably should have come before the first posting, but I was eager to test things out and so this will be the second post instead. :)

Internet blogging has been around for quite sometime but for one reason or another, I never got into the habit. I've read many blogs thought the years, from friends blogs to others I have discovered while surfing on the Internet. The one main issue I had with writing a blog is that I didn't feel like delving into my personal life that some people did. Plus, I felt my personal life was rather boring and not worth reading about!

However, I found different outlets for writing though. For over three years now, I have contributed articles to Retrogaming Times Monthly. My column, Apple II Incider, reviews games that were available for the Apple II series of computers.

I also started to use Facebook as a pseudo blog. I wrote notes (a Facebook) term and posted them to my profile. I found that there were some of my friends on Facebook were actually reading them.

Lastly, I am a freelance writer for My column, San Francisco High School Sports Examiner, attempts to cover the San Francisco high school athletics landscape. I pursued this opportunity have getting laid off back in April of 2009. I had numerous interviews but nothing came through, I decided to give my dream of sports writing a shot, even if it was only on a freelance and not full time basis.

Then there is this blog. The name Behind The Whistle is a play of VH1's popular Behind The Music tv series. Instead of talking about the history of various music groups, I'm here to talk about basketball officiating. I've officiated for many years at the youth, high school and adult levels and have gone through some interesting experiences. It's too bad I haven't shared those experiences before, but it's not too late. I think I will have many more years of officiating left to go!

While my personal life outside of officiating may not be great reading for a blog, I think discussing officiating may be of interest to many people. Many people who are not part of the officiating circle may not realize what officials go through on a day to day, game to game basis.

I hope all readers will enjoy reading the blog as much I enjoy writing it. I welcome any comments or suggestions for posts as well!

Official Sales Engineer

Thursday morning, I was crazy enough to get up at 6:30 AM to referee three basketball games starting at 8 AM. Fortunately I wasn't the only one as I had two others join me for the three games. One of my partners was Tiffany, who works in the same high school officials group with me. In addition she works junior college basketball games as well.

Tiffany is a good official and she offered lots of tips and suggestions during our three games that helped me out a lot. However, there was one thing we talked about that really sunk in with me. I had asked Tiffany if she was going to move beyond high school and junior college basketball for upcoming the 2009-2010 season. For lots of officials, junior college basketball is a spring board into NCAA basketball.

Tiffany said she had no such plans for the upcoming season. While Tiffany felt confident in her skills and abilities as an official, she felt she had not been exposed to enough different scenarios in her short time as a high school and junior college official.

The reason this resonated with me was due to my last job as a Sales Engineer. I had come into the job last August not completely understanding my role as a Sales Engineer. Fortunately, I had plenty of experienced people to help me. In my initial months on the job, I learned I needed to understand the software services as well as present them in a more "sales oriented" way.

It took me a little while to learn all our services and fine tune my "sales pitch" for the services. As I got comfortable, I thought: "This isn't too tough. I can do this job." Alas, life also has a way of reminding you that not everything is going to go smoothly.

As I progressed from some basic sales calls to more complex calls, I had a major realization. The initial sales pitch, my knowledge of our services and my technical sales pitch weren't always going to enough. For a business to plunk down hundreds or thousands of dollars a month for our services, they needed to be completely convinced the services were a fit.

This is where the challenges came up. Every business had different technical needs and as the Sales Engineer you were expected to handle the questions. The simple questions revolved around our services and what they could do. The harder questions sometimes revolved around competitors or whether our services could fulfill a specific require the business had in mind. Even the best Sales Engineer would tell you they don't know everything. However, they do know how to say "We'll get back to you" if they didn't know whether the services would fulfill the business need.

In a sense, basketball officials are glorified sales people. All officials want to do is to convince everyone that they are enforcing the rules of the game properly. Generally, being in position and blowing the whistle on fouls & violations are sufficient. However, on a game to game basis, there will scenarios that come up that need to be addressed. Some may involve just talking to players or coaches and diffusing things.

Like my last job as a Sales Engineer, there may be scenarios that need to be addressed with knowledge. Instead of technical knowledge, this would be basketball rules knowledge. But it isn't as simple as it sounds. A lot of people think they know the rules but the official basketball rules book is thick and very technical. It's not exactly something you can read once and understand. Once the knowledge has been gained, the rest is all about experience. You handle a scenario once or twice and it should stay with you.

Despite having quite a few years of officiating experience under my belt, I do feel like my rules knowledge needs to be improved. Also, while I have experience, I don't think I've absorbed the lessons as well as I could have in the past. However, it is never too late to get started! Getting up at 6:30 AM on Thursday was a bit crazy but learning a few things along the way was good. Hopefully, I can take these lessons and continue to improve.