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.