Saturday, October 15, 2011

Taking Time for Yourself

I started officiating youth basketball in 1993. At the time, I was a volunteer coach but was asked to officiate on the side. Since I was young and officiating paid, I decided to give it a shot. In 2002, I made a jump in high school officiating. It was a good move for I thought I had gotten a bit stale just doing my youth basketball for so long.

As the 2011-2012 high basketball season approaches, I think I have hit another crossroad. I went a tough period from April onward with various situations. As I have worked to get past the situations, I have realized that my enthusiasm for basketball officiating had diminished.

At first, it was alarming to feel that way. But as a friend pointed out, I had been doing this constantly for nearly 20 years and my body was telling me it was a time for a change. For years I had told myself that it was great to get paid to exercise and officiate. Alas, I have realised the tradeoff is you give up a lot of personal time. I think I have come to the point where my personal time is more important. I could always do other exercise and make money doing something else.

While nothing is set in stone, I have some ideas to refresh myself. One of them has been youth volleyball. I haven't officiated a ton of games but I have been enjoying myself out there. The other is to explore writing sports stories and blogging more.  I've been doing a lot of photography and plan to do that more as well.

The main point is that we all need to take time for ourselves and if you are feeling a little weary, there is nothing wrong trying something new

(Edited on 10/22/11):  After thinking about things for a little bit, I decided to a leave of absence from officiating high school basketball for the 2011-2012 season.   I had thought about this a little bit during the summer but with a lot going on, it wasn't a priority for me to think about it.   However, as the various meetings kick off for officiating, I realized I didn't want officiating to eat into my personal time.   I am not stopping officiating completely as I could still do some youth basketball.  But for this season, I will be on the sidelines watching high school games rather than being a part of it.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

The Excitement of Volleyball

Back in late August or early September of 2009, I decided I would officiate some youth volleyball.  There were multiple reasons for this.  One, I had been unemployed for a few months and having something to do would be cool.  Two, as a basketball official for the same organization that runs the volleyball league, I figured it would be easy to break in to work some games as the assignors knew me.  Lastly, it was a pretty  easy and semi-painless way to do something different.  I have been so deeply involved with basketball that it can become stale sometimes.

Fast forward to tonight.  I've had an up and down summer due to various personal things.  I hadn't officiated much basketball over the summer and wasn't sure I wanted to officiate volleyball.  Yet, I got some calls to see if I could work some volleyball games as I had missed the first two weeks.  After thinking about it, I decided I could work a few games here and there.

I got a chance to work my first games of the season and it was some pretty good games out there.  My first game tonight was a 6th grade game.  While the teams were not super skilled, they were pretty solid and the game went three sets with the home team winning.

The second and final game was the best of the night.  It was an 8th grade game and both teams were bumping, setting and spiking quite a bit.  The visiting team took the first set, while the home team took the second set.  In the third set, the visiting team took a seemingly commanding 14-5 lead but the home lead stormed back and pulled off a stunning 16-14 victory.

The interesting thing about tonight was I felt comfortable as I had not officiated a volleyball since last year.  The 6th grade game was fairly easy to officiate as the pace was slow.  But the 8th grade game was tough as there was a lot of net play and balls flying all over the place.

As I mentioned before, volleyball is a nice sport to officiate as it helps my basketball officiating.  The reason is that volleyball requires you to hold the whistle until the play completes.  There are time in basketball when holding your whistle is beneficial.

All in all, I'm glad I jumped back into volleyball.  The games were good and I got to officiate / watch some nice plays.  Maybe in time, I will see if I want to make a jump into high school volleyball.  Volleyball is a pretty good sport to watch / officiate.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Good Game Management = Good Customer Service

Before I graduated from college, I had worked as a cashier at a nearby McDonald's.  Since I graduated from college, I continued to work in capacities involving customer service from technical support (post sales service) to sales engineering (pre-sales service).

As I walked home a couple of Sundays ago from officiating some games, a random thought popped in my head regarding how managing a basketball game was similar to doing customer service.  In any customer service situation where a potential or existing customer has an issue, the service representative will do their best to make the customer happy.   It usually goes something like:  "I'm sorry that "XYZ" has occurred but I will do my best to address the situation".   For potential customers, maybe there will be concessions in terms of price to entice them to buy.  For existing customers, some form of credit is usually issued.

When it comes to officiating basketball, game management in terms of handling coaches (most of the time) and players (to a lesser extent) is vital.  The teams (players/coaches) are our customers.  The officials have a responsibility to officiate the game but also to address issues, concerns and complaints as they occur.

Just like customer service representatives, I know that officials generally don't like difficult coaches and players.  Alas, like the customer service representatives, we also have a responsibility to do our jobs.  Maybe we don't quite have to do our jobs with a "smile" but we still have to do it.

One thing I've learned recently is that even if a coach is irate, they are reasonable if you have an answer to their question.  I had two coaches upset a few weeks ago on the same play.  It was a 9 AM game so both teams were a little sluggish.  The offensive player drove to the hoop.  The defender slid her feet but fell down.  The offensive player (in my opinion anyway) stumbled as well.  On the way down, the offensive player tried to brace herself as she fell so accidentally hit the defensive player as well.  However, the offensive player also threw the ball away.

All in all, it was a no call in my opinion.  Neither coach was particularly thrilled.  The defensive coach was mildly annoyed but his team got the ball so he didn't say much.  The offensive coach was not happy but I gave him my explanation.  He disagreed but life went on from there.

I guess it's fortunate I have a customer service background.  Dealing with irate coaches and players can be a pain but in reality, it's not that bad.  I've learned to stay calm, let people vent, address the issue and then move on.  You can do the same.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Basketball Game Scheduled.....Wrestling Match Broke Out.......

I was officiating a 5th Grade girls basketball league championship tonight and it was an entertaining affair that went into overtime with the final score was 21-18.

Alas, that was the end of the good news.  The problem was the game was played at a very small venue.  The court size itself was not quite high school regulation but for 5th graders, it was fine.  The main issue was the lack of spectator seating.  The fans for both teams were packed all around the sidelines and endlines for the game.  There was hardly room along the sideline for inbounding the ball.

The lack of space ratchets up the tension and intensity for the game.  These 5th graders were NOT high level players.  Thus, they were probably nervous and it didn't help to have a hundred or so fans cheering every move as the game went on.

The other issue was the poor play of both teams.   There were a few decent players on the floor but the passing, rebounding and other basic skills were a little lacking.

I don't blame the players or coaches for this.  This particular league relies on volunteers for coaches (usually alumni, parents or other interested parties).  Some coaches are good but others are just not that experienced.  Also, practice time can be limited so it's tough to develop players skills.

However, one thing I wish coaches would emphasize less is the "grab the ball" mentality.  This causes kids from 3rd to 8th grade to try and tie the ball up for "held ball situations".  The score was 21-18 and there must have been at least 20 (if not more) "held ball situations" that we had to whistle tonight.  I called some quicker than usual because I didn't want the kids to accidentally hurt themselves trying to wrestle the ball away.

All of this being said, I had fun officiating it.  These kind of games are easy to work.  With some many fans around, I just tune every body out and focus on the players.  In fact, sometimes I feel that in the midst of chaos (players all over the floor, parents and coaches screaming), I'm the calmest guy in the building.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Backboards, Angles and Small Gym Dimensions

Officiated a 7th grade girls basketball tournament today and had an interesting day.  The tournament was held at a high school I was familiar with but in the auxiliary gym instead of the main gym.  The high school's basketball teams always play in the main gym so I assumed the auxiliary gym was just for practice.    However, having been to other schools in the area who also had second gyms, even I was surprised to see the layout of the auxiliary gym.

The court was not quite full sized in terms of length though the width looked to be regulation.   There was no room on the sidelines.  The coaches, players and scorekeepers were basically right on the sideline.  The fans were on the other side of the court and there was a bit of breathing room but not much.  On one end of the court, there was a wall on one side of the court literally a couple of inches from the court.  On the other side, there were pipes protruding out a few feet from the end line so some pads were put there as protection.

The final surprise was that the gym had FAN SHAPED backboards.  I've seen these before and even played on some in pickup ball.  However, I am not sure any of these kids had even seen or played on anything less than a glass backboard which most gyms use for games.

Given all of these weird conditions in the gym and plus the first game was at 9 AM, I think the teams came out a little sluggish.  Both teams struggled offensively as the rims and backboards were not as soft as the usual ones the kids were used to.

I think even my partner and I came out sluggish as well.  The play was sloppy and we tried our best to call stuff but my partner and I were admittedly second guessing ourselves a bit early.  The reason was the gym dimensions were throwing off usual officiating angles.  The fans and coaches were annoyed but didn't understand that even officials need to adjust to gym conditions as the players do.

Regardless, my partner and I talked a lot during halftime and made our adjustments.  It was obvious we weren't going to get our usual angles so we just had to help each other as much as we could.  The lead official took the brunt of the responsibility because the trail had trouble following plays due to the confined nature of the court.

From the second half of the 9 AM game and into the rest of the games I worked today, things went fine and there were minimal complaints.  All in all, it was a fun day and I have some more fun tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"And 1!" (aka Where's The Foul Ref?)

Being a basketball official and also continuing to play pickup ball against both older and younger folks gives me an interesting perspective.   I notice a major difference between how the younger generation (30 and under) play versus the guys that are more my age.  The younger set tends to play more one-on-one and doesn't take open shots.  Instead they like to try all sorts of fancy moves.  Guys more my age tend to just take open shots and don't dribble as much.  Of course, we are all a lot slower and probably shooting is the only thing we do well these days!  The younger kids have plenty of energy and quickness and do all these fancy things that older guys can only dream of.

However, one of the things that I do find a little annoying is the tendency to yell "And 1!" after making a play or basket.  From the playing perspective, this usually means the offensive player felt he got fouled OR he is trash talking a bit to the defensive player that he can't be stopped without being fouled.

This also occurs quite frequently during games I officiate at all levels.  This is usually not trash talking but more of a "Where's The Foul Ref?" comment.    I have to say that I just ignore these comments most of the time.  I think players may have gotten some contact and may be trying to sell us on calling a foul.  If there was significant enough contact where there was no foul called, I am 100% sure I would hear about it more loudly than with just some "And 1!" comment.

Yet, I find it annoying because it shows the level of influence the NBA has on all levels of basketball players.  NBA players say the "And 1!" comment quite often and like everything NBA related, it trickles down to the lower levels of basketball.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Elevating Your Crew Not Just Yourself.........

Since I am unemployed, I have plenty of time on my hands these days.  I spent yesterday playing golf with a couple of fellow referees (and another guy).  Today, I cleaned up the house a bit and setup a new printer I had gotten to replace an older printer that had stopped working. Afterward, I went out to a local gym and participated in some three person officiating training with my high school officiating group.

There were a lot of mechanical things that were pointed out to me and my other crew members by the observers.  That wasn't too surprising.  The other two crew members hadn't done too much three person officiating.  As for myself, I had gone to camps previously and worked some three person games.  However, it had been a long time since I'd been to a camp and actually worked a three person game.  I was rusty and all the mechanical things were good points.  I also have some video I needed to review as it was observed I was running a little strangely.  I can't really comment too much until I review the video but at some point during the night, my left knee starting aching a bit and I may have been compensating.  Obviously, observers don't know that and there is no excuses but I'll take a look at the video and see how things went.

The one observation that stood out tonight was that I needed to step up my management of the officiating crew.  I've blogged a lot about learning to be a "referee" in the crew and tonight was just another step in the process.  I knew I hadn't worked on my three person mechanics in a while so I actually reviewed the NFHS Official's Manual to refresh my memory.  Obviously, there is only so much I can stuff into my brain in a short amount of time.

Knowing I would probably be the most experienced guy I out there, I led the pre-game and went over a lot of things.  However, it wasn't a matter of me being the "know it all".  I asked my partners about what they were familiar with and covered those items first.  Then, we all just discussed other things that we had questions about.

Alas, the shortcoming that was pointed out to me was that I needed to "make sure" my partners were doing what we did during the pre-game and take charge more.  We did cover things that occurred during the game that I thought needed to be covered.  However, there were a few "minor mechanical things" that were missed.  The observer's stance was the mechanical things weren't a major deal.  The point was more directed at me.  I was the most experienced guy out there and I needed to help my crew as much as possible.

Tonight's training pointed out the next steps I need to take.  In the past, I tended to defer to those I considered to be veterans.  They would point out things I needed to do to improve and lead the way during a game.   However, even though I have been officiating for a while,  I fall into this trap of not taking charge.  It's unusual because I take charge a lot when I PLAY basketball.

All in all, this is something that I have to work on.  After all, self improvement is great.  But the next step is to make sure your crew does great as well.  It was a positive evening and I have some things to think about and work on during a weekend basketball tournament.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When You Have A Chance To Work With a Veteran........

You should take advantage of it!  Especially a veteran that just worked a California State High School Basketball Championship game this season and also does junior college and Division II college basketball.

Tonight, I was scheduled to work a couple of adult league basketball games.  I was expecting one partner but ended up with another one (who had all the credentials listed above).   Because my partner tonight is one of the top referees in our group, I haven't work with him recently in any leagues.  I usually work the lower level leagues (like tonight) while my partner works the "A" level adult leagues.

However, there he was coming into the gym and we had a nice conversation.  I found out he had been unemployed for a while and so we talked about my recent layoff as well.

The biggest topic though was basketball officiating.  My partner tonight is more than willing to share his experiences and knowledge.  If I had to describe my partner tonight, it would be "Keep It Simple".  My partner is very straightforward when it comes to his mechanics, the way he speaks and the way he approaches talking to players/coaches.

I can't easily summarize all the stuff we talked about today, but I learned a few pointers I'll need to implement into my own officiating.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Test Of My Mettle

Since I officiated my last high school basketball game about a month ago, I've only officiated a few times.  Two of those times were yesterday and tonight.  Yesterday, I was working a high school spring basketball league that featured some varsity players from some local schools.  That went by relatively well though my partner was sick and a step slow through most of the day.  I was officiating fine and even had to manage a coach who was riding us a bit.

Tonight, I was officiating in the adult league that I play in.  I wasn't expecting too much action and probably the usual complaining.  Alas, the first game between Gold and White didn't quite go that well.  The game started off with a Gold player complaining about he was undercut while attempting a layup.  The reality was the Gold player tried to draw contact on the defender (not enough for offensive foul) and the White defender fell.  The Gold player went up for the layup, landed and tried to turn but the White defender didn't have time to get up so the offensive player tripped and fell.

In the second half, things got a little testy.  While a shot was in the air, a White player went in for the offensive rebound.  A Gold player hooked the White player's arm so that he couldn't get in for the rebound.  I had the foul the whole way.  I turned my head for just a split second and next thing you know, the White player was shoving the Gold player who had hooked him.  I immediately blew the whistle and issued a double technical foul.   This was a case of a reputation preceding you.  This particular Gold player had developed a reputation of some dirty tactics of grabbing and pushing.  The players in this league are generally easy going but anytime they went up against this particular Gold player, there had been some heated situations in the past few weeks.   The double technical was issued to defuse the situation and note that both players were equally at fault.

Lastly, yet another Gold player pushed the envelope a little far after I had called a up & down / traveling call.  The Gold player had already complained to my partner about a non-call and just lost it when I called traveling late in the game on him.  I simply gave him the technical and moved on.

If there was anything I learned tonight, it was that I can handle conflict.  In fact, where I once might have shied from a little conflict, I didn't mind it tonight.  A veteran referee gave me some great advice.  When officiating, if you need to talk to someone, do it but also expect disagreements.  That is why I don't expect people to like anything I did tonight.  At the end of the day, it didn't matter if the players didn't like what I did.  There is still a game to be played and they can choose to not play.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Joy Of Public Transit

When I was started officiating basketball, I was in college and didn't have a car. So no matter if the game was on Friday evening or Saturday morning (among many other times), I would take public transit. Depending on the location of the gym, that would mean 30 to 60 minutes of commute.

These days, I have a car and it's great to be able get around easily. Alas parking isn't always easy and occasionally I wish I could take public transit.

Today I'll get a chance to do so. I am officiating at a downtown gym with sparse parking. I decided to take transit to my friend's church in the AM. I will take transit to downtown for my games as well as heading home.

Driving is cool but not having to drive some days is big bonus! :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The "Crap" Radar Is In Full Effect

Somewhat out of the blue, I had a career night during my adult league basketball game last night:

Career Night On The Court

While scoring 23 points was fun, the game that followed was equally interesting for officiating reasons.   As I had nothing to do after my game, I stuck around to watch the nightcap.  Even though I wasn't needed to officiate, it's pretty typical for me to stick around.   I ended up chatting with various other players and some of the fans who I knew as well.

However, the thing that stuck out about the second game was the intensity and the amount of non-basketball activity ("crap") that occurred.  This particular league is usually pretty low key.  Sure there will be some intense moments but usually it's not a big deal.

However, emotions were running high and there were some tense moments between players from both teams.  The officials that work these games are just players from other teams so their experience level isn't that high.   They probably could have handled things a little better but overall it was fine.  In fact, since I'd been working on game management, I advised the officials on some things to watch out for and said double fouls or technicals should be used if needed.

As for me, as I observed these incidents, the stuff that my partner told me a couple of weeks ago really sunk in.   In the past few weeks, my "crap" radar is really in full effect.  When I see non-basketball plays (trash talking, pushing, elbows, etc), it immediately raises a red flag in my mind.

While I couldn't directly do anything about the situations yesterday, I took note that they occurred and thought about what I would have done.  Tomorrow night, I'll be back officiating a few adult league games and I plan to have my "crap" radar once again in full effect.  I want to see how my game management and awareness has improved in the past few weeks.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mental Preparation / Game Management / Baby Steps

In what was probably my final high school basketball game of the season, I had a chance to work a decent girls varsity game tonight.   The two teams that were playing tonight were about the same level.  They weren't the favorites to win the league championship but they certainly weren't the worst teams in the league.   In fact, I am officiated both teams individually at points throughout the season so I was familiar with how both teams played.

While the game was pretty competitive for a while, the home team played extremely flat while the visiting team played well and pulled away in the second half for a 20 point win.

However, one of my main goals for this game was to work on my game management skills.  As I blogged last week, a veteran partner had told me I needed to work on this aspect of my officiating.  So all day yesterday and even the hours leading up to the game, I kept reminding myself to officiate AND manage game situations as they occurred.

It was fortunate that I came in mentally ready as the visiting team has some players who are a little hot tempered.  That caused two incidents during the game that I had to address.  Both occurred during dead balls when my partner had called a foul and was reporting it.

One was a relatively minor thing where one of the visiting player was chirping at a home player who had fouled her hard.   I told the visiting player that she shouldn't talk to the other player.  She wasn't thrilled at me but she played on.

The other situation was a little more serious.  One of the visiting players was upset at a home player for something and tried to go after the home player.  She didn't get far as her teammates intercepted her.  I tried to give her a chance to calm down. However, even though her teammates had stopped her from trying to confront the other player, she was still upset and pointing fingers.  I finally decided to issue a technical foul.  The visiting coach asked me what happened and I explained to him what the situation was.

Fortunately, after these incidents occurred (all in the first half), the rest of the game went on just fine.  Both teams seemed content to just play basketball.

All in all, I learned tonight that the key for me is to come into games mentally prepared to  manage situations in addition to officiating.  While this might sound silly to veteran officials who are used to that aspect, one should understand that I started officiating in youth basketball with little to no mentoring.   In addition, when I started officiating youth basketball many years ago, I did many SOLO games.  I went through some tough times as a young college kid trying to officiate with adults screaming in your face.

Perhaps those initial bad experiences caused me to shy away from dealing with tough situations and wanting to "just get the games over with".   So while I may have shed a ton of the bad physical habits when I started in youth basketball, perhaps there are some mental preparation aspects I need to improve on.

All in all, it was a productive evening and I felt I took a few little baby steps in working on my game management skills.  I don't have a ton of games in the next few weeks but it's ok.  I'll take a short break after a busy season.  However, as I get other games in youth and adult leagues, I'll definitely be focusing on managing game situations again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

When The Light Switch Comes On.....

I've never been the fastest learner.  In thinking about many of my past experiences, it seems to take me some time to absorb lessons and apply them in every thing that I do, including officiating.  From thinking about it, there's two reasons I can think of for this.

One reason is that I did not open myself to learn from all of my experiences, whether they were good or bad.   I was quite self conscious of mistakes and that prevented me from analyzing stuff as much as I should have.

The second reason is that I did not get counsel from people on things.  Even if I knew something was wrong, I would take the approach that I could fix it myself when instead I should have sought assistance.   Again, it was probably being a little self conscious to ask people for assistance.

These things got magnified last year when I ran into a tough work situation.  The situation forced me to evaluate a lot of things and I think it helped me gain confidence at my regular job but also a great many other things.

As my high school officiating season comes to a close, I noticed a few changes in myself this year.  One is that I am analyzing situations before, during and after the game.   I have taken a great amount of time talking to my partners throughout games and talked about various things that have occurred.  In the past, I was not quite as game aware and spent a lot of time shooting the breeze rather than focusing on the game.

The other thing is I have sought out advice from other referees.  It all started in late 2010 when I worked some adult league games with two veterans that I normally don't work with in high school games.  Since I was working with them, I just started talking to them and asking questions.   This trend has continued to the point where I try to absorb anything useful from any official I work with.

It's funny that I talk about this now.  I just remembered why I had started officiating youth volleyball back in 2008.  I wanted to be put into new and uncomfortable lessons so I could learn from them as I had felt I had stagnated in basketball.  I think I finally got what I wanted.

The funny thing about me?  When the light switch turns on, I put a lot of effort into improving.  This could apply to my work, hobbies and other things.   So while I made some small improvements for myself this year, I see a lot of work ahead.  Yet, unlike previous years, I feel I have a road map of what I need to work on and look to come back strong for the 2011-2012 high school season.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Getting To The Next Level

Tonight, I worked a boys varsity game for the only the third time this season.  At this point in my officiating career, I do primarily freshman, JV boys/girls games or varsity girls basketball games.    I don't get any marquee games though you'll always get competitive games at any level.

The surprise was that I got a fairly decent (at least for myself) boys varsity game.  The game feature probably the best team in this particular league (the visiting team) and a home team that was about .500 in league play.  The home team hung tough for a half but the visitors pulled away in the second half for a 30 point win.

The most interesting take away this game was from my veteran partner.  The game got a little intense at times and my partner spent most of the night talking to players and coaches to keep situations under control.  After the game, my partner and I had a good talk.  My partner felt I could have been more vocal and demonstrative in handling some of the situations that occurred.

In his opinion, he felt that was holding me back.  He expressed that I was a solid game official but needed to manage game situations better.  Ultimately, officiating is only one aspect of basketball.  The other aspect is managing game situations (players, coaches, scorekeepers, etc) that come up.

It's funny that my partner brought it up.  This is something I've been aware of for quite some time.  I will freely admit that it's a weakness of mine.  I had thought about how I could work on this aspect of my officiating.  Unfortunately, I don't think I ever found something that worked for me.

While my partner's talk was useful, I actually learned more  from my observations of his interactions with the coaches and players during the game.    I remember most of the situations and how he handled them.

The points I learned was two fold:

You have to be AWARE of all the game situations.  In our case tonight, players were jockeying for position a little harder than was needed.    I was aware of the situations throughout.

Awareness is one thing.  Actually doing something is another.  I fell short a bit in the game management side though I did OK in officiating the game action.  This is what separates the average official from the great ones.

On one hand, I am little frustrated I missed an opportunity to step up and show a different side of myself.  On the other hand, the talk from my partner was probably what I needed the most.  

While I don't have a ton of high school games left in the season to work on this aspect of my officiating, I have a ton of kids and adult league games throughout the rest of 2011 to put in a lot of practice.  

What's funny about this situation tonight is how similar it was to my work situation last year.  At work, I knew I had issues to work on.  I thought I knew how to address them but apparently my efforts failed.  It took a talk from my boss (and others) plus some studying to get me back on track.

In fact, the confidence that I gained from bouncing back at work has quietly seeped into my officiating.   So while I do have things to work on, I feel like I have been more confident overall in the majority of the basketball games I have officiated this season.

Now the next step of improvement is in front of me and I plan to work on it like I did for my work situation last year.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Never Judge A Game By It's Cover

A couple of weeks ago or so, I was assigned to the a varsity girls basketball game which I worked tonight. The game was scheduled at 6:15 PM which indicated it was a rivalry game.  The freshman and sophomore boys and girls teams would play earlier in the afternoon while the boys varsity teams would play after the girls.   The game was held at a school which I was super familiar with.  One of my adult basketball leagues plays at the school every summer so it was almost like coming home.

While I was familiar with both schools that were playing, I was not familiar with either team.  I personally like to get an idea of the teams that are playing so I did a little research.  The home team was 2-10 overall for the season while the visiting team was 11-5 overall for the season.   Judging from the team's records alone, I thought the game could be a major mismatch.  The good news was that I was working with a good partner so I was eager to work no matter how the game turned out.

However, never underestimate the effect the home court has on teams.  In front of a packed house, the home team played inspired basketball and led throughout the game.  At one point they had an 11 point lead.  As the game entered the fourth quarter, the home team was still leading.  I remember thinking "The visiting team hasn't made their run yet".  Lo and behold, the visiting team went on a tear, eventually took the lead and pulled away for a 6 point victory.

My partner and I were on the same page throughout and the game flowed fine.  However, there were a couple of fouls that I probably wished I did something different.  One foul on the home team I could have passed on. The other foul on the home team could have been passed on or called on another player.  The second foul call was a tough one as I fouled out the home team's best player.  There was also another minor hiccup when my partner didn't realize I had called a shooting foul and initiated a switch with me that wasn't required.

Besides that, it was a fun game to officiate.  These kind of games are a little far and few between for me.   But when they come along, I enjoy them completely.  I hope to get more before my high school season is over.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's All In The Details

After spending a week in Virginia, I hit the ground running when I came back into town Friday.  Six hours after I landed, I was working a JV girls basketball game.  The game was competitive and we got by without a hitch.

Today, I worked a boys and girls varsity double header for an independent high school basketball league The league is comprised of smaller schools that do not participate in the State basketball playoff structure.  I've worked some of these games before as did my partner.  We knew what to expect in terms of intensity and play.

However, because these teams are outside of the State playoff structure, they aren't particularly well versed on some of the finer details of the rules even though the National Federation Basketball rules still cover their league.

Among the things my partner and I noticed:

  1. One team had no numbers on the front of their jerseys (Federation Rule)
  2. Another team had the numbers 7 and 17 on their jerseys (only numbers 1 through 5 allowed)
We caught this and did what we needed to address the situation (technicals) and the games were played like usual.  My partner and I had a good laugh about the situation because officials can sometime take things for granted.   We assume that all schools know what they are doing but it took an example of today that not every school knows what is going on. 

It was a good reminder today to stay mentally focused on the details. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An Unusual Day Of Officiating

Today was a bit of an odd day.  I was checking the news today and was shocked to read that a popular and well known local varsity basketball coach had suddenly passed away yesterday at the age of 50.  While I personally didn't know this particular coach that well, I had seen him around.  In fact, I had seen him as recently as a week ago during a basketball tournament.  The coach was there scouting a team that they were going to play during their league season.

Due to the sudden death of the coach, the first game for his boy's varsity basketball team was postponed until a later date.    However,  the rest of the league continued on.  In an interesting coincidence, I was scheduled to work the girl's varsity basketball team from the same school where the coach had just passed away.   Before the game, both coaches and teams had a moment of silence.

I think I was a little distracted due to the death of the coach.  Even though I didn't know him well, it's sad to think about all the friends, family and kids the coach left behind.  In fact, I think the school's girls varsity team was affected as well.  The girls seemed out of sorts as well as the girl's varsity coach (whom I know).

Focusing on the officiating aspect, it was not an easy game to officiate.  Both teams were pretty sloppy early and it was difficult to get a flow.  If you've never officiated in this particular gym, the configuration is not conducive to officiating.  The gym is long enough but the walls are basically out of bounds.  The team's benches are located at one end line.

Therefore, you are basically on the court the whole time and getting angles is difficult.  At the end line where the benches are located, you are in no man's land.  If you stay on the baseline, there's not enough depth to get angles on some plays.  If you go wide to the wall to get a wider angle, you lose vision on some post play.

Given the distraction of the moment of silence and the general sloppiness of play, I felt I was a little out of sorts throughout the game.  The game was competitive and overall my partner and I took care of our business.   However, this was one of more difficult games to work recently.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

It's A Matter Of Perspective

About a month or so ago, I was officiating a freshman/sophomore girls basketball tournament and had a conversation with my partner between games.  What stood out during the conversation was my partner's point about being careful when you talk about a call your partner made.

There were two specific points about this.  The first point is that some partners DO NOT LIKE having other people questioning their calls, even if it's just to discuss things.    If you know your partner well, then it's not a particularly big deal.  However, if it's a partner you don't know well, you may have to dance carefully, even if your intention is not to offend.   In fact, I may have done that a few weeks prior to a partner (again unintentionally).

The second point is the primary point though.  The fact is officiating is a matter of perspective.  Everyone in the gym from the players, coaches, fans, and scorekeepers have their own perspective.  However, it's the officials that have the final say.   Even though officials work together to manage the game, each official also has their own perspective.

What the lead official sees from his location may not be the same as the trial and vice versa.   My partner brought up an example where a play occurred and there was a camera angle that showed what the trial official saw.  From that perspective, there did not appear to be any foul.   However, when the angle of the lead official was shown, there was definitely a foul that was seen that could not have been seen from the trial's perspective.

It was a very eye opening discussion but a stark reminder at just how difficult officiating is.  As someone who's coached, played and officiated, I understand the difference perspectives involved.  However, folks who have not officiated before sometimes do not grasp this.  I hope that everyone will learn to appreciate that what you see on the court is determined by your perspective.  Officials are generally the ones with the best perspective as they are constantly moving.  Fans and coaches do not generally most themselves to get the best angle yet they are constantly berating officials for "missed calls".  I hope that fans and coaches get a better appreciation of this aspect instead of just blindly berating officials.