Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sartorial matters

First varsity game of the year tomorrow! Time to get with it! This year, I feel totally ready, I think because of the off-season ball I've done.

Tomorrow will also be my first time wearing the new grey shirt (as pictured here). This is the first year the grey shirts have been acceptable in our part of the world...and let me tell you...I HATE the grey shirts! What the hell was wrong with the black-and-white? Black-and-white...they MEAN officiating. The two colors symbolize the official's interest in all of the game's participants. There didn't used to be the need to consult with partners on what kind of shirt to wear (well, at least not since the old, ugly collared shirts were phased out a decade ago and replaced with the much-nicer V-neck). But now, every time I call my partner, it'll be a matter of asking "Gee, grey or black-and-white tonight?"

There have, of course, been worse officials' uniforms. The AFL had red stripes. Ugh. Worse, my favorite league ever--the defunct ABL women's hoops league--had referees wear white shirts. WHITE! The one color one of the teams was guaranteed to be wearing! Who the heck thought of that?

The grey? Well, some teams wear grey, for one. But, to me, a guy in grey just doesn't look like an official. He looks like a businessman. I don't like it. Nonetheless, starting tomorrow, I'm wearing it if my partner asks.

But if I'm choosing, I'm wearing the classic black-and-white.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Getting back into shape

I'm not an athlete. I'm not a big fan of physical fitness--I find that it's a lot of effort.

For the past decade, refereeing has been my physical fitness. I get out there and do a few games a week, which I love, and presto, I've got my exercise. It was especially effective last year, when I lost a much-needed 30 pounds. This year, I'm hoping to take it up to the next level...

but I read something this week that made me realize I can't do that.

Officials who use refereeing as their sole form of exercise actually are doing themselves a disservice. Their heart rate goes up very, very high a couple of times a game (usually at the beginning of a big fast-break sprint), and that's dangerous. Officials who work out outside their games are in much better physical condition.

So I had a meeting with a trainer yesterday. He sent me around to lift heavy objects with various muscles. It got my heart rate up. So now I have two tasks...lifting heavy objects twice a week, and doing cardio work twice a week. This will be on top of my games, not instead of them.

Come Februrary, I hope to be in the best shape of my life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

In this month's Referee magazine...

Multiple pieces about the Ohio legless football player flap, Rick Reilly's response, and how several people had to drop the ball before officials made their mistake.

A piece on the Bahrain/Uzbekistan officiating error.

A long piece on John Roberts and his umpiring metaphors.

A love letter to Ed Hochuli for giving a penalty call in Spanish in Mexico City.

A quick piece on Mike Carey being bumped by a player.

Wow! I gave my opinion about all of these in my blog!

In my first post, I said I hoped not to merely "rehash what I've seen in every month's Referee magazine." I've found a way around that: talk about it here first!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The rules test

Got a 95 this year. Down from my 97 last year.

The rules test is take-home true or false. A 70 is required to be an official in good standing. Yeah...that's not too hard. I always take it the same way--I take the test with no help from the rulebook, then use the rulebook and case book to check my answers. I got an 89 without any help, then thought I would get a 100 with help, but some of the questions are worded so yuckily that it's hard to tell what the answer is under any circumstances.

But I've passed for another year...

Game Log: 11/12/2005

Two rec games yesterday. Eighth graders in a tournament.

Both games were smooth, neither remarkable in either way. Partner and I had control. It was a pair of blowouts...the first game was 41-10 at halftime, but both coaches were calm and nobody was physcially showing their frustration. Easy game.

The second was 29-15 at halftime and stayed over 10 in the second half. There was a lot of chirping from the losing coach and there was a culture of bitching among the kids' parents. Kids were winding up on the floor, but usually in scrums for loose balls--classic no calls. Sometimes their kids were on the floor over their own feet, or in the face of good, stand-up defense. In all cases, partner and I were on the same page. I finally warned the coach, and much to my surprise, not only did the coach quiet down, the parents did as well. Because I warned him quietly, it didn't give the parents cause to lash out further, and since the parents tend to follow the coach's lead, everything settled. The warning! If deserved, it has many impacts.

Funny thing about negative crowd noise. I've come up with a new mantra. Parental bitching used to make me question what I'd done to cause it. But now I realize that, while I occasionally may have kicked a call to provoke a reaction, more often it's just the sound officials have--the soundtrack of the game. Maybe I'm better and not making as many mistakes, or maybe I'm just more confident, but I'm able to ref through it better now.

So last night, when I heard the moaning starting, rather than knocking me out of the game, I started saying to myself: "Soundtrack. Soundtrack." That was effective--it actually helped bring me INTO the game in a relaxed way rather than out of it.

Caught myself looking out of my area once as lead in the first game. The tallest kid on red, standing between the three-point line and midcourt, threw the ball over an opponent's outstretched arm, and her teammate didn't see the pass, so the ball bounced a couple of times towards the sideline. The tall kid ran over and scooped up the ball. My partner missed the call (illegal dribble), so I tooted my whistle and made the right call. But as soon as I tooted the whistle, I realized...what the hell was I doing looking at the ball? Shame on me. That was poor work by me that fortuitously led to a good result.

I don't think I shouted too much in these games. I think my vocal tiredness is related to a sinus infection I'm slogging along with.

DID WELL: Game management, coach management, confidence.
WORK ON: Ball-watching, dammit.

Next: I'm available on Friday night. Don't know if there are games Friday night, but I'm available. I feel ready for when the season begins in earnest after Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Game Log: 11/11/05

I had two rec games today--the same league as my last games on 10/15. The first was a total blowout. The losing team started to get a little upset in the second half...I had to talk a couple of the players down. We got to the end without significant incident. I can't come up with anything specific I did very well there--I just feel like things went strongly overall.

The second game was tied at halftime. I called a bunch of fouls on Green early on, and none on White. This always bugs me a little bit, but all things being equal, I'll call my first five fouls on the same team every 32 games. It's not totally out of the question. Besides, my partner had some White fouls. A few players chirped, but I feel like it wasn't a bad game. White went on a huge run to start the second half and won by eleven. Smooth.

Two notable events, one good, one bad. We'll do the bad one first.

In the first game, I was running down the court as new lead. There was a small press--two on two on the backcourt--and there was a quick steal and a quick shot. I was all the way at the other free throw line, and to be totally honest, I dogged it a little (still not quite in shape, although better than the last game). I wasn't running as hard back to the other side of the court. INEXCUSABLE. Because the shooter hit the deck hard, and neither partner or I had it...and it was totally my call if I'd run there. My bad. That was the worst moment of the night.

In the second game, I called a travel on a player who had just rebounded the ball. It was unpopular, but I'm comfortable with the call--thought she lifted and set down the pivot foot under heavy pressure. Anyway, I heard the following from the Green bench: "There wasn't a grab in all of that? No grab?"

I responded: "Nope. No grab."

Whoops. It wasn't the coach, it was a parent acting like a butthead. Since it's never, ever, ever a good idea to talk to the crowd, I'd mistakenly committed a faux pas and made myself look weak.

So I headed over to the coach at the next chance and said: "Coach, I thought that was you complaining, but it was one of your fans. That could get you into trouble, depending on what he says. You'll want to do something about that."

He didn't do anything, but I didn't hear from that butthead (who was seated right behind the coach and likely heard me) again. So it was effective anyway. I'd do that again if the parent is seated behind the bench (and they almost always are).

The other thing to work on: my voice. I'm shouting too much. I need to watch that because I've had some issues with my vocal cords in the past, and since I like to sing and my profession necessitates me using my voice a lot, I need to ease up and only shout when absolutely necessary.

Things I did well: Coach/crowd management, conditioning got better (these are two things I'm working on, so I'm happy about that!)

Things to work on: Don't bail out on press turnovers as new lead! Ease up on the shouting. Might still be ball-watching more than I should.

Next up: Tomorrow, two more rec league games, but littler kids (one set of fifth graders, one of eighth graders).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Rules clinic

Every year, every official and coach in the state is required to get together to go over the year's new rules and points of emphasis. That meeting was tonight, and it's forced me to zero in on some areas I need to focus on more than usual this year.

The rules change that will have the biggest impact on most games--the new NFHS "team control foul"--isn't going to bother me too much. It's more or less intuitive. Most parents and a few coaches will still be hollering for bonus free throws, and we'll have to be careful to know where the ball is when a foul is committed by an offensive player. But I can take it.

More difficult will be the new jersey rule. Players can't even partially remove their jersey in a situation where it might be considered unsporting. Covering the head or mouth with the jersey, showing the team name on the jersey, angrily yanking the jersey out from the pants, etc. are all technical fouls warning. It sounds like intent is everything. It'll take a united front by all officials and a lot of brass ones to make sure this is called properly. Additionally, no players can take off their jerseys even to change them (for the blood rule, for instance). T! Wow. Well, I'll enforce it.

But there is a tougher task. The NFHS has called all officials to task for not keeping coaches in the coach's boxes if the coaches are not yelling at us. Guilty as charged! If the coach is coaching, I've let it go. I've only suddenly "noticed" a coach is out of the box if he/she started chirping at me. NO MORE! I will give the optional warning to a nice coach out of the box..."Coach, please stay in the box...I'd hate to have to call it." But then I will ding it because having a coach with the ability to roam the sidelines is breaking the rules and putting him/herself at a huge advantage over a rule-abiding coach who stays in the box. No more!

The clinician gave me a good quote to go with: "Technical fouls are to change behavior for the positive." That's a good way to look at it, and I've found that almost all of them have had that impact. I only gave one in a varsity game last season, and it certainly made life easier.

I have two rec games on Saturday, and I need to take my rules test...but I'm less than three weeks away from my high school season opener. I'm raring to go. Actually a little nervous, which is probably good. There's a blog post right nerves before games even in this, my seventh year on the job. But it's a blog post for later.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I'm available

Well, no major refereeing issues in the past few weeks (although Randy Cross was bitching about officials having conferences...would you rather they make decisions hastily, Randy?). Also, Bahrain doesn't play soccer until Saturday, so my strange role as Bahrain Soccer Update Central has gone quiet. In other words, there hasn't been any need for any posts.

Now, however, I'm but a few weeks away from a new season. Our association has already had its first meeting. And yesterday, I posted my availability (the dates I will be available for games). I can now tell you what days I'll be refereeing for November and December.

Availability is a tricky issue. I don't want to overextend myself...if I'm reffing so often that it's not fun anymore, that doesn't help anyone. On the other hand, I need to stay fresh, and I want to stay on my assignor's good side, so I don't want to underextend, either.

The net result: five available days between now and Thanksgiving (probably won't be games on all of them, but I could use a few rec games to get the body, mind, and eyes in shape again). I'll then work an average of two nights between M-Th, every Friday night except one, and only one Saturday.

I've had professional commitments on many Friday nights for the last seven years, which has made me less than popular with the assignors, since every high school in the US is playing ball on Friday nights, which means we're perpetually shorthanded. Working every Friday will give me plenty of games, including a better possibility of good ones, and will make it so that my assignor will more likely be on my good side.

Of course, any good will I gain with Friday availability will be squandered by my choice to not work on weekends. The "traveling leagues" and "select leagues" play on Saturdays and Sundays, along with CYO ball. I don't especially mind those games, but I'd like to spend at least a little bit of time vegging on the couch, hanging out with friends and family, working around the house, and (most importantly) watching the NFL. So I'll give one Saturday a month, but that's about it.

Next up: taking the rules test.

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