Saturday, August 14, 2010

We're moving.

I've decided to forgo anonymity and head over to a new location. Anyone who has been reading here in the past is welcome over there.

The most important part: I'm using my name over there, and will therefore not allow just anyone to read my gamelogs. Those posts will be password-protected.

However, if you've been a regular reader here, I want you to continue to read over there. So please click on the "How to access password-protected posts" link in the banner and follow the directions (which means emailing me).

Here's the link. Head on over for Part Two of this blog's adventure.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


I didn't attend a camp last year. The February birth of my son meant I didn't want to invest time or money in anything like that.

Which means that this year, I want to go to a camp.

We have a local camp I attended two years ago, back in the I-want-people-around-here-to-see-me phase. I learned a fair amount, and I suppose I could head back there. However, there's a perception issue. As I'm moving up in this association, I don't want to put myself in the position of guy-who-still-has-to-learn-from-the-top-dudes-in-the-association. It's not that I don't have any improvement to make--I do. But perception is reality, and as I'm becoming a local crew chief quite often, I'm not sure I want to put myself back in that position again.

So I recalled a camp I went to ten years ago. It was tied to a girls' AAU tournament that drew great players from all around the country. I remember knowing I was reffing some damn fine talent when I walked into a gym and passed Tara VanDerVeer walking out.

I received a LOT of good feedback that year, but in retrospect, I didn't know what the hell I was doing. So I'm curious as to what I'd get out of it if I returned.

The problem? It's $450. That's about a third of what I make officiating every year.

That's too much. I won't pay it. (Last time I went, I was on a scholarship.)

So I'm sort of poking around, looking for a cheaper place to go that won't necessitate a hotel but won't cost more than $175...$200 at the absolute most.

And I'm not optimistic. This may be a camp-free year.

(It will not, however, be without honest-to-goodness workouts. It's not just the reffing. It's that being a dad makes me want to live longer. Oh, and as the kid gets bigger, I need to develop some strength to carry the dude.)

Game Log 3/8/2010: Afterthought

After my most excellent final games, there was a danger of overlooking the last couple of junior high boys ballgames I had yesterday. But I geared up for it, knowing that the top junior high boys games I had about six weeks ago were pretty high-quality, and I had one of the same teams.

Didn't need to gear up. With four officials there, we figured (and we later determined incorrectly, alas) that my partner and I were on the lesser court with JV junior high players.

In retrospect, we should have stepped up and taken the better games. My partner was a fellow varsity official, and we were a better crew for the more challenging game. But it didn't seem worth a fight, and two of the other guys (including my partner) insisted that my partner and I were on the lesser court. It doesn't matter--pay is the same--except that there were some complaints from the upper gym...they weren't calling fouls, one of the guys wasn't crossing halfcourt, etc. But anyway, it's over.

We sort of coasted through our games...seldom switched on fouls (running clock makes this not merely evidence of laziness). Both games were blowouts; neither had any issues from anyone. I remember nothing except trying to stay focused so that it didn't bungle the end of my year. We got through without any issues...and now the year is officially done. 40 games. Nice round number.

GOOD: Call selection in low-quality game, attempted partner communication (although he seldom looked at me)
WORK ON: Stay in shape (groin was barking due to a 3-week exercise-free break), don't get lazy

NEXT: I want to go to camp, but I don't want to spend more than $175. I therefore may not go to camp. More to follow...imminently.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

09/10 Season In Review

I'll ignore the junior high games I have in three weeks' time, and say that my season officially ended with the marvelous games I had 9 days ago. And I will now continue the rich tradition of giving myself honest feedback at the end of the season (a tradition that went into hiatus last year due to the birth of my son).

First, the numbers:

I officiated 38 games this season:

14 girls' varsity
11 girls' JV
5 boys' varsity
2 boys' JV
1 boys' freshman
4 boys' junior high
1 girls' junior high

This compares favorably to the last two seasons, when I had a lot more freshman games. I was used almost exclusively on JV/Varsity doubleheaders this year. Additionally, I was the crew chief for about 75% of my games this year. I take both of these to be a sign of trust from my assignor, which I take seriously.

Those of you who read this regularly know that I can be pretty hard on myself. In fact, just a couple of years ago in this space, I quite honestly said that I had not had a very good year.

But this was probably my best year I've ever had.

First of all, empirically, the games went well. I've just read all 38 game logs, and there was only one night that I wasn't happy at the end of it--and that was just because of one call. Other than that, I handled every game that came my way smoothly. When I was being sent to tiny schools as crew chief, I got us through the games smoothly. When I was surprised with a tough boys' game, I certainly felt the challenge (and the coaches weren't necessarily fans), but the game went as well as I can imagine it could. Can I handle [REDACTED]? Yep. I can get the crew back together to have a decent second half. And finally, when I had a close, important girls' game late in the year, it was honestly the best night of my reffing life.

I look back over the year and I feel nothing but competent. I kept writing "coach management" down as a thing I did well, and I think it's because I'm only now figuring out what to listen to, what to ignore, and what to shut down. My partners give me pretty good evaluations, and my assignments, as I said above, get a little better every year (this was the first year I was assigned any boys' Varsity games that were not attached to girls' games).

So I will give myself a pat on the back. Yay me.

I do think I managed to improve quite a bit this year in slowing down at the spot. I'm not saying so many stupid things as the whistle falls out of my mouth anymore. And when I watched myself on the videotape, I still cringe a little at my physical appearance, but I do think I've improved at least a little bit. I do plan on spending a little money this summer to get a personal trainer, and will fire off an email to a triathlete fellow ref as soon as the playoffs wind down.

As far as stuff I keep seeing in the "things to work on" area, there are two.

1. MENTAL FATIGUE. As it happens, the basketball season coincides with the busiest part of the year in my day job. Add a baby to the mix, and I sort of didn't get enough sleep. I noticed, especially in December, that I was mentally less than with it on the floor sometimes. I stopped commenting about that in January and February. I don't think it's that I was less tired...somehow I adjusted. But, nonetheless, I need to be careful to take care of me a bit more next year--be sure I sleep enough and don't arrive at the gym tired. It isn't a good thing.

2. CALLING TOO MUCH AS LEAD. This continues to be an issue. I can't seem to lay off the call across the paint when I'm lead. I've put this down for the past couple of years, and I still need to hold off on those whistles just a bit. This is true on drives and on some rebounds as well...I need to trust my partners on the former and be sure I have a good angle on the latter. I don't trust the blanket statement I hear that "almost all calls should come from the C and T." If it happens in my area, and I'm L, and I have a good angle, isn't that what I have a whistle for? But I do get this feedback often enough that I need to re-commit to this next year.

It's going to be a busy summer...minor surgery will take away a couple of weeks, and a buddy's wedding another week, and a possible business-related trip one more...but I still feel like it's time for camp. Not the local association's camp, either...I feel like putting myself in the "learner" position there over and over actually hampers people's perceptions of me. Instead, I think I'd like to head to a bigger camp across town--the same one I went to 10 years ago. Back then, I was in over my head. This time, I think it will really help more...going at a time when I'm better able to handle the suggestions.

HOWEVER, I think I know what I'll get...a lot of people saying "You don't run well." Why pay $250 for that? Maybe I just focus on the personal trainer this summer instead. I must decide...

Again, thanks to anyone who reads this. You keep me honest and accountable. And that helps, even in as good a year as this one.

Massive ovation for me

Had a freshman girls' game slated for Thursday.

My brother was in from out of town with his family, and I invited him out to watch me work. The game was a ways out in the boonies--far, far from their hotel--so I was flattered they came out. I met them for a pre-game meal. My brother asked if he could passionately, loudly cheer for us when we came out. I said "please, please don't."

On top of the fact I was being watched, I was eager to end the season on a good note. We were on are way there--we got there early, had a good pre-game, and headed to gym #2.

When I got there, there were no teams, no coaches, and no nothing...just my brother and his family.

Clearly, there was a scheduling snafu.

So I figured--what the hell. As I walked onto the empty floor, I put my hands above my head and started running around the court, getting all the applause I possibly could from the only four people in the gym. They did not disappoint. It was loud.

Two minutes later, a freshman coach came in and said "didn't they tell you the visiting team doesn't have a freshman squad?"

Nope, they didn't. So, while I'm happy to get paid for not working, and I'm pleased to have a mistake-free night where I didn't even break a sweat, I'd have rather had the game, especially since I inconvenienced my brother. But the big ovation was nice.

Net result: my season is over. And I'll blog a season-in-review within a couple days.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Game Log 2/11/2010: This is what it's all about.

Loads of games last night, which means that everyone is in use, which means that I got bumped up to R in a pretty high-profile game: the best girls' team in our area, which has shown signs of vulnerability lately, seeing if it could continue an ungodly winning streak. I was excited to get switched to this game from being U on a less-high-profile game.

(Side bar: I never complain about my assignments, natch, since pretty much any game is a good game, an important game--note I said high-profile above rather than "big" or "important"--and all that. I like every game. But in the Sally Field "they like me, they really like me" sense, being R on this game means that I continue to make progress on big games.)

It turned out to be a tremendous night. It started with a very sedate blowout JV game. All I will remember from this one is that we set the coaches box a bit too high for the coach to coach effectively. I twice had to move an annoyed coach back into the box...but the box meant she was constantly having to look around the C official. Tough to coach. Partner suggested we expand the box at halftime, and we did.

Then came the varsity game--one which, due to the impressive nature of the favored team, had local TV and lots of fans present. Favorite did not come out and blow the game away early. It was tied after one. Favorite led by two at the half. There was almost nothing from either coach. Favorite picked up the first four fouls of the game, which led me to worry we'd have that coach on our backs for the game. But not so much--after foul #4, he barked at his kids: "Four fouls in three minutes. Use your feet!" Thank you, coach. I'd have said that myself if I could have.

Then, a big foul on favorite. Underdog sets a screen that favorite pushes through, knocking her over. She may have even lost teeth, at least according to underdog coach (fortunately, no blood). I reported the foul and beckoned coach. Favorite coach actually said to me "She was moving!" I hope my smirk wasn't too bad when I gave the only response I could: shaking my head and saying "no."

Halftime, partner said I was going too far downcourt as C on press. I probably was...I was trying to stay ahead of the pass by a step or two, but upon reflection, that's 2-person thinking. There's absolutely no issue in being beaten downcourt on the press. I'd rather be a step behind that play than a step in front of it.

Underdog has a great third quarter. Favorite can't put it together. Underdog is up by four after three quarters, and I'll be damned, I'm presiding over an upset that would rattle the entire area, one that would make the newspapers all over the area--maybe even the state. And we're doing an awesome job. It doesn't really feel like I'm the R--we're a 100% team out there. Not much to say after three except "we're doing great, guys, keep calling what we're calling." I can only recall one or two coach complaints all night, and only the one at me. As I wait for the fourth quarter to begin, I remind myself...stay in my area and do a good job.

But the thing is, in this, one of the more high-profile moments I had experienced in 11 years of doing this, I felt 100% calm and with it. I would NOT have felt this was as recently as 3 years ago. In fact, comparing my mental state at the only really high-profile game I had in my former big-city home, it's not even close. I owned this one tonight.

Favorite came out and hit some threes, underdog turned the ball over, and favorite managed to win by 6. One perhaps-controversial call I had with a few minutes left--a travel on favorite after she caught the ball on a fast break but before she took it in for a layup. Several short toots of the whistle and stated "Up here, she traveled." (Why did I say "up here"?) I stand by the call, but I wouldn't turn down another look at it.

In the final few minutes, as underdog fouled in a futile attempt to get back for the upset, I found myself grinning. Part of it was a cat-ate-the-canary grin...we got out of this without a single big issue. Part of it was just complete satisfaction. I was trusted with this game, and I showed I was worthy of the trust.

And part of it was my knowledge that this was my last varsity game of the season, and that I'd get to ride this high all summer long. It just felt awesome. Didn't really have a game all year that I felt bad at the end of. I'll talk about this more in my year-in-review post later on, but I'm really happy with how everything went this year.

If ever I become disillusioned and pissed off and want to quit officiating (and it will inevitably happen, as I'm sure it does to all of us), please remind me of how I felt after this game. There's really no feeling like it.

THINGS I DID WELL: Called the right fouls, great partner communication
THINGS TO WORK ON: Less verbiage at spot, stay home on press as C
NEXT UP: I officially finish the HS year with a girls' freshman game on Thursday.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Game Log 2/4/10: I do not complain about partners on my blog.

Girls' JV/Varsity doubleheader. JV was a dream to ref in the first half...minimal contact. Second half, we managed to get a few frustration fouls on Green as they endured a blowout loss. We didn't back down.

The varsity game was a challenge in all sorts of ways.

For starters, as I was about to inbound the ball to start the second quarter of the Varsity game, one of my partners [REDACTED]. Then, two seconds after the quarter started, he [REDACTED].

Not long thereafter, I had a first: I had to muzzle the road team's bookkeeper, who was barking at me repeatedly. He said he'd shut up, and he did.

Then, with about thirty seconds left in the third quarter, [REDACTED] The bench [REDACTED] I was confident that [REDACTED], so I walked up to her and asked her if [REDACTED]. But when I worked with partner on this, there was a communication issue that I didn't find out about until later. Anyway, we did the free throws and got to the end of the half.

When we approached the table at half, the road book--the guy I'd warned, was over by the home book comparing notes. [REDACTED.] That's when I decided we needed to get away from the table and into the locker room.

Once we got there, partner [REDACTED.] He said he was used to partners who would [REDACTED] in that situation, and that he was mad that I didn't. I don't remember everything he said, but [REDACTED.] I pointed out [REDACTED], but he really insisted that [REDACTED.]

My #1 goal, of course, was to calm all of this down so we could focus on the second half. I said so, saying "What we need is to get all of this behind us--end it all--so we can have a good second half." I brought the other partner in on the conversation (he had been silent), and he gave me some constructive criticism on my calls (I was reaching across the key as lead. Guilty as charged...I've been good about not doing that this year, but had an off night).

We then managed to go out and have a decent second half. My partner even [REDACTED] at the first time out (I'll look up if this was legal). We shook hands after the game and my partner said he was glad [REDACTED].

After the game was also a concern. As we headed to the parking lot together, the quieter partner mentioned a complaint that the losing coach had that we all agreed was groundless. But the angrier partner [REDACTED], which really made me uncomfortable.

All in all, I'm glad a wise man once gave me this advice, nearly exactly a year ago. It came in handy tonight. I tried to focus on my area and make the calls I needed to make and let [REDACTED] fade into the background. The second half wasn't too bad, actually...only two reaches across the key. Too many, but tonight I think I earned a mulligan. And I'll be better next time.

THINGS I DID WELL: Coach discussions went well, may have prevented [REDACTED]
THINGS TO WORK ON: Partner communication, reaching across key as lead

NEXT UP: Last JV/Varsity game of the year on Thursday. It's actually a biggish one. Not an even matchup, but first place against third (first is very far ahead of the field, though, like a horse race with Secretariat). I'll still look forward to being in that first-place gym, though.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Game log 2/2/2010: Hard foul=good for the game?

Girls and boys' small-school varsity tonight. Two very strong partners--and I got to be the R.

Neither game was good. The girls' game was never close and wound up being a 10-point spread. The boys' game was pretty miserable--White won by 60.

The first game was pretty calm...not a lot of fouls to call. I don't remember reaching the bonus for either team in either half. What I remember is a minor struggle with the last shot mechanic. We'd somehow left it out of the pregame, so when the clock ran down, we had to communciate pretty demonstratively about who had the clock. (It was whoever was facing that direction.) Also a pretty weird coach complaint late. He said he heard a slap and how could I miss it. I honestly didn't know what he was talking about, but I was lead and away from the shot. I wish I'd said that, but instead I just said I didn't know what he was referring to, but if I'd seen what he was describing, I'd have called it. After the game, my partners said they both had it...the slap was hand-on-ball. I was able to say that to the coach before the boys' game. I'm glad I got a second chance at that conference.

The boys' game was a complete mismatch. I got the sense the losing team might get frustrated, and said as much at haltime. In fact, I said I was worried we were already passing on some stuff against the losing team that we probably shouldn't. We were able to go out and get a few early, but a very hard foul actually turned the tide in this game's manageability. The winning team was on yet another fast break, and I was lead. Loser came and chased down winner as winner shot his layup, and gave him a pretty hard body-to-body contact--and arm-to-arm too. Now, this particular gym has very little room behind the hoop, so the fouled player (who made the hoop) wound up banging into the base of the wall. I immediately came up with an intentional foul (my first this season).

Partner was the star of this show, though. The foul-er was high-fiving his teammates for what he thought was his strong physical play. Partner simply approached him and pointed at the hurt player under the basket. The fouler didn't know the kid was hurt, and he immediately felt really bad.

Physical play cleaned up a lot after that. In a crazy way, the hard foul and the hurt kid (who I suspect will be okay) was very good for the game. It calmed everybody down, and we were able to cruse through the final quarter with almost no foul calls at all.

THINGS I DID WELL: Positioning, partner communication
THINGS TO WORK ON: Coach communication, got too close to a play or two
NEXT UP: Evenly matched middle-of-the-pack girls JV/Varsity on Thursday. My season is actually coming to an end in a hurry--work commitments limit me to Thursdays hereafter, so I've got games on the next three Thursdays...and then I'm through.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rules Guy

This also happened: I was visiting a varsity game where there was an unusual call in the first half. I headed into the locker room, where there was a disagreement on the call, and one of the officials looked at me and said "So, Rules Guy, who's right?"

I gave my take on it (which was right, by the way).

I'm feeling pretty good, since I have my wife give me those Referee magazine quizzes every single month, and I know that I'm pretty good about assessing the appropriate penalty. All that hard work is paying off! A veteran official trusts me with the rules! It's an honorable moniker...I'm Rules Guy!

(By the way, as an aside, wife and I have fun with the rules quizzes. As soon as wife says "A1 has the ball..." I tend to respond with "Oh, A1! Whatever will you do today?" It's a laugh a minute. Maybe we need to get a babysitter and get out for a change...)

I then asked the veteran official: "So, how did I get to be Rules Guy?"

" just look like a Rules Guy."

OK. So it's not my dogged determination to be right or my ability to get it right under pressure that he noticed by calling me Rules Guy. It was simply the fact that I'm kinda dorky-looking.

Well...I'll still choose to take it as a compliment. I'm Rules Guy.

I'll admit it...

I can't be the only person this has happened to. It's towards the end of a tough doubleheader, and I'm standing for a free throw, arms extended sideways to signal a one-and-one. And suddenly, it occurs to me...

"Man, do I ever smell bad right now."

Game Log 1/29/2010: When the junior high JV coach complains...

Challenging games on Friday. We had unskilled junior high boys who aren't quite good enough to be on the top teams. And I had a partner who was doing his fifth and sixth games...ever.

It's almost impossible to come out looking good in a game with players who--and I say this remembering my own junior high years, not to ridicule the players--aren't quite acquainted with their newly-long arms and legs. The game wasn't violent, but there was enough contact and violations that we could have blown the whistle almost all the time. On top of that, my partner was struggling, as I certainly was during my fifth and sixth games. So I tried to keep an eye all over the court...sort of had to.

Between giving encouragement and basic lessons at time outs ("Be sure to get your arm up when you blow the whistle!"), I just worked as hard as I could.

But the coach for one team kept chirping. "The fouls are ten to four!" "You can't let him plow in like that!" I talked to her once, saying that I wasn't going to listen. She kept it up. Finally, I said this during a free throw:

"Coach, this is a challenging game, and I have a partner who is new. I'm not going to listen to you today."

As soon as I said it, I felt bad. I didn't intend to throw new guy under the bus, but I sort of did. Fortunately, the coach took it the way I wanted it to be taken. She said "He's new?" and then didn't say another word all day long. But next time, I'll want to be more careful...maybe say "still learning." A more buttheaded coach could have gone a different direction.

The first game wound up being a one-point game. It came down to free throws on a foul I called out of my area--too obvious to let my partner die with, I thought. Kid made one of two. Losing coach didn't like the call (it was not the coach I had to warn), but his team also had multiple free throws, etc. down the line.

Second game was a blowout with two very kind coaches. Same problem as before--lots of limbs and little control of them. We passed on a LOT. I felt bad because one kid got a bloody nose, but it wasn't because of a was just two kids reaching for a loose ball, and one got it in his schnoz (and I didn't see how, but it sure wasn't much of a foul if I did). Most of the game was spent beseeching my partner to get his hand up. I look forward to seeing the guy down the's too early to tell how he'll do, but it's always fun to see improvement.

THINGS I DID WELL: Adjusted game to unusual circumstances, handled whiny coach
THINGS TO WORK ON: Geez. This game was so bizarre and such an outlier that I'm not sure where to go here. Maybe go easier on novice partner? Early on, I may have given too much advice.

NEXT UP: Small school girls/boys varsity on Tuesday.

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