Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Game Log 12/30/2009: One of the craziest games ever

JV/Varsity girls' games tonight. Quite a challenge.

First of all, I've spent the last several days recovering from the flu (hit a temperature of 102 on December 26). Climbing up stairs was a challenge a couple of days ago, so a doubleheader was a stretch tonight.

What's funny is that the running wasn't the hardest part. For reasons I don't fully understand, it's actually more challenging to have crisp mechanics than it is to run--more physically taxing, somehow. So I slipped into some bad habits, particularly during the JV game (which was uneventful--I barely remember any of it other than a dead and silent gym). I even told my partners that I'd be saving up a little energy in the second half (mostly accomplished this by walking the last 5-6 steps in dead ball situations rather than walking the whole way). I was worried about my ability to get through the varsity game, but when the intensity of play stepped up, I was able to match it. No fatigue at all, which I'm proud of.

Coaches for Green were all very, very chirpy, and not in a kind way. They were mostly all over my partners, except for a carry that I had that they didn't like--he accused me of seeing something that wasn't there. (It was a great call, by the way. The dribbler's hand was on the side of the ball, but it came to rest there for a beat as the dribbler pushed it forward. Carry.) There had been enough from both coach and assistants that we discussed at halftime giving a warning at the next opportunity. Head coach gave us that about 4 minutes into the third, and partner whacked an assistant shortly thereafter.

Assistant insisted he hadn't said anything. I was opposite the benches, so I didn't know, but I don't believe my partner would make anything up...and even if he was mistaken, I really don't much care, since we could have called something on any number of other outbursts (and even had we not, there surely would have been another shortly thereafter).

Head coach tried to talk to me after the warning (but before the T). I politely said "Coach, you've been warned, so we're not listening anymore." That was effective.

Assistants asked me for an explanation on the T. I simply said "My partner heard what he heard." What the hell did they expect me to say? I was across the court.

Anyway, Green got back into the game after an abysmal start, and managed to tie it up with about two minutes left. Each team turned the ball over a bunch in the final couple of minutes, and White had it with 10 ticks on the clock.

I'm C opposite table. Last shot is mine.

Clean steal. Green is taking the ball downcourt. Bedlam in the gym. But she panics--thinks there's less time left than she does. She chucks up a terrible shot with 4-ish seconds on the clock.

It's no good.

Rebound kicks out the the elbow. ShoBUZZERt goes up. Swish.

I was ready to raise my hand and wave it off.

(Here is the only part of the story where I think I fall short. Normally, I'm tooting that whistle from the instant she shoots, shouting "No! No!" But this time, I didn't. Was I replaying the really important shot in my mind? Was I just a tad slow? Did I freeze? I vote for #1, but #3 is disturbing.)

Anyway, before I raise my hand, T toots his whistle.

Thankfully, neither of us went up with anything.

The gym is going bonkers. All of us get together.

"Did you have the ball in her hand?" partner asks.


"You had the ball in her hand at the buzzer?" partner repeats.


"Okay. No basket."

And the two of us turned and waved off the basket. Green and their fans were decidedly unhappy, but both of us had the same thing, so I feel good about the call. It was close enough that we'd have gone to replay if we'd had it at our disposal, but alas, non-conference small-school-in-small-city girls varsity games aren't televised.

I do wish my partner hadn't come in with a whistle. It rather surprised me, since the whistle was supposed to be mine. But it's all for the best since (1) I'm very confident we got it right and (2) we probably looked better as a crew, not worse, coming together on that.

Overtime was quite uneventful, and Green wound up winning anyway. In some ways it was a weird game--the calls just weren't coming to me in the fourth or in overtime, so I felt like a tad bit of a spectator. But how often do you get to wave off a game-winner? I can't remember another time. So quite a night.

THINGS I DID WELL: Maintained composure under loads of pressure (never felt even a little bit of nerves!), kept focus in varsity game in spite of not being at 100%
THINGS TO WORK ON: Possible freeze on last shot, lost focus a little in JV game due to illness, let mechanics get a little loosey in JV game
NEXT UP: My first boys JV/Varsity doubleheader. Small schools on Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Game Log12/22/2009: I really need to learn to run

I went back tonight to officiate the team with a coach I'd had to T up a couple of weeks ago. I was on the alert for any kind of grudges, and things wound up being pretty uneventful--save one little comment.

First, the JV game. It was smooth and quiet--not a lot of fouls, and a fairly light, clean game. The only thing that went wrong was that I plum fell down at one point. I was running into L position, looking over my shoulder, when I tripped on...nothing. Maybe the paint for the baseline was an especially thick coat? Anyway, my wipeout put me on my hands and knees--and scraped and bloodied my knees on the polyester of my ref pants. Blood soaked through enough that it was visible...even on the black knees.

No real pain or problems moving, but it did sort of knock me loopy-ish mentally. I told my partners between games that I shouldn't have problems moving or calling fouls, but that they should look for any bizarreness as a result of my mentally-off state.

(I've been mentally off a lot lately. Need to figure out how to bear down a bit.)

The Varsity game was close for three quarters before Red ran away with it in the fourth. Both coaches wanted travels; I felt like kids were keeping their pivot feet down. The Red coach wanted "over the back" (not a foul call, of course) on the White kid who was a head taller than anyone else on the floor. As is so often the case, the tall kid was doing nothing wrong; merely reaching up and grabbing the ball from over the head of a taller opponent. No contact=no foul=no merit to the complaint.

The main issue was that the loudest complains from Red came not from their head coach, but from an assistant. So I had a chat with the head coach about how I would talk to him as much as he wanted, but I couldn't hear from his assistants. It went on a hair too long, but since it was effective, I won't complain (didn't hear from the assistant again pretty much all night). Then, as I ran into position for the next play, I heard from the White coach (the guy I had to T a couple weeks back), and I learned he did, in fact, harbor a little grudge. "I got a T for saying 'over the back!'" he said...I think humorously.

But let's get real. Yes, I did T him for the last in a series of about five hundred unsportsmanlike utterances that night. To blame his ejection on exactly one action was crazy.

I did respond a little--saying "I'd warned you, coach"--and immediately regretted it (although nothing went further). I didn't give a crap about the game 13 nights ago and may have made it look like I did by getting sucked into that conversation.

Anyhow, the game moved on pretty uneventfully from there. There were huge swaths of game (like most of the third quarter) where I didn't have a single foul call--simply the luck of the draw, I think. And there was one more situation with the White coach late--he wanted a call for something I honestly had no idea about (it was out of my area.) Somehow, it turned into a laugh for both of us (he said "call it on us; we're trying to foul...but I'd rather you call it on them!" Well, that's not very funny, but a lightened atmosphere sure did help out there.

A quick note about locker room talk: I feel like a lot of halftime discussion becomes too similar and not too helpful. It's usually coach-centric: "The [insert color] coach is on me. He wants [insert call]. But I can't give it to him because it's not happening: instead, [insert what is really happening]." Or, alternatively, "The [insert color] coach really didn't like the [insert call] that I had against his team. But it was really a good call. The player [insert brief description]."

I'm guilty of this too, but I think it's about 85% of halftime conversation (at least tonight). Coach complaints probably merit a lot lower percentage of our time. As R in the future (although I'm done as crew chief for a while), I'll try to steer conversation more to how we feel and less to how coaches feel.

THINGS I DID WELL: Coach management, crew integrity
THINGS TO WORK ON: Mental alertness, staying upright
NEXT: Eight days to another girls JV/Varsity nonconference matchup.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Game Log 12/17/2009: A hair off

Not much to complain about in this JV/Varsity girls' doubleheader, but I don't think it was one of my best nights, either.

The three of us were set to start the JV game when the Varsity coach came and said nobody was there for the C-team game upstairs. We tried to contact the assignor--no luck--so one of my partners went to do that game solo while the other partner and I did a 2-person JV game. I now do enough 3-person that it's weird to do 2-person, which is actually kind of nice. The JV game was completely, 100% without incident. We called a fair number of fouls early--as I recall, the foul count was out of whack--but it went just fine. My relatively-green partner was in my area once or twice, but no big whoop. The game was sort of endless--lots of whistles--so the partner who soloed upstairs wound up watching and waiting for us. But there was little to pass on.

The Varsity game was not a big problem either. The coach for Blue liked to chirp quite a bit. I had a pretty clear shooting foul against his girl early--full forearm on full forearm--that he wanted to talk about. He surprised me with his civility. "I can't even argue that. You saw what you saw. But I think you got it wrong." I smiled and said "I disagree, coach." Handled that okay. He did get louder when the foul count was strong against him, but I didn't see anything to call against White. It eventually evened up just of its own volition, but he was still barking a little. Nothing T-worthy, but enough that we discussed later on how we need to make sure he didn't get in our heads. Was he in my head? I think he was, just a little, but it didn't impact any of my calls.

I had two I'd like back. One was an OMG double-dribble that was in front of my partner as C (I was T). I thought he had it. I should have saved his butt, but I didn't. The other was a scramble for a loose ball. Blue landed on top of White, so I called Blue for the push. About two seconds too late, my mind reconstructed the play: Blue didn't land on top of White she pushed her; Blue landed on top of White because White was on the floor, where she tripped up Blue. Blocking foul on White. Barking coach had some things to say about that. Regrettably, I couldn't compose a good response on the spot, and I didn't want to burn my one "Gee, I screwed that one up" for the night just I gave him the ignore.

The game itself was fairly slappy and sloppy, but we got through it. Our observer said we had a good game. He also said that my mechanics are as good as anyone's he's seen. WOW. I can't believe I've gone from "look bad, too loosey-goosey" to "one of the best I've seen" over one summer. I think I'd like a second opinion, to be honest. While I can handle a compliment, I'm just not sure I could have come this far this fast with no real practice. But still, it's nice to hear.

THINGS I DID WELL: Positioning, rotation
THINGS TO WORK ON: Brain freezes (double dribble and set up wrong on FTs twice), coach management a little better, perhaps
NEXT UP: Smallish schools on Tuesday night. Girls JV/Varsity again.

Game Log 12/15/2009: Two Ts in a row...

An interesting challenge the other night that I can't really reveal because it would show where I was officiating. I may talk about it later on in the year, however. But not here. Here, we'll just say we had two microscopic-school games, girls then boys. The girls microscopic-school team played a C-team for a local larger school and trounced them. The boys team played a microscopic school and pulled away in the second half.

The first game was smooth. What was most difficult about it was that this microscopic school used what was more or less an elementary school gym. The court was so short that it had the double-line for halfcourt that we had to explain to the visitors. Also, there was literally zero room on the baseline, which meant that we tried to eschew rotations as much as possible. Essentially, we agreed to holler when we rotated, which was rarely. But it all worked out.

Boys game was tougher, mostly thanks to the White coach. On my second call of the game--a rebound push where his kid landed on another kid--he piped in that his kid was 50 pounds lighter than the opponent. I didn't really have a response, since there is no wording in the rulebook which states that smaller kids cannot foul bigger kids. I did manage to say "Coach, this is not a polite question" (echoing what I say to coaches before every game). He said "I don't have a question." So I knew what he was made of early. He continued the play-by-play from hell enough that I warned him late in the second quarter. Both my partners said it was a good warning. He cooled off for a while, but his team started to fall apart in the third quarter (it was close at halftime). He chirped a little more then, and with the warning passed, the T was easy. In fact, my partners said they were surprised at how long I waited! "I'd have had him when he sarcastically addressed you as 'sir,'" one said. Nope--not enough. (How do you explain that in an ejection report? You don't. So I won't T for that.) We got together and said that they would have to have the second T. Second T was a possibility, really, but never quite arrived. Which I'm fine with.

I can't recall any real issues--calls I'd like back or calls I wish I'd made. I do think I was calling too much as lead, especially on rebounds. Need to have a more patient whistle there--that's a recurring theme for me this year in 3-person. But beyond that, it wasn't a bad night.

THINGS I DID WELL: Handled bizarre court well, took no crap
THINGS TO WORK ON: Patient whistle as L

NEXT UP: Well, it already happened. A Thursday girls JV/Varsity doubleheader. Just scroll up and you'll see.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Game log 12/8/2009: Challenging and weird

Weird night. JV and Varsity girls games.

The JV teams weren't terribly skilled, and they gave us plenty of opportunities to call fouls. Not much we could pass on, either--these were NOT ticky-tacks. To give you an idea how many we called, the varsity game wound up starting 35 minutes late. But I can't think of a single one I'd like back. The main problem was, as the game went on (and on, and on...), we were sort of lulling ourselves to sleep. I took control in the locker room and warned everybody that we would need to step up and speed our brains up for the second game.

One weird call in the first half--not mine. Partner A had an elbowing technical foul against Blue. He didn't call it flagrant--didn't eject the player. Coach and player were upset, but fortunately player said "I had to do it; she had my jersey!" I think that made the sale of the call much easier. We went on from there.

The problem was that Partner A and the coach seemed to know each other from the past. So while I was getting literally no guff the whole game, Partner A was getting it. No issues in the first half, though.

In the second half, things started to get weird.

Partner A had at least 8 travels on Blue. Maybe a dozen of them (and only 1 or 2 on White). I do not remember me or partner B (a guy who's on his way to being a great official, but only in his second year and a tad deferent) calling a travel on Blue.

It looked bad. It looked a little like a vendetta. To be sure, partner A was callign stuff elsewhere. And I don't think he had a vendetta or any ill will. I just think he decided he needed to call every travel.

I probably should have gotten together at a time out and stressed crew integrity, maybe between the third and fourth quarter. But I didn't--it didn't feel enough to call everyone together about. In retrospect, I wish I would have, because Blue coach's behavior started to go downhill.

The part of the night that bugged me most was during Blue free throws when I was next to the bench. The player (elbower) was next to the coach, and she was pissed off about something Partner A was doing. Coach was encouraging unsportsmanlike behavior. "Don't worry about him," he said to her. "He's just like that. They call him Captain T." I managed to say to the player "Kid, keep your cool. I'm right here." But I chose not to disrupt the conversation. I guess if the coach wants to teach disrespect, I can't stop it, even if I would like to. But I know, as a teacher, that even if I don't like a fellow adult in the building, I would never actively undercut one like that. He continued to mutter--for my benefit--about the partner even as the kid walked away. I ignored it.

Anyhow, with about four minutes left, he had added the play-by-play from hell. Typical stuff--wanting three in the key when shots were going up, wanting everything (even though we were already calling a LOT of fouls on very-aggressive White). And, again, all of the coach's bile was directed towards Partner B...until I had a pretty freakin' obvious forearm-in-the-back-on-a-free-throw-rebound. Easiest call of the night.

He went bonkers. "You're going to call her for boxing out???"

I kept my cool and approached him. "Coach, two things. First of all, you don't box out with your forearm in the back."

"How'd the player get around her?"

"It doesn't matter how. Your girl's forearm gave her a big shove in the back. Secondly, I've had enough of you. I don't want to hear you anymore. No more. (give the palm signal)."

In retrospect, those sentences have too much "I" and "you" in them. I'll try to ease up a little...go with "coach, this is not sportsmanlike behavior, and it needs to stop. Enough." But still, I think I handled it okay.

I even gave him one slip-up...barking for three-in-the-key...before T-ing him up for a loud "OVER THE BACK!" Again, like most T's, this was for persistent infringement, not for the one outburst.

It's hard to say whether our lack of crew integrity contributed to this guy getting so worked up. I'd already had him this year, and he had acted like a total angel (although, to be fair, his team won by 30 that night...tonight, they won by about 10). I need to think through what to do in future situations like that. I think I had a good night, but I don't know that we were as good as a crew as we should have been, so in the end, I guess that reflects on me. That's that. It is what it is.

THINGS I DID WELL: Call selection, pregame, felt fairly consistent
THINGS TO WORK ON: More care with "you" to a coach, crew integrity
NEXT UP: Have a week off due to family coming to town. I have tiny-tiny schools oubleheader on that day--girls and boys varsity.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Game Log 12/7/2009: Big game, smooth game

I wasn't the R tonight, but I did have the biggest game in the county. Granted, they're not really a big deal until the non-conference schedule ends, but I was still glad to get first-place in one conference last year against second-place in the other conference last year. Worked as a U2 with two regular playoff guys. And there were no problems.

JV went without issue, except for two--TWO!--triple-whistles. I haven't had one ever before, but tonight...holy crap. To be fair, all three were dead in the middle of the key. I was C on each of them, so I think I had a legitimate crack at them (although one of my partners claimed one of them was a drive from T to L, so maybe not). But seriously...two? Other than that, I only remember how calm and smooth the whole thing went.

Varsity was not a tremendous blowout, nor was it close (Blue led by 17 at half and won by 12). I did one fairly stupid thing, saying "Count the basket!" at a table when there was no basket. Brain-freeze...the table and my partners laughed. And they're claiming I'm taking too many calls as L. I probably am, especially the ones across the key. But when the shooter is right in front of me and in my area, why would I NOT take that call? I guess I don't get it.

Best moment of the night came from our observer. He came in at halftime (a little annoying, I must say...I'd rather he come after the ballgame and talk all he halftime, we need to talk as a crew). Nothing but compliments for the crew, with only minor suggestions (my calling stuff as L). As we headed back out to the floor, here's what he said:

OBSERVER: How long have you been doing this?
ME: This is my third year here, 11th overall.
OBSERVER: It shows.
ME: Thanks!
OBSERVER: Your mechanics are great.
ME: Really? They're not too loose?
OBSERVER: No. You look good out there.

I can't tell you how good that made me feel after SO MANY YEARS working on it. Success. (At least tonight.)

GOOD: Mechanics, stayed up with quick girls, crew communication
WORK ON: Brain freeze, poaching calls as L

Next up: Small-ish school at middling school girls' varsity tomorrow night.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Game Log 12/4/2009: I'm becoming the old guy

Clearly, I'm trusted. All past games where I've been the R have featured a very experienced dude as one of the U's--I believe to support me. But tonight, I worked a girls varsity/JV doubleheader. Medium-sized to small schools who need a little work. And the games went reasonably well--there was a lot of slop and a LOT of fouls--each game pushed two hours in length. But I can't think of a ticky-tack call the whole night, and there were very few complaints.

The JV game was close and (in some ways) better-played than the varsity game. It came down to the final few minutes. I had some calls I couldn't overlook late, mostly on rebounds. Even late in a close game, anyone who puts a forearm on the back and pushes a player out in order to grab a rebound will get a whistle from me. I think I may have tooted the whistle on rebounds as L a little too much, but it went all right.

The weird play in the JV game was as follows. It starts with a mistake. I'm C heading upcourt with the dribbler behind me. I went and looked to her--probably shouldn't have...should have let T hold onto her. But let's set aside that mistake I'll be sure not to make again (I've been SLEEPY lately, and it's affecting my brain by making me watch the ball too often) and get to the question.

I see the player for Red come up under the ball and bring it back down again on a dribble, and I toot the whistle. Palming.

Partner runs up to me and says that he saw the defender tip the ball, so the palm was not a palm but rather starting a new dribble. Red coach agrees.

Do I overturn my call?

I decided not to. While doing that on an out-of-bounds play is natural, since play was stopped anyway, the ONLY thing I could change to at that point was a "Whoops! Inadvertent whistle! Red ball!" Didn't feel right.

When Red coach extended his arms (in the "What's up?" motion), I ran over and told him this: "This isn't a play we can correct. I made a mistake, but we're playing on."

His snide response: "Oh! So you're wrong, but it's okay."

Me: "Nope. I'm wrong, and I apologize. Now, we're moving on."

Ignoring that this whole thing started because I was ball-watching, did I do the right thing?

Second game was a blowout. Red torched them. We missed some rotations--had two C's and no L's at least twice--but I heard very little from coaches. I did hear quite a bit late from the bench of the losing team. I told the coach that the bench was too chirpy. Assistant went and talked to them. It didn't stop. I then told the coach that she was "very close to a bench technical." (With two minutes left in a 30-point game, I didn't want to call it, but these kids need to learn somehow.) Coach handled it about right. She turned to her girls and shouted "Shut up!" Cool.

Oh--I also had an administrative technical for failure to put a number in the book. And a whole host of corrections of the fashion-police variety in the pregame. They must have thought I was a total control freak, but whatever. It also had a few moments where we looked bad because we tried to give unmerited one-and-ones (once because I had a brain fart and didn't have the right team in the bonus in my head, once because of a scoreboard error) Both times the table straightened it out, thankfully, but it can't have made us look too good.

It wasn't perfect, but it would have been hard to make this game good, especially late, as the girls got tired. I can live with the way it all went.

And after the game, I learned that it was one of my partners' first varsity game. I wish I'd known before. But it made me even happier with the game. We didn't crash and burn (far from it), and with all its flaws, I did manage to lead a relatively green crew through a somewhat challenging ballgame. I'll take that.

GOOD: Leadership, handled the weird with confidence
WORK ON: My concentration waned a little. Refocus needed on my area and on off-ball.
NEXT UP: A fairly strong girls' varsity/JV doubleheader on Monday. Big schools. I'm not the R this time...this time I'M the newbie. But I don't feel that way anymore. This leadership has boosted my confidence.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Game Log 12/1/2009: Officially underway.

I know I called the junior high game last week my "season debut," but seriously, I don't know that I can count that in good conscience. So, with a scrimmage and a jamboree under my belt, I drove a half hour out into the country tonight for my real season debut, a JV/Varsity girls' doubleheader. Small Rural School hosted Very Small Rural School, and won both games handily.

It's a little hard to focus on rotation when the girls keep turning the ball over, but we did, and I felt good about my rotations--good enough that I felt I could teach a partner a little about his rotations (we wanted him to move more). I can't recall a call I'd like back, and the couple of calls I had that brought about coach questions were easily explainable to the coach's satisfaction.

The JV game was out of hand in a big hurry, and by the fourth quarter, both teams were playing their C, D, and Omega squads. As we changed in between games, I told my partners that we needed to step up...that, even though these are fairly small schools and that the quality of play might not be stellar, we still might be in for a shock in the transition from the awful fourth quarter to a pretty good first quarter. We did step up. Home team led 20-4 and coasted from there.

Here was a good moment. I had a throw-in right in front of the division line. B1 threw it in to B2 in the front court. The ball richocheted off B2's hands and into the backcourt, where she recovered it. Coach made noises about "Da-da-da" indicating a backcourt violation. I was next to him, so I said "Uh-uh!" around my whistle. He said "No control yet?" I said "yep." He said: "That's fair." Nice! I had a similar moment with the losing coach when she didn't like a call I had on her girl on a shooting foul. She had her arns straight up, but jumped into the shooter. Coach had her arms straight up to indicate that she didn't believe it was a foul, but she asked "What happened?" I answered: "She didn't jump vertically, coach. She jumped into her." To her credit, the coach then communicated this to her player: "You need to jump straight up." Good.

I admit I got a little sleepy at times, but I guess luck was with me in that it didn't result in any real mistakes. And I felt okay about my pregame as R and feel the whole night wasn't bad. I'm ready for more.

THINGS I DID WELL: Call selection, coach management, rotations
THINGS TO WORK ON: Still mirror chop as T, felt my attention wandering at times
NEXT UP: Slightly-larger-than-today-but-still-small girls JV/Varsity matchup on Friday. I'm the R again.

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