Sunday, April 12, 2009

Game Log 4/11/09: Competence

Two summer league games, two blowouts: the first, I believe, was varsity boys; the second more likely sophomores.

I have very few memories of the first game. There was barking from the bench over "a travel right in front of you, and you didn't even call it." The kid sort of shifted his weight as though he shuffled his feet, but the feet stayed down. I went to the barking coach, since he was so near, and said "Do you have a question?" He gave an inadequate and unmemorable response. I said "I'll respond to you if you have questions, but you can't be barking at me."

Turns out that was the ASSISTANT coach. Oops. If I'd have had that straight in my head, I'd have gone to the head coach and had him handle it. But the game was a relative blowout--20 points or so--and mostly cruising. Some minor conditioning problems late, especially in one of those ohmygod four-or-five straight turnover situations, but not bad for 2-person all told.

The second game had several firsts. It was a horrendous blowout from the word go.

First 100-point game. The winners nearly doubled up the losers.
First dunk.
First situation where I could have called basket interference. On a layup, a defender whacked the net and (I think) the ball through the net. The ball went through anyway, so that fact that I froze (as is to be expected, I suppose, for my first call of its sort) had no impact. But I'll be readier for the next one.

Main thing is how damn good I felt about this one. I had a partner who I was totally in sync with. While we didn't switch on all fouls, we did report to the table for all fouls, which gave me an opportunity to think about posture and slowing down. While I wasn't perfect, I was aware, and I think I was improving. That's the first step.

Also, during that second game, there was a moment where everything could have gone into the crapper and didn't. At halftime, when it was clear we had a massive blowout and a frustrated losing team, I said to my partner that we needed to be vigilant about frustration fouls by the losing team.

As we approached 9 minutes left, there was a light push on a breakaway. Not intentional, but time to start looking.

At 8 minutes left, there was a worse one. My partner didn't have the intentional, and I don't think I would have either...just not quite enough. But things were starting to turn. I walked to give the free throws and told everybody to settle down. We wanted it cleaner, we said.

We then called it very tight for about two several bits of contact we might otherwise have overlooked. Didn't frustrate anybody, since they were equally on both teams, but got it better.

Losing coach told partner in there that players were complaining about the winning team talking smack. He said we'd listen for it. We didn't hear any.

When winning team knocked an opponent over on a routine foul on the shot, he helped him up. I thanked him for his sportsmanship.

No problems from there. I'm quite proud of our work on this one. It absolutely could have become ugly without us. It didn't.

Losing team gave up its 96th, then 98th point with about a minute left. Winning team, who I don't feel was doing anything to run up the score (although they did run a one-on-one press throughout, but not anything egregious), then wanted to get to a century. Losing coach saw what was happening and kept saying "Hold the ball! Slow it down! Hold up!" He was satisfied to let the clock run out and avoid the embarrassment of giving up 100. But kids were not even remotely listening to him. They were just cranking up shots. Winning team would rebound, and then, with about ten seconds left, with 98, ran the ball downcourt, was pushed, went up and made the shot...but I had vociferously waved it off. "No shot! On the floor!" It was the right call. but it prevented the winning team from getting 98 on that shot. (They did get it when the kid drained both double-bonus free throws.)

Anyway, it felt great. If all summer partners and games were like this one, I'd do more of them. As is, I'll maybe give one weekend a month, mostly to work on slowing down and looking athletic.

THINGS I DID WELL: Game awareness, crew consistency, mostly conditioning, posture and slowing down at the table.
THINGS TO WORK ON: Coach awareness (don't talk to assistant), some conditioning, posture adn slowing down at spot.
NEXT UP: Nothing on the slate, but I'll take any tournaments that come along. Meanwhile, I'll run and walk along a nearby semi-desolate route I've found, looking to see whether anyone's watching and then calling fouls and violations on flowers.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Read this book

-As They See 'Em- by Bruce Weber.

Weber, a New York Times reporter writes a definitive book about professional umpiring. He gets to know a couple of youngsters in the Northwest League and their daily grind, and also gets to know more than a few people at the major league level. He attends the Jim Evans Umpiring Academy although he hasn't yet umpired a game, and then does some games at home in New York (HS, Babe Ruth, and some adult leagues). He really gets at some of the deepest core beliefs of umpires and of officials in general, and looks at what might be some important aspects of their personalities. He also talks to some of the principals for the best and worst calls in recent memory and goes over the recent labor actions by both major league and minor league umps.

If you're interested enough in officiating to be reading this blog, you simply must get a hold of this book. It's insightful, entertaining, and fun. I'm even going to force my wife to read it so she understands some of my, um, personality quirks a little bit better.

Game Log 4/5/09: Three in a row with a running clock

I hate doing summer ball. Too often, it's a situation like today's. We walked in and were told "No one-and-one, just go to two shots at 10 fouls. Nobody's fouling out, and we're not even keeping a book...just the scoreboard."

What a running clock means is that my main goal--to slow the hell down when making calls--runs counter to the spirit of the game I'm in. If I paused, took a breath, got into an athletic position, and then deliberately gave the call, that would mean valuable time ticking off the clock. So it occurred to me quickly that my goal to appear more athletic couldn't be the primary thing I worked on this game.

Instead, I worked on conditioning. Three games is more than I usually do...boys, girls, then by the second half of that third game, I was dragging pretty hard. But I was only beaten down the floor once (on a steal...would have beaten me no matter what kind of shape I was in). And while fatigue started in impact me just a hair late, I only want two calls back for the entire three games.

So, in playground-quality games (lots of running, a fair number of turnoversJ), I stayed upright and on the case. I'll take that.

THINGS I DID WELL: Stayed up with the action, call selction
THINGS TO WORK ON: Conditioning, can still appear athletic even in a get-the-ball-back-in game
NEXT UP: Another tournament...HS boys on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Game Log 3/22/09: All-star game

I do think it's a good sign that I was selected for this game 1 1/2 weeks ago (yeah, I'm late...but nowadays, wife and boy always have legitimate things to do that beat refblogging). Seriously--the dude could have chosen anybody for these games, and he picked me. I honestly think he wanted to see what I could do with the very best (female) athletes from around here.

It went just fine. The key is that it's always a little easier to ref better players. Plus, in an All-Star game, it's always better to let them play a little anyway, and these girls were fine with that. Although I did whistle one walk...stutter-step I didn't think I could ignore.

The coaches were coaches from local small colleges. One did not like a rebound call I had. I had a good angle as T (maybe C) that saw his girl jump into the other girl...she grabbed the ball cleanly in the air, but landed on an opponent enough that I couldn't ignore it. The conversation with the coach went too long. I explained what I had. He said "Well, I had a good angle on it, and she didn't get her." I may have come across as too defensive, saying "I had a great angle, coach." Probably could have let it go, but didn't. Anyhow, there weren't other big problems.

The continuing problem is loosey-goosey mechanics. One of the more experienced guys (although I'm finding that I am rapidly becoming one of the more experienced guys) said that "You call a great game, and you look bad doing it." He then hit me with one of my LEAST favorite phrases: "You just have to want it." I can't stand it when people pass off difficulty learning as a character flaw. I don't do that as a teacher. Anyway, his recommendation was that I call fouls in front of a mirror all summer long. I'll do that. I'll even go for runs and call fouls on everyone in town--fire hydrants, joggers, dogs. But the critical key will be to slow WAY down after tooting my whistle and to "get in an athletic position," as one guy said. That's a great idea. And when I do that in front of a mirror, I don't look half bad.

I think this is a hugely critical next step for me, but anything physical has always been a challenge for me. But this is the summer it happens. It'll start with some weekend tournament games these next couple of weekends. I normally don't work much over the summer, but we could use the money, and I could use the practice looking athletic.

(More to come in my Year In Review post.)

THINGS I DID WELL: Call selection, handled quality athletes
THINGS TO WORK ON: Shorten coach communication, tighten up mechanics
NEXT UP: A HS tourney, 1 girls game and 2 boys, this Sunday. 2-person.

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