Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Feeling Good!

This might sound like a repeat of my last post but it isn't.  Last week, I was asked to fill in for a frosh-soph boys basketball game.  Because of some personal things, I hadn't work much in the past few months.  But since the game fit my schedule relatively well, I took the game.

I was working with a relatively new partner too but we hit it off.  I told him that our goal was just to have fun on the court and we did just that.  The home team took an early lead but stumbled in the second half.  The visiting team hit a three point buzzer beater to tie the game and send it to overtime.  The visiting team ended up winning 44-42.

I was surprised that I was relatively sharp on the court.  I was a little out of shape but the tempo of the game wasn't so great that I couldn't keep up.  Nothing major happened that was worth discussing.  My partner and I were on the same page and worked well together.

I will say that I discussed the situation where the home team might foul the visiting team before they shot the game tying three pointer.  I told my partner that if a foul was coming, he'd better get it fast before the shooter got into the act.  Alas, the home team didn't foul and they had a chance to.

All in all, I'm not going to work too many games this year in high school but at least I had a fun one!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Getting Back Into The Saddle (at least for a day........)

Due to various personal things, I had not planned to officiate any high school basketball games this year.   However, I was pressed into officiating a game this past Saturday.  I had missed a mandatory meeting with my officials group back in October.  I had a choice of paying the $25 fine OR working a scrimmage for free to pay off the fine.

Despite it was a holiday weekend, I chose to work off the fine.  I took an 8:30 AM freshman scrimmage.  The timing was tough but it actually went ok.  I got to work early and leave early so I get back to doing the stuff I needed to take care of.

I could write a lot of things, but Saturday was probably one of the most interesting in a while.  I had not BEEN on a basketball court in several months.  Due to a hand injury, I had not played any basketball nor officiated any basketball as well.  I figured I was a bit out of shape but I was able to get up and down reasonably well.

I was surprised my judgement was fairly sharp.  Yes, it was a bunch of freshman and not varsity level guys but I felt good on the court.

Lastly, even though I don't plan to be working much this year, I did have fun on the court.  I realize that I do enjoy my time on the court.  I may not be officiating much high school but will remain involved through youth and other tournaments if time permits.  Sacrificing high school basketball was a personal choice.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tough Volleyball Officiating Day

Been a while since I posted but that's because I haven't been super active.  In fact, I was supposed to officiate a basketball tournament a week ago.  However, due to a hand fracture, i was given a splint and instructed to not do any heavy physical activity.  Thus I had to cancel out of the tournament a few days before which sucked.  Since my injury I haven't done a lot of exercise except for walking.

I did get a check up a week later with the orthopedic surgeon.  The surgeon said I was lucky my injury was relatively minor and would heal in time without surgery.  He told me to drop the splint BUT I still could not play sports.  I could do cardio workout but I still have not done so.

What I did do was officiate some volleyball.  Volleyball doesn't exert a lot of effort and all I have to do is avoid flying volleyballs to my hand.

However, this past Saturday was a bit of a tough day.  Thanks to the BART strike, I was rushing around on Friday.  I had to rush home from work, get my car and get out to officiate.  It didn't help the week was a little long so I was knocked out after officiating a couple of games on Friday.  I fell asleep for a few hours, woke up, took a shower and went back to bed.

Alas, I OVERSLEPT a bit on Saturday and was late to my first game at 9 AM.  Fortunately, the gym director took care of the first game and I worked the last two games at 10 AM / 11 AM.  The two games were pretty good considering some of these youth volleyball games can be yawners at times.

There were a few plays in both games that I had to deal with.  One involved a coach was a little loud and that bled over to the another team while serving.  I had warn him before he finally understood to keep quiet.   If I recalled correctly, there were a couple of close plays where girls positioned themselves to hit balls that were out of bounds.  I believe one of them did hit a girl.  The other play was a tough one.  It was one my side of the court but opposite the net where the line judge was located.  I quickly looked over and saw the girl running and the ball dropped.  The girl's back was too me and the ball dropped IN FRONT of the girl.

I knew I had to make a snap decision and I called the BALL OUT and said there was no touch.  In looking back, I may have down things a little differently.  I could have asked the line judge on that side of the court to see if they had seen the play.  Or I could have called for a replay.  I only mention this as a coach questioned my call.  My answer to her was "there was no touch before the ball hit the ground".

That was a tough play but I find volleyball an interesting sport.  Basketball may be more exciting but when volleyball is played between two relatively equal teams, volleyball officials can have a lot of work to do.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Why I Love Officiating

After not officiating for a while, I snuck in a couple of nights of officiating this week including tonight (Friday).  The first game was a consolation game followed by two playoff semi-finals games in an adult league that I play in.  The league is divided by divisions and I was working the "Bronze" (aka "4th Division") tonight with my friend.  

My friend is a former high school official.  In fact, it was him and other friend that encouraged me to join the high school officiating group back in 2002.  Alas, while I stuck around for the past decade, both my friends dropped out after a couple of years. 

The first game tonight was a consolation game followed by two playoff semi-final games.  The consolation game was relatively laid back.  In fact, it was two teams from the same organization that were playing each other.  The teams did not play each other in the regular season (there are two divisions) but were obviously familiar with each other.  

The second game was a battle of the top seed in the division versus what looked like the lowest seed.   The top seed was HUGE (three kids topping 6'2") with some quick guards.  The lower seed wasn't anywhere close in terms of height and athletic ability.  But they knew how to play and they gave the top seed all the could handle for 40 minutes.  In the end, the top seed had just a little bit more and pulled away for the victory.  

An interesting situation happened during this game which I will need to look into more.  A player from the top seed took a shot and MISSED horribly.  In fact, the player shot from the baseline and the ball cleared but landed on the floor without touching anything.  My friend called a violation but I wasn't 100% sure so I chose not to overrule him.  We talked about this afterward.  I told my friend that since the ball went right over the backboard and didn't touch anything before hitting the floor, it was likely ok.  I personally would have let it go.   Overall, it didn't impact the game though it was an interesting lesson to take in. 

The third and final game of the night was the best game I've seen in this summer league this year.  It seemed like a battle of the 2nd / 3rd seeds (though I don't think the setup was this way).  Both teams had some good guard play though one team had a little more size.  The game was even throughout and went into TWO OVERTIMES before the bigger team prevailed 52-48.  Lots of intensity and I had to calm the players and coaches a bit during the game.  

While this was the "Bronze" division, it didn't mean the games were not good.  It was fun to work and a reminder of why I stay involved in officiating.  It's not about the money but a chance to see and work some good basketball games. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Back On The Court / May Not Be Back For A While

I hadn't officiated many games since the end of May.  I worked a few youth tournaments but otherwise had disappeared off the officiating map.  A part of it was I had been busy and booked with some things.

The other thing was a little more personal.  I am dealing with some family things and something had to be sacrificed.  At the moment, I've chosen to sacrifice basketball officiating.  While I greatly enjoy being on the court, I just cannot commit to working any games.

However, thanks for a few of the basketball leagues I play in, I got a chance to officiate.  I worked two wednesday ago, last night and will work again this Friday night.  It was good to get on the court even if it was on a volunteer basis.

Of course, this leads to yet another issue I have to make a decision on.  Will I officiate during the upcoming high school basketball season?  I took a leave for the 2011-2012 season for a different reason but returned last season.  I personally hate to take another leave but circumstances may force me to make that choice.  I am not 100% what I am going to do at the moment but will decide in the next month or so.

There is an upside.  I won't be completely giving up officiating.   I stopped officiating youth basketball toward the end of May to deal with my family things.  However, things have settled where I can squeeze in a few games if I wanted to when the next youth season rolls around.  In fact, I may squeeze in some youth volleyball as well.

I am fortunate to have options and for that I am thankful.  I'll continue to blog on any interesting things that come up though.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Some Universal Truths About Officiating

Early this past Saturday, I hoped over to a local softball field for a softball rules and umpiring clinic.   Am I becoming a baseball or softball umpire?  Hardly.  However, I am participating in a adult softball league for the first time.  The league is run by the same group that runs a summer basketball league that I also participate in during the summer.  Both softball and basketball have players from all the teams umpire / officiate games throughout the season.  

The plus is players get to see both sides.  The minus is that many people are NOT trained officials.   I was asked to drop by the softball clinic today as another guy on my team couldn't make it.  I didn't mind as it was close to home plus I was curious about softball rules.  I watch enough baseball to know the basics but I'm sure there are details I didn't know about. 

However, I didn't learn a ton about detailed softball rules.  Most of the stuff focused on how the league runs things and some discussion on specific situations like the infield fly rule among a few other things. That was actually fine as it is almost impossible to learn "EVERYTHING" in 1 1/2 hours of talking. 

The most interesting part was when the softball league coordinators discussed the basic of umpiring a game.  There was talk about confidence, positioning and communication.  That sounds a lot like just about any other sport you would officiate out there.  

The softball league coordinators points:

FOCUS / BE ENGAGED:  Officiating is sometimes seen as a chore in these self officiated sports leagues.  But if you are working any sporting event,  you need to be engaged and look like you care.  Even if you're not getting paid, the teams deserve a good effort from everyone involed.  

POSITIONING:   The engagement discussion leads to positioning.  Just like basketball, you need to see the play and position yourself to see everything you need to see.  In softball, you need to be able to see the runner, fielder AND the ball on mostly every play.  This means you have to move as every play will be different.  One spot will not do it.  

COMMUNICATION:  Just with any sports, you have to communicate (loudly as noted early).  You need to communicate with your other umpires and the teams as well on situations.  

I don't know if I will umpire any games for my team this season.  If I do, I feel comfortable in working the games.  I'm sure that unusual situation will throw me off.  However, as a long time basketball official, the basic principles of focus, positioning and communication are something that can be easily adapted to softball.  The rest is learned through experience and reading rules more.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

"Ball Don't Lie"

Maybe I'm showing my age but it's only been recently that I've been hearing the term "Ball Don't Lie" thrown around.    I read online that the term originated in the NBA and has filtered down to the lower levels.

The term is a reference to a foul called by an official that people feel is unwarranted.   It is used in situations when the offended player shoots and misses their free throws.   It is an insult to the offended player shooting because he didn't deserve the foul.  Additionally, it is bit of a snide remark to officials for making what some people felt was a unwarranted foul call.

Personally, I find it a bit annoying.  It's not the fault of the player that got fouled.  If there is a questionable foul call, it is what it is.  From an officials perspective, It's a way of making a snide remark to the official without directly confronting the official.

I'm not sure what happened to good sportsmanship and respecting an officials call.  NBA players and coaches tend to complain a lot to officials.  A lot of that is shown on TV and thus influences the behavior of many people when they play basketball.   I see it on the courts as a player and an official.

Unfortunately, not a lot you can do about it.  I would ask that people enjoy the NBA game as entertainment but not emulate some of the antics out there.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's A Matter Of Perspective

I play in quite a few adult basketball leagues throughout the year.  In most of the leagues, there are NO paid officials.  Most of the games are officiated by teams on their bye weeks.   If you're a basketball official reading this, you can imagine how inconsistent the officiating can get.   Fortunately, while the leagues are competitive, the games never get out of hand.

As I am generally the most experienced official in these leagues, I volunteer a lot of time officiating when there aren't enough people from the teams to work certain games.   I don't mind helping out but occasionally my bad side comes out.

Something I wondered for a long time is why players complain even when I am officiating.  I always hear people say they are "glad" I am officiating.  I can understand because the players in the league don't officiate regularly.  So there will be inconsistency and that leads to frustration.   I generally feel I am consistent in what I call. Yet, some level of complaining still persists.

After officiating Monday evening and being slightly annoyed, I had some ideas:

Players are competitive and if they feel there should have been a whistle, they will complain no matter who it is that is officiating.  This part I actually have no problems with.  It's just a fact of life that all basketball officials face.

Inexperienced officials could swing toward blowing the whistle TOO MANY times or NOT ENOUGH times.  More experienced officials will tend to fall somewhere in between.  The reason is the experienced officials are constantly analyzing plays and see if a whistle is needed.

Unfortunately players don't understand that officials are there to make a judgement call.  So if they are used to an official calling a lot of fouls, then the more experienced officials is seemingly calling LESS.  If players are used to NOT ENOUGH fouls, the experienced official is seemingly calling MORE.

I realized I need to not hold players to my own standards.    I always remind myself that I will do my best to minimize my complaining when I am coaching or playing in leagues.  In general, I am pretty good though I will express my frustration at times.  In essence, I am not perfect just like everyone else.

At the end of the day, it's a matter of perspective.    Even though I have a ton of basketball experience, I'm still learning every day I am on the court.

Monday, January 21, 2013

You Have Questions, We Have Answers

I had lunch with a fellow basketball official in late November and he mentioned that he had heard about my blog. While he hadn't read it too much, he liked what I was doing and had a suggestion.  He asked me to write something along the lines regarding "officials and communication".

This particular post will focus a little bit on communication though not all of the items I will write about eventually.  Consider this a precursor and/or a complaint session!  

I am pretty sure I posted about this before but one of the lessons I learned about sports officiating is that you don't just "blow the whistle".    I've been told many times by other officials that I "blow the whistle" good.  In layman's terms, I have fairly good judgement on game situations.

While it is great that fellow officials support your judgement, 50% of your calls will not be favorable to a certain team.  Even if you are 100% sure you are right, there will be people (mainly coaches, sometimes players) that will question your calls. 

In years past, if someone questioned my call, I would either get defensive or angry (depending on the type of league and the situation).  Occasionally, I would also wonder if maybe "I got the call wrong".  That type of attitude really drains you of your confidence. 

Yet in the past few years, two things have changed.  One, I am more confident in my calls.  I don't question myself.  It doesn't mean I get things wrong but I don't get down on myself.  You just acknowledge that "maybe you could have done better" and just move on. The second part is most important though.  If someone DOES question you, then you have to give a good answer:   Coaches may not like your answer but they will respect you if you talk to them. 

I used to NOT like dealing with coaches.  Yet for some reason, I welcome coaches questioning me these days.  A part of it may be that my job requires me to talk to customers in a sales capacity.  I get questions (or objections) about our products on a daily basis.  In sales, you have to stay calm, be relaxed and deal with objections in a very factual manner.  Good practice for officiating!  

Now, onto the "complaint" section.   For some reason, especially in youth and adult leagues, complaining to officials is a given:

"Where's the foul"
"3 seconds"

If people are more polite and "ask" what the officials saw, we will be more inclined to respond more politely.  However, if people just scream at officials about missed calls, we are more likely to ignore them (at best) or give them a technical (at worst). 

As I noted in the subject line, "You Have Questions, We Have Answers".  People are always welcome to ask us a question (well, maybe not EVERY call, but major ones).  Officials will accommodate with answers as best they can. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Playoff Atmosphere

Coming into this high school season, I had every intention of limiting my schedule a bit.  Work was just too busy.  It was stressful trying to leave work early to make it to gyms in time for games.

However, I did receive a couple games from an assignor fairly early including one tonight.  Given my leave of absence last season, I figured they were non-marquee games and so I just accepted them and moved on. As the preseason wore on in 2012, something interesting happened.   The two teams I had tonight had established themselves as potentially the top two teams in the league.

My non-marquee game had suddenly turned into first meeting of the season between two teams who might meet again in the playoffs and/or championship.  The visiting team was the defending league champion and favorite to win the championship game.  The home team had established themselves as a solid team but was it enough to dethrone the defending champs? In an up and down game, the visitors rallied for a late five point deficit and knock off the home team 48-41.

How did the officiating go?  Overall, I think my partner and I did fine.  We faced several frustrating obstacles.  The first was that the gym where the game was played is not regulation length wise (it is wide enough).   It compacted things a bit and the game was a little physical.

My partner and I had discussed during the pre-game to "let the teams play a bit".   Both teams did play and we did let them try to play through things.  In the first half, we didn't have a lot of team fouls.  The second half played out similarly until the end when the home team has to foul to try to get back into the game.

The second obstacle was the scoreboard horn WAS NOT WORKING.  Overall, it wasn't a big deal EXCEPT for a play at the end of the second period.  The visiting team managed to secure the ball for a fast break in the final seconds.  The gym had only one scoreboard.  As the visiting player drove to the basket, I had to sneak peeks at both the player and the clock to see if the player got the shot off in time. In that situation, I wasn't particularly worried about a foul.  My partner told me there wasn't a foul but I learned how to handle it for the future.  If there is a play like that in the future, I would just make sure the shot got off in time and my partner would need to pick up defense and fouls.   We didn't really pre-game it as it's a rare situation for the horn not to work.

The last obstacle was the scorekeepers were not very experienced.  Lots of shot clock resets when it wasn't needed, lots of clocks not starting time and other things.  I corrected the clocks multiple times and know I probably missed a few as I did not want to impede the flow of the game (offensive team rebounded the ball, reset and took a quick shot).

There was also a Chris Webber moment.  The home team was trailing late and had the ball underneath their basket.  The visiting team defended the inbounds well and the home team player inbounding signaled for a timeout.  I remember thinking "Partner, ignore it" but he granted the timeout.  Unfortunately, the home team was OUT OF TIMEOUTS.  My partner noted he forgot that the home team was out of timeouts.   It wasn't really his fault nor the player's fault.  I had informed the home team coach that he has no more timeouts after the last one had been called a few minutes earlier.

Overall, the game itself was great.  The obstacles were a little annoying but overall the game was under control.  I had some fun as well.  Can't complain for a guy who doesn't have a lot of games to get a solid game under the beat.   One can dream, but I'd love to work these two teams again in the playoffs or championship!