Enjoyable evening in Hudson

I had the opportunity to speak to parents and coaches in Hudson (WI) tonight. Thanks to Eric Tvedt, President of the Hudson Basketball Association, for the invitation to speak to their parents about rules, sportsmanship and some of the principles I write about in BasketCases. After speaking, I enjoyed meeting with many of the parents individually. I will be speaking at a few other parents meetings later this month. I wish everyone a great season.

Eden Prairie meeting a great experience

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to approximately 80 youth basketball parents and coaches in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. The event, sponsored by the Eden Prairie Boys Basketball Association (EPBBA), also featured Eden Prairie high school boys basketball coach Dave Flom. The EBPPA purchased copies of my book “BasketCases: How Youth Basketball Parents Can Lower Their Blood Pressure and Keep Their Sanity” for 225 of their families.

Dave spoke about expectations for his program and tips about how parents can enjoy the experience. While I listened to Dave speak, I kept nodding my head because he and I share many of the same theories about youth sports and how it can teach lifelong lessons. I loved Dave’s zero-tolerance policy against parents that call or e-mail him about playing time for their sons. LOVE IT. So many coaches deal with parents who pester them about playing time, which is really sad (are those same parents going to pester their kids’ bosses in 10 years about their work assignments??).

He also told the parents not to talk negatively about another kid in front of their own. A theme that I mention every time I talk to parents. A couple of other interesting nuggets Dave mentioned:
* Eden Prairie has approximately 120 boys basketball players per grade. That number funnels down to five to seven kids per grade that will see playing time on the varsity team as a senior.
* This year, Eden Prairie had 58 ninth graders try out for the freshman team. EP kept 24 freshman on the team, which is a huge number (most probably cap it at 15). Still, that meant that Eden Prairie had to cut more freshman than it kept. Those numbers are staggering, but a reality in one of the largest school districts in Minnesota.

I had the opportunity to talk about several misunderstood rules and shared my “10 Commandments” about how to enjoy the youth basketball experience. After I spoke, Dave and I answered questions for another half hour. I want to extend my thanks to Tom Gunderson and the EPBBA board for its support of BasketCases and understanding of the importance of putting the book into the hands of parents and coaches who need it the most. 

Great Eden Prairie event scheduled for Nov. 16

I’m looking forward to speaking to hundreds of youth basketball parents Nov. 16 in Eden Prairie, which, perhaps ironically, is where I started refereeing basketball (4th grade in-house program) more than a dozen years ago. The event is called the 2010 BasketCase Reduction. I will be speaking, along with Eden Prairie High School Boys Basketball Coach Dave Flom. Dave and I will also participate in a panel discussion with other leaders of the Eden Prairie Boys Basketball Association (EPBBA).

The EPBBA has stepped up to the plate and will provide copies of my book “BasketCases: How Youth Basketball Parents Can Lower Their Blood Pressure and Keep Their Sanity” to all families in attendance. This is a great opportunity to provide education to parents and coaches to improve the youth basketball experience.

Johnson sentenced to six years in prison for youth basketball assault

Robin Johnson, the man who allegedly assaulted Burnsville (MN) youth basketball commissioner Jeff Shand in February, was sentenced Wednesday to a whopping six years in prison. The sentence, in part, is severe because of Johnson’s previous criminal history.

Shortly after the incident happened, most news sources reported that the catalyst that led to the argument/assault was a timing error by the clock operator. According to a story on TwinCities.com, that wasn’t exactly the case. The story reports:

“Witnesses told police a man began taunting a player during free throws to try to make him miss, according to a criminal complaint. Jeff Shand, a parent-organizer, approached the man and told him to stop. A man, later identified as Johnson, said he could yell if he wanted, and continued yelling as the player made a throw that won the game.”

Do I have any sympathy for Johnson? Not really. I do feel for his kid, who won’t see his father for several years. I feel sympathy for Jeff Shand who didn’t deserve this. He was assaulted for doing the right thing and trying to stop a parent from taunting a sixth grader. I feel sympathy for the city of Burnsville, which once again takes a bad rap with its name in the news.

The sad reality is that people misbehave at youth basketball games frequently. Poor sportsmanship rarely mushrooms into physical violence (although the potential always seems to be simmering and could boil over at any time), but verbal violence — to referees, to other parents, coaches and kids — or the THREAT of physical violence is commonplace in the Twin Cities and, most assuredly, on basketball courts across the country.

When I wrote ”BasketCases: How Youth Basketball Parents Can Lower Their Blood Pressure and Keep Their Sanity,” it wasn’t to specifically prevent incidents like this. I wrote it to improve the youth basketball experience across the country for parents, coaches, players and officials. In the book I mention the 85/14/1 percent ratio: 85 percent of the individuals involved with youth basketball are good people who contribute to a positive experience, 14 percent have issues that make it unpleasant for the rest of us and 1 percent are so out of line that they embarrass themselves an ruin the experience for everyone else.

Could Robin learn from reading BasketCases? Of course, but I doubt he would read it. I can’t help those who don’t want to be helped. I like to focus on the 99 percent of people who can benefit from this book. If you know people involved with youth basketball make sure you tell them about BasketCases.

Below is a link to the full story on TwinCities.com about the Robin Johnson sentencing. 




BasketCases making impressions on Facebook

Starting tonight, I am advertising my book “BasketCases: How Youth Basketball Parents Can Lower Their Blood Pressure and Keep Their Sanity” on Facebook. Individuals in Minnesota and Texas between 30 and 55 who indicated that basketball in an interest will likely see the advertisement. Individuals who click on the advertisement will be directed to my web site, www.basketcasesbook.com.


Armstrong, Big Lake win BasketCase Reduction Plan drawings

Congratulations to the traveling program at Armstrong and the in-house program at Big Lake for winning copies of BasketCases for their families as part of the 2010-11 BasketCase Reduction Plan. Conducted in conjunction with Minnesota Youth Athletic Services (MYAS), every youth basketball association in Minnesota and western Wisconsin had the opportunity to enter a drawing to receive copies of my award-winning book “BasketCases: How Youth Basketball Parents Can Lower Their Blood Pressure and Keep Their Sanity. ”

We drew two winners: Robbinsdale Armstrong will receive 111 copies of BasketCases for all of its families in its boys and girls traveling program. Big Lake won 80 copies of BasketCases for the families in its in-house program.

A reminder that associations can purchase copies of BasketCases at $10 a copy through MYAS (minimum 20 copies). Just e-mail me (derekwolden@basketcasesbook.org) or Dan Craighead (dc@myas.org) to place an order. Good luck this season. 

2010-11 BasketCase Reduction Project

I have partnered with Minnesota Youth Athletic Services (MYAS), the largest governing body of youth sports in Minnesota, to sponsor the 2010-11 BasketCase Reduction Project. The Project consists of two parts:

1) Youth basketball associations can order discounted copies of BasketCases: How Youth Basketball Parents Can Lower Their Blood Pressure and Keep Their Sanity” for only $10 per copy (50 percent off the retail price; minimum of 20 copies). If interested in purchasing books for you association, simply e-mail MYAS Marketing Director Dan Craighead at dc@myas.org. (more details below)

2) We will give away up one book per family (up to 125 books) to one in-house program and one traveling program. The only caveat is the winning programs must be non-profit organizations (which most youth programs are. To participate in the drawing, simply send an e-mail to derekwolden@basketcasesbook.com with the name of your organization and the number of families in the program. The deadline to enter the drawing is October 20.

Below is the column that MYAS Executive Director Dan Klinkhammer wrote in the October issue of the MYAS Update about the 2010-11 BasketCase Reduction Project:

An Educational Opportunity Your Youth Basketball Association Shouldn’t Pass Up
Most of you remember the ugly assault in a Twin Cities suburb last winter when an irate youth basketball parent sucker-punched the commissioner of a sixth grade in-house basketball program following a close game. The victim suffered a concussion and dental damage, while the perpetrator was charged with four criminal counts, including two felonies.

Did it surprise me that violence could escalate to such an alarming rate at a youth basketball game? Unfortunately not. I am well aware how passionate parents and coaches are about youth sports. Due to this major investment of time and money, there are always issues percolating just below the surface in most communities in every sport. At the MYAS, we hear about everything you can imagine: “The referees were terrible.” “The other team used an illegal player.” “The opposing coach yelled at my players.” “This team was sandbagging and shouldn’t be in the B division.” And so on, and so on. It seemingly will never end.

A couple of years ago in this newsletter, I wrote about a book by Derek Wolden, one of our local referees who continues to officiate MYAS youth basketball games despite his ascension up the college ranks. Derek wrote the book “BasketCases: How Youth Basketball Parents Can Lower Their Blood Pressure and Keep Their Sanity.” To my knowledge, BasketCases, a 2009 National Indie Excellence Award finalist, continues to be the only book of its kind in the country written by a basketball official hoping to improve the youth basketball experience.

I read this book while sitting in my deer stand during hunting season and the entire time I kept thinking, “Why didn’t somebody write this sooner? The book should be required reading for every coach and parent before their kids hit the court.” Derek does a great job of explaining the rules and, more importantly, he explains how and why officials administer the rules the way that they do. If making BasketCases required reading for your coaches and parents will make for a more enjoyable and understandable season, then do it.

Considering the assault I mentioned earlier and other less violent but nonetheless disturbing incidents that never make the newspaper, I want to make an emphasis this year to collectively improve behavior on basketball courts around the state. I know that reading BasketCases is a great first step in improving the youth basketball experience. Education is a powerful tool. We spend so much time and money teaching our kids to play basketball. Why don’t we make a small investment to teach our parents and coaches how to enjoy the experience? Not only is BasketCases educational, it’s very entertaining.

Derek has agreed to make BasketCases (regularly $20) available to traveling and in-house basketball associations through the MYAS for just $10 per book (minimum order of 20). I strongly encourage you, as leaders of your association, to set aside some dollars and put this book into the hands of your coaches and parents. If you are interested in purchasing copies of BasketCases, please email our Marketing Director, Dan Craighead, at dc@myas.org by November 30 to take advantage of this special offer. Sample chapters and numerous testimonials are available at www.basketcasesbook.com.

In partnership with the MYAS, Derek is also making a generous donation to improve the youth basketball experience. In what we are calling the 2010-11 BasketCase Reduction Project, we will give away one book to every family in two youth basketball organizations - one traveling and one in-house. The caveats are that the organizations must be nonprofits (which most associations are), and we are capping the number of books to 125 per organization/association.

If you are interested in participating in the BasketCase Reduction Project, simply have a board member of your association send an email with your association’s name and number of families to derekwolden@basketcasesbook.com by October 20. The winning organizations will be announced in the next issue of the MYAS Update. (Note: Associations who want to purchase copies of the book are encouraged to enter. If they win, they will obviously not be billed.) 

If you can’t hustle, do something else

For the first time in several months, I worked some youth basketball games this weekend as part of the Minnesota Youth Athletic Services fall league. It was the first week of a four-week fall season. I was fortunate to work with Chuck T, a good official whom I’ve worked with several times before. He does a nice job, cares and hustles, all you want from a weekend youth basketball official.

We worked four games and literally didn’t hear a word from parents or coaches about any calls, which is always refreshing. I like working the fall league to get back in shape mentally and physically for the regular season (my first college game is less than two months away).

One of the issues I write about in BasketCases is officials who don’t hustle. Drives me crazy. Working on an adjacent court was a veteran official who has to be — at least — 100 to 120 pounds overweight. He rarely runs unless he needs to, is beaten down court consistently and when he eventually gets to one end, he “officiates” from the same spot and never moves. Now that’s a quality we can all strive for. How can you possibly get the correct angles if you never move?

My position on these types of referees, and youth basketball is littered with them, if you can’t make it up and down the court, do something else. Find a job where you don’t have to move. Sit in a chair somewhere. Because even if you make good calls, you are immediately branded as lazy based on your appearance.

Just saying. Not fair to the players, coaches, parents or your partner.


BasketCases now available from Gerry Davis Sports

My book “BasketCases: How Youth Basketball Parents Can Lower Their Blood Pressure and Keep Their Sanity” is now available for sale through Gerry Davis Sports, a company the provides uniforms, equipment and teaching aids for officials in all sports throughout the country. Gerry Davis is a long-time Major League Baseball umpire, who happens to be working the Minnesota Twins/Kansas City Royals series at Target Field.

Check out the link on gerrydavis.com: (below is the information next to the book)


Here is the first book of its kind in the country written from the perspective of a basketball referee hoping to improve the youth basketball experience. You’ll find loads of perspective to help you cope with league and tourney fanatics, along with valuable tips and techniques to help your games run smoothly. There’s value in all 32 chapters, from the challenges of working with different partners, to dealing with uneducated parents and crazed coaches, to age-appropriate officiating, game management, rules, and more.Written by youth / high school / collegiate basketball referee Derek Wolden, BasketCases has been endorsed by NBA Referees Steve Javie and Kenny Mauer (who also wrote the foreword), San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, University of Minnesota Men’s Basketball Coach Tubby Smith and plenty of high school and collegiate officials. BasketCases was also named a 2009 National Indie Excellence Award Finalist.


Officiate Minnesota: A great day in Minneapolis

My sabbatical is over. Since the end of the high school basketball season I turned 40 years old (and celebrated appropriately), watched our third child, Nash, arrive in this world and took the entire spring season off to spend time with my family. It’s always good to take time away from what you enjoy; it makes you realize how much you truly miss something.

Like I’ve done for the past seven summers, I did attend one basketball officials camp this summer in River Falls, Wisconsin (a good experience), and was hired into a new college conference, the UMAC, and added to the roster of another conference, the MIAC. I worked some games in a MIAC summer league on Sunday nights, including a couple of games last night. Had one outburst from a dad after my partner called a charge on a 50-50 play. “Call it both ways” predictably came out of his mouth. Ah, you can never get enough of one of the “Ten senseless sayings from Parents Row” that is highlighted in my book, “BasketCases: How Youth Basketball Parents Can Lower Their Blood Pressure and Keep Their Sanity.”

I wanted to share some lessons and insights I learned at Officiate Minnesota, a gathering of officials from Minnesota (all sports) in conjunction with the NASO (National Association of Sports Officials) annual conference held in Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago (the last time the NASO conference was in the Twin Cities was 28 years ago). More than 1,000 officials from Minnesota spent a warm summer day inside learning about officiating (we’re a crazy group). The theme of the event was “Educating, Celebrating and Recognizing Sports Officials.”

The day started with “The 23 Most Powerful Lessons in Officiating,” a session by Bill Topp, Vice President of Referee Magazine. Bill did a great job talking about issues that affect officials across the country. I highlighted a couple of “lessons” that resonated with me:

* Eighty percent of the job is managing people (you need superior communication skills to succeed)
* This business is seldom fair (some officials receive certain state tournament assignments based on race, gender or geography, get over it and do the best you can — if you are good enough, you will get noticed)
* The hallmark of officiating is being impartial, not neutral (neutral is like Switzerland in WWI and WWII, the Swiss didn’t get involved; being impartial is not caring who wins, but being involved in the action as an official)
* There is no score at the start of the game (don’t come into a game holding a grudge against anyone)
* Impersonations won’t work (if you aren’t a good employer or a good person, chances are you won’t be a good official)
* Fair-minded, accountable, decisive: skills for a lifetime (skills needed in officiating translate to success in other areas of your life)

Following Bill’s presentation, I watched NBA referee Pat Fraher and college official John Yorkovich lead a session that studied a DVD of basketball calls made at the state tournament. Pat is a friend of mine who has worked in the NBA for about eight seasons. He worked three NBA playoff games last year. Yorky, another friend, is regarded by many as one of the best collegiate officials in Minnesota. He works in the Big Ten and several other Division I conferences.

The first call that was reviewed was a 50/50 block-charge call. We were asked to watch the call in live speed and make a decision. Nor surprisingly, the audience was split: half thought it was a charge; half thought it was a block (I got that one right). It was called a block in the game, but it should have been called a charge. Yorky and Pat said the two reasons officials get calls wrong are: officials are not in the right spot or not looking at the right thing. That’s an interesting take because at the River Falls camp, MIAC and UMAC assignor George Drouches said officials get calls wrong because: they are moving or are too close (all four reasons are correct). Pat also said its important for officials to beat the players to THE spot, not a spot. He also made a good point about ants and elephants. There are smaller players (ants) and elephants (bigger players). It’s important to know the difference and focus on the elephants. It was a good session to study DVD, which doesn’t lie. Yorky encouraged officials to watch as much videotape or DVDs of their games as possible to improve their skills.

I attended a breakout session ”Career Development: Advancement and Challenges” led by one of my bosses, Roy Ward, a supervisor for the Northern Sun, and Jon Lucivansky, a longtime football and basketball official from Wisconsin, who will work his second season in the NFL this fall. Perhaps the most poignant comment came from Roy who said that 3-person officiating “has hurt us all.” He was explaining that because officials don’t have to run as much in three-person officiating that many officials don’t keep themselves in as good of shape as they should. Jon mentioned that in his effort to make it to the NFL, officiating took a toll on his health, job and family life. Jon said it took many years, but he now has found more balance in his life.

Jon mentioned that football is all about concentration and basketball is all about reaction. He also gave some tips about advancing to the next level:
* Make sure people know you are interested in moving up (but don’t bug them too much)
* You need officiating advocates to help you get to the next level
* Find a mentor and listen to what they have to say
* How well do you mind the store? (make sure to take care of your business as an official)
* When the spotlight shines, do you make the right call? (during the last two minutes of the game)
* It’s all about getting better
* Evaluate yourself

Roy noted that when he was an official, he kept a diary about different plays that helped him improve. Another point he mentioned was what kind of person are you? Are you the kind of person with whom other officials want to ride in a car three or four hours one-way to a game?

Following a luncheon that honored some distinguished officials with storied careers, I attended a workshop by one official who was honored, Steve Makowske, a veteran basketball official who I worked my first Northern Sun men’s game with a few years ago, and Vicki Davis, a former official who observes officials in the Big Ten and the WNBA.

Vicki had the best line of the session: “I always found the ones who yell the loudest know the least.” Amen, Vicki. Steve and Vicki talked about perception, attitude and communication, the art of officiating. Steve did a great job of going through his pregame speech with coaches, which prevents a bunch of problems.

Officiate Minnesota closed with a humorous presentation by retired NFL referee Jerry Markbreit, the only NFL referee “white hat” to work four Super Bowls. Jerry told numerous funny stories from his days in the NFL and told a moving story how he developed a special relationship with a young man who has cerebral palsy that he remains friends with today. Jerry’s message was to “do something” to make help someone out who needs it.

All in all, a great day to learn about officiating and take pride in the role we play as officials. As the saying goes, “without officials, It’s only a scrimmage.” Thanks to all who planned and executed such a meaningful event.