Friday, November 23, 2007

Late start--and change afoot

The first games I ever officiated were on the day after Thanksgiving. A little-kid tournament--I remember the gym, remember the partner, but don't remember much of anything about the game. Since then, I have traditionally began my seasons on the day after Thanksgiving. Sure, I've done a couple of summer games or October games, but I've never considered the season as underway until I work on Black Friday to cast away all of those extra calories I put on the day before.

This year, things are different.

I haven't even thought about officiating much this summer (as evidenced by the quieter-than-even-my-usual-quiet-summers on this blog). I've moved from a large city to a smaller city a few hours away, switched jobs, and have shacked up with relatives until finally--FINALLY--moving into a house last week. I didn't expect it to take this long, so with my whistles, ref shoes, and most of the ref pants packed away in a storage pod, I decided I shouldn't call the new association until I was officially moved in. In a perfect world, I would have been able to work a couple of autumn games so the muckety-mucks in the new association could figure me out. But the real estate market didn't permit it to work out that way. I will confess that, with stresses on the new job, there were times I considered not even having a season this year. I even theoretically considered hanging them up for good--I've taken on enough new responsibilities at work that it crossed my mind. But now that I'm in the new house, and with Thanksgiving behind me, I just can't imagine skipping out on the season.

In any event, for all of these reasons, Wednesday was the day I finally called the new association.

Things are going to be different.

For starters, this is a very small league. There are 22 high schools within the suburban/rural district, compared to close to 100 in the old urban/suburban district. There are 100 officials in the association for both boys and girls. I think there were closer to 300 in the old place.

When I do the math in my head, here's what I get. If everybody's playing everybody else on a Friday night, that means 22 varsity games...half boys and half girls. Since there are 3-man mechanics, that's 66 officials needed for varsity ball alone. I imagine they have to do some boy-girl doubleheaders, or that they never have all 22 schools playing at once, or that boys and girls play on separate nights.

Another change is that it sounds like there's less precision in how people are chosen for varsity/playoff games. I asked the guy in charge if there was a transfer tryout, and he was almost comatosely calm in his response. "Nah...we don't work that way. I just need to come out and see you work, and then I'll assign you what you're ready. You need to put in some time to get to know the coaches and schools and other officials. A lot of people come to town and expect the best games right off the bat." In other words, it doesn't sound like there's such a thing as a varsity list, except in the assignor's mind. I assured the guy that I didn't have an ego, which is mostly true. But I am a little worried. As much as I disliked our outside-observer ranking system at the end of last season, and as much as I didn't like how people go so very worked up about the scores, I never came up with a better way to do it. I'm worried that "Hey, let me watch you ref and then assign you games" could turn into an old-boy network.

But the biggest change, perhaps, will be my introduction to boys' ball.

I started reffing in the girls' association years ago simply because there were fewer refs in it and I therefore figured (I think correctly) that I could get to varsity ball quicker. Since then, I've simply never seen a need to introduce myself to boys' ball.

Now, I have no choice. All officials officiate both genders.

It will take some time to figure out the boys' game. One colleague pointed out that, no matter how much I prepare, I'm likely to be so shocked at my first goaltend that I'll simply eat my whistle on it. And with my extraordinary lack of speed, getting into position might be a struggle (thank God for 3-man, which saves me here). I'll also need to learn to project a little more testosterone-based confidence. I don't think that boys' ball is that much more intense than girls' ball, but the larger crowds have an impact, and boys and men show their anger differently from women and girls.

I suppose I'll learn all of this soon.

Anyway, no games for me just yet. When the guy asked me when I'd be available, I replied truthfully: "As soon as I find the box with my ref shoes." He thought that was funny.

Of course, I'll let you know as soon as I'm back on the court. It'll be an interesting year.


At 3:43 PM, Anonymous massref said...

Glad you're not giving it up. (As if you actually could! :-) )

Boys and girls games are definitely different. Guys games are generally faster. Girls games often lack the "vertical" element. But it's still basketball. I'm sure it'll be an adjustment, but it's not like going from basketball to hockey. Give yourself a few games to get acclimated, and I think you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

Good luck with the assignor. I'm sure that's a concern, but all you can do is your best and hope he gives you a fair shake. Good luck!

At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also glad your not giving up, wish you the best in the smaller town. I can only imagine what the old boys club is like there...

I hope your able to come up to the bigger city sometime, but in the meantime wish you the best.



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