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!