Since high school, I have worked part time refereeing basketball games, along with my PIC Griffin Bohm. However, since my time at CU, I have moved up the ranks of the officiating world, starting at the YMCA and progressing to working Gold Crown, middle school, subvarsity high school, and now high school varsity games. I couldn't have done it without the accompaniment of Griff through all the long days in the middle of nowhere, but I have had great experiences, travelled around parts of the state I didn't know existed, and never fail to get a laugh out of my job. In honor of my first boys varsity game, this brief memoir of sorts is meant to provide a small glimpse into the world of refereeing basketball.
Griffin and I were in for a treat on our very first day, when as high school sophomores we showed up at the YMCA for an early morning clinic that I still remember vividly. Two long-time officials ran the clinic, Tom and Marc. Tom is an area director for Region Nine of Colorado high school basketball, a chunk of the state that includes Boulder, Greeley, and various assorted areas east of the Front Range. Marc was a college evaluator who has had many years of experience. Together, we quickly learned that high school referees are loud, opinionated, and colorful, to say the least. With substantial playing experience and love for the game we had no problems grasping the basics, but nuances in mechanics, positioning, and the rulebook took a little time to begin perfecting. After we passed the high school certification test, no easy task, we began getting higher level games, ultimately culminating in our first varsity experience this season. We have gone to every training and every meeting together, and it will be a process I will always cherish.
The games themselves are constantly evolving, and ways of seeing the court and the flow of the game change daily. Through it all, I have soaked in as much advice as I could get from my partners, and have studied extensively, doing everything from reading the rulebook to observing college and NBA officials at work. Confidence and experience are the two most important qualities a ref can have, and along with a knowledge of the game they form the basis of a good official. I honestly believe that a 6th grade Y game is much more difficult to work than a 5A boys JV game, and no two games or even plays are ever the same. Each game presents a new set of challenges extending far beyond the play on the floor, with coaches, parents, venues, working partners, and personal attitudes shaping outcomes immensely. It has been a blessing to come to work every day and try to get better, because one can never call a perfect game. Without a doubt a thankless profession, my communication and self-control have improved tremendously through my experiences, and simple comments from the crowd or a coach that used to throw me for a loop now receive a simple chuckle from behind my whistle. I love every minute of a competitive game, and am thankful to have such a great college job.
While the games are the focus, the people I have met will have the most impact on me when I look back at my days as a ref. An unruly collection of men and women comprise the Colorado Area Nine workforce, and some simply incredulous moments I have shared with Grifff are among my favorite memories. We are the youngest varsity officials in the state, and work most game with an assortment of middle aged men. These people range severely on a continuum of intelligence and common sense, representing a variety of backgrounds, occupations, and beliefs, united by a love of basketball. Whether it is the quotes uttered in complete seriousness at regional meetings "you either call it or you don't," or simply the overall raucous energy that envelops the entire scene, the entire experience is one to behold. I have stories from working partners that would make my mother blush, as well as hilarious memories that will always hold a place in my heart. Everybody loves some paid exercise.
Now, to the game...Lyons HS at Strasburg HS, a small town in northeastern Colorado of 1,400. On a Friday night, not only the whole school but the entire town turns up to watch some 3A high school basketball. I have worked a good amount of girls varsity games this season, but this was another big step up. The starting lineups before the game, the national anthem, cheerleaders, coaches yelling down my neck on every trip past their bench, fans screaming open obscenities into the air...and of course a much faster, more physical game create the aura of the big show. Strasburg leads by 20 midway through the second half, but mental breakdowns (including two technical fouls) and poor defense result in Lyons cutting the lead to six with around two minutes remaining. The defeaning noise in the arena lifts the home team (which used to be a part of the Union Pacific League only 15 years ago) to a comfortable win, and I am thrilled to be running off the court after the final buzzer. Every part of the game was awesome, and I cannot wait for many more games to come in my whistleblowing days.
Until next time,