Saturday, May 31, 2008

Camp Log Day One--A great day

Camping is going quite well here...the best camp I've ever been to.

The best thing about this camp is that we don't do games...we do halves. It makes for quicker evaluations, and I don't have to think way back to certain plays.

Additionally, the clinicians I've been with (mostly local guys at the top of our association) are not out to show how much they know, but are rather out to make us better. That's a critical difference, and I've been on the wrong end of that at a couple of camps. Case in point: A couple of guys were running alongside me, making suggestions as I went. It throws me off my game--I try to listen and try to ref, but wind up not doing either. But amazingly, a clinician came to my ear and asked the following:

"Do you like it when we talk to you during the game?"

I responded:

"I do not."

They agreed only to talk to me during dead balls for the rest of camp. AWESOME.

What I've learned:

--The varsity game I had last night was high quality. The two I had today were quite a bit lesser.

--There are really two things I'm working on: C positioning and "presentation skills."

As C, I have spent my officiating career standing on the sideline. I was told that's too far away. I don't feel comfortable stepping in when there are players on my side...I feel like I'm setting a pick for a three-point shooter, or feel like I'm losing sight of a player in the corner. I asked the clinician a LOT of questions.

Then I saw the tape. It didn't lie. I was often not even in the same time zone as the play.

As for presentation skills...well, the usual. Slouchy posture, loosey-goosey running style/mechanics, and--this is new--squinting.

In short, when I call a foul, I lean into the foul and squint. I also tend to get diarrhea of the mouth...saying loads of stuff I shouldn't say.

It's late...I'll analyze this more tomorrow...but I'm feeling pretty confident I can lick this simply by slowing down at the spot. When I blow the whistle, I need to spend a one-thousand-one count ensuring I have good posture and am not squinting. This will add to my credibility.

Oh--and I need a running coach. Do you know anyone?

More tomorrow. They're giving me three games (okay...halves) that are really strong matchups, with partners that are especially strong. On the whole, they liked what they saw today and want to see how I handle it. I'm highly confident I can handle anything they throw my way.

That's a sign of a great camp.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Game Log 5/30/2008: First boys' varsity level matchup

Happy with tonight, but also see how much I have to learn.

The conditions weren't ideal--it was damn muggy in there, and we were pinned back in the auxiliary gym, so I was stepping on substitutes' toes all night. Really, not much went wrong.

What I'll remember from tonight is how incredibly fast the game was, particularly in the first half.

With varsity girls and the freshman boys games, there's a little bit of time to sort of consider the call. I've been indoctrinated to let the play develop a little bit--don't give too quick a whistle--before figuring what the call is (if any).

Tonight's game didn't afford me that luxury. One of the teams was significantly quicker than the other, but the second team kept up, mostly by hitting threes. I feel like I called quite a few more fouls on the quicker team than on the slightly-slower team tonight. Maybe it was just the way the whistle bounced tonight, but it also might be something else. I'm not sure. There were occasions where I could feel my brain not going fast enough. "Okay...pick up the he se--(the collision happens while I'm sort of thinking about the play developing), player control, or maybe nothing...

But I do think I adapted a little as the game wore on. It was a little raggedy (it is May, after all), but the play was fairly high quality, and it was close late. I had a walk at one point that a classy coach didn't like. He asked "Which foot did he travel with?" I surprised myself with the immediacy, coherence, and confidence of my response: "He hopped on his right foot, coach." I get a little better at this every year. The other guy wasn't bad, but did do a little bit of play-by-play from hell, setting the American indoor record for "AND ONE!"s. I actually cracked a smile late in the game when he said "AND ONE!" before his player jumped up for the shot! I thought some snide thoughts, but on the way home I realized I should cut him a break. To him, "AND ONE!" is a cheer more than a complaint or suggestion. I still think he should wash his mouth out with soap.

Weird double foul late. Kids pounding like hell in the post. I didn't see an instigator, so I called both to get it to stop. Next time I'll pick it up earlier.

One call I want back...a no-call, actually...I was totally straightlined and missed a push. Nothing to do but point for White ball. My C partner (I was T) stepped in and said "No, I have a push." Fair enough, although I wish he'd done it earlier. But better to get it right, I guess. I had no angle at all. Probably a sign I'm not moving enough.

Partner I trust only had one suggestion. He felt I was a little too exuberant on a late out-of-bounds call. "Make it the same as the early ones," he said. I said "I thought that one needed a sell." He said OK. Wish I had video.

Speaking of video, I need to see myself. I hope I'm taped this weekend...I need to see my physical shortcomings. My running style and wacky posture probably matter more in the testosterone-fueled boys game than with the girls.

But it didn't hurt me tonight. It was a fast, tight, quality game, and I'm not sure that anybody could tell it was my first try. Can't complain about that. I feel damn I accomplished something nice tonight.

THINGS I DID WELL: Handled the day well. Partner communication. Coach communication. No physical pain!
THINGS TO WORK ON: Speed of the game. My brain simply needs to catch up. Also, protect shooters to the floor...there were one or two where my eyes went up.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Preparation for camp

I'll just be doing a quick weekender this year--local teams rather than nationwide AAU. It costs about 20% of what the other camp runs, and like many people in this country, I want to save money where I can in the current economy.

They're supposed to be checking me out for 3-man, which is fine--I've got enough experience with it that I think I can pass the test and get some good games in this year. But I'm faced with another first boys' varsity-level game tomorrow. (I say "varsity-level" because, at camp, it can't technically be considered a varsity game, right?) It's not an official camp game, but a chance to cut my teeth on the faster competition so that, when I'm seen the next day, I'll have had four quarters to make some mental adjustments. I don't know one of the two partners, but the other is a damn strong varsity guy I worked with in one of my girls' varsity games last year, so it's a good way to get started. And, truthfully, I think that varsity boys may be easier in many ways than the many freshman boys' games I did last year. For starters, it's 3-man instead of 2-man. 'Nuff said. But the games will likely be cleaner and better.

Or maybe they'll be ragged. I mean, seriously. It's May.

Anyway, I've started work on one of the two things I promised myself I'd focus on this summer.

Stop the presses! I'm working out. Like four times in ten days! Whoa!

It's nothing huge...just dork-walking around the neighborhood and maybe running a half mile....or doing the same on the gym's treadmill. I do just enough to tell me that I'm desperately out of shape. Enough to perhaps break in the ref shoes I bought a couple weeks back.

But if I do this all summer long, I'll be in far better shape before the season. I did no preseason physical prep this season, and I wound up in a boot at the end of the year. Two seasons ago, I did some pretty intense workouts for a few weeks before my first game, and I made it through the year mostly unhurt (although some knee trouble arose, I blame that more on age than anything else.)

So I will. I don't think I'll ever be one of those people who actually enjoys working out, but it's something I should be doing anyway, reffing or no reffing.

Anyhoo, be ready for camp stories this weekend.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I went out to buy shoes yesterday. Camp is coming up in two weeks, and I've concluded (with the help of a podiatrist) that last year's ankle troubles are at least in part due to crappy shoes. I guess that's what happens when one puts looks first (yay patent leather).

I headed to a specialty running shoe store, where they actually take you outside and watch you run before recommending a shoe for you. I walked in and said I was a basketball ref who'd had some knee and ankle problems. I wanted a really supportive shoe and, oh yeah, it has to be all black.

They have exactly one pair of all-black shoes. I ran in them and felt some weird tweaks in my knee.

I tried on a pair of white shoes to walk in, and they felt nearly perfect. If only I could spray-paint them...

The very helpful guy said I should look elsewhere for basketball shoes or indoor soccer shoes. He said that I tend to collapse inward on my foot....the arch falls a bit. Hence, the posterior tibialis tendon problems.

So I hit the mall. Found a kid at Foot Locker about half my age.

"You can't go wrong with Air Jordans," he said, "or maybe Kobes."

The Kobes had too much non-black in them. I tried on the Jordans. They didn't feel like they were giving me much support, and the big Jordan silhouette on them would be problematic for me...I might have to strap it down with electric tape.

I was ready to move on when they gave me a third pair. They were all black and highly supportive. The bad news is they're sort of suede-y leather, so they'll never be shiny.

Bye-bye, patent leather you could smile at your reflection in.

But more importantly, bye-bye season-ending injury. I hope.

I'll test-drive them at camp in two weeks. Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Unusual umpire appearance on ESPN

I hadn't seen the actual people involved in the wonderful story of sportsmanship that transpired in a critical college softball matchup between Central Washington and Western Oregon last week. (And seriously, if you haven't seen or heard about it, check out the ESPN tear-jerking video.) So I stayed up an extra few minutes to check it out, see the players involved, etc.

I expected to see Sara Tucholsky, the injured hitter, and Mallory Holtman, the wonderful star player whose idea it was to help her.

Surprise! One of the principals they interviewed was the umpire.

Jacob McChesney said the following:

"When [Tucholsky] got back to first base, she just...she laid there, and she hugged onto first base, and then, at that time I was staring at the base, and I go 'what on earth are we gonna do?'"

Interesting. With gag rules and such, I was surprised to see the Great Northwest Conference would have McChesney speak.

Of course, I started looking at it from an umpiring perspective--how tough it must have been to enforce what appeared to be a horribly unfair rule, but how impressive it was that McChesney and his crewmates did that anyway--and how marvelous it was that Central's players prevented that from happening.

But it wasn't just Tucholsky's home run that Holtman and her teammates saved. It was the umpiring crew's bacon.

See, it turns out that a pinch-runner would have been allowed to round the bases to finish Tucholsky's home run. The umpiring supervisor clarified that later.

I'm not going to harp on the umpires for the mistake--that's not what I do here. After all, I can't think of another instance in the thousands of ballgames I've watched where a player who has hit a ball over the fence has been unable to finish his or her home run trot due to injury. So I can see where this rule might have slipped through the cracks into the "well, we'll never see that happen" category.

So it serves as a good reminder to have a 100% solid grasp on every aspect of every rule, no matter how bizarre.

But it's a little strange to see the umpire in the piece. I guess I like it--anything that humanizes a sports official is good by me.

Still, I think I join sports officials everywhere in THANKING Holtman for her classy move. Without it, Western Oregon possibly loses the game and their NCAA regional tournament bid...due to an umpire misapplication of a rule. THANK YOU for not allowing that to happen, Ms. Holtman.

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