Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Transitions & Setting Priorities

I've been officiating youth basketball since 1993 and high school basketball since 2002.  When I first started officiating youth basketball, it wasn't because I loved it.  Like my high school or college aged kids these days, I was strictly officiating for the money.

I was living at home and going to college nearby.  I wasn't working at the time though I spent a great deal of time as a volunteer basketball coach for my grammar school.  Since I was coaching, doing officiating made a lot of sense.  I could earn a bit of money during the time I was not coaching.  

I kept officiating youth basketball for many years but I found myself getting bored.  The games felt repetitive and I had stagnated a bit.  In was in the Fall of 2002 that I joined my local high school officiating group.  

Jumping into high school games was a change.  Though I thought I was a good official, I found that I had a lot to learn.  While it has taken me a lot of years to feel comfortable, I found that the learning experience renewed my enthusiasm as the youth level as well.  

Unfortunately, I ran into a lot of roadblocks with my high school officiating.  For one, my work schedule never really allowed me to officiate as many high school games as I wanted to.  Yet despite the roadblocks, I had some good years where I managed to work some playoff games.   While there are many who aspire higher, I am happy to have gotten a chance to work in the playoffs. In an ideal world, I would like to get a chance to work any games I wanted to and not worry about work.  But the world is not always ideal.  

Last year was a bit of a transition.  I had some things I wanted to take care of so I took the year off from high school officiating.   I made a decision this past May to return to high school officiating.  Though I decided to return,  I made a quiet decision to reduce my schedule. 

There were many reasons for this.  One was that I was quite settled in my job.  Leaving work early to officiated 4 PM games were just difficult in my position.  In years past, I would MAKE every effort to cut out of work to go officiate.  I wouldn't accept every early game but i would take a few and decline others just so I could go work. 

However, I no longer could leave early consistently.  I have a sales team I need to support.  While they don't need me every day, lots of things come up at the last moment.   I had to set the priority that my job comes first and my hobbies come second. 

But beyond the work situation, I also had been scaling back officiating overall the past few years.  Many times, officiating would get in the way of meeting up with friends or even just playing basketball.  I told myself that my personal life was more important than being an official.  

Thus as I enter the 2012-2012 high school season, my priority is to enjoy the games (even if they are only a limited number) I do get.  I'm not concerned about the quality or the level of the game.  In the past,  I was concerned about the quality of the games I was getting because I hoped I could work my way up.  These days, I'm going to enjoy being at the gym, working with my partner, and a chance to get some exercise.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

NFL Replacement Officials ARE Real Officials

There's been a lot of complaints by coaches and other interested parties about the quality of the replacement officials in the NFL.   The thing that irks me is that many people are calling for the "REAL" NFL referees to return as soon as possible.

Guess what?  The replacement ARE real referees.  According to the news reports I've read, most of the replacement officials work junior college,  Division II and Division III college football.  The quality of football at that level is not comparable to the NFL (or even Division I).  However, these officials ARE BETTER than your usual couch potato who's watching an NFL game from home.

It's unfortunate these replacement officials are being thrust into this position.   As a basketball official, I fully understand what these replacement officials are going through.  As a sports official, most people work their way up from the youth leagues, high school, college and then possibly the pros.

As you go up the chain, the quality of the games increase and there's only so many people that have the ability to work at the college and pro levels.   There is the physical ability to keep up with elite athletes. The other part is the knowledge and judgement to make quick decisions during a game.

For me personally, I'm perfectly fine officiating youth, high school and adult league basketball.  But even then, I don't officiate top flight varsity high school basketball.    I've done my share of games and I'm reasonably competent in what I do.

However, I've worked summer camps and leagues with higher level of high school teams.  Early on, it was a TOUGH adjustment to officiate higher quality games.  Over time, as my experience has grown, things have gotten easier.

The replacement officials are likely facing the same thing.  Most people usually don't go from officiating lower level football to working NFL games.  There is a process to ensure the integrity of the games.  The NFL's lockout of the regular officials have forced more inexperienced officials to work.  Yes, it is not looking pretty but in time they will get better.

But don't say that these "replacement officials" are not REAL officials.  They willingly accepted these assignments and without them, there would be no NFL games for us to watch.  While some of the officials may be struggling a bit, I am sure that some of them are ENJOYING the experience.  After all, there are only a select few that get the chance to officiate in a professional sports league.