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.