Archive for July, 2009

I did it again: I knew I was the “worst ever”

Monday, July 20th, 2009

As I write in BasketCases, there have been maybe even a 100 times that a parent or coach (more often a parent) has come up to me and said that my partner and I were the best officials they have had all year. Those are always nice compliments to receive. On the flip side, there have been at least 10 times in which I have been told that I was the worst official they have ever, let me repeat that, EVER, seen.

That happened again recently during a AAU boys tournament game. Before I write about the last play of the game, let me comment about the first basket of the game. I’m sure it set the record for the fastest technical foul that I have given out — EVER. On the play, the offensive player made a layup and was also fouled by the defensive player for a three-point-play opportunity. Instead of going to the free throw line like he should have, the offensive player immediately got into the face of his opponent and began trash talking on the first play of the game. In my opinion, that was justification for a technical foul. That action was clearly unsporting and needed to be addressed immediately. By the way, the opposing team’s player made both technical free throws. File that memory for later.

Same game. Well played. Well officiated. Fairly intense. Ten seconds left, the team whose player committed a technical foul on the first play of the game is losing by two points. They have the ball with a chance to send the game to overtime. I am the lead official on the baseline. A player drives right towards me and puts up a shot, which is immediately blocked at its apex by not just one, but two defenders. The offensive player, realizing he shot was blocked, tried to adjust in the air, and subsequently did not break his fall. He landed awkwardly on his own volition. I made a rightful non-call — there was absolutely no foul on the play — and the game ended. The coach of the team that lost knew it was a clean block, but that wasn’t the perspective of some fans of the losing team.

You have to understand the perspective of the fans. They were on the far sideline on the same side of the court, meaning they had to see through a lot of players. Whether or not they saw the block or not, doesn’t matter. They saw what they wanted to see, their player falling down to the ground and the official refusing to blow his whistle. Whose fault was it that they lost the game? The official, of course. Now, granted, if one of their players didn’t give away two points on the first possession of the game, technically speaking, that game could have gone into overtime.

Following the game, two fans told me that I was the worst official they had ever seen, a mom (I assume) and a grandpa (I assume). I want to comment on this from both a micro and macro perspective. From a micro perspective, these comments don’t cause me to lose any sleep. I have heard them before, and I will hear them again. Unfortunately, that is the type of behavior basketball officials have to put up with.

From a macro perspective, this type of behavior concerns me greatly. It’s part of the reason I wrote BasketCases. I don’t think parents and coaches understand that this type of behavior — collectively — causes good officials to quit officiating. Why would anyone put up with that negative feedback. It also concerns me how much  importance that our culture ties to the outcome of a youth sporting event.

For argument’s sake, lets say I “missed” the final call of the game. Is it truly my fault that one team lost? Did the losing team ever turn the ball over or miss any shots? Of course they did. I think it send such a poor message to blame officials for a loss when a team could have done so many other things better to earn a victory. I also thinks it tells a lot about a person’s true character. Remember that sports bring out the best in us — and the worst.

Unfortunately, the need for parents to read BasketCases continues to be high, partly because our country continues to be obsessed with youth sports and winning. If that grandpa and mom had read the book, they would have understood that when a player blocks a shot first, any subsequent contact is incidental unless it is egregious. In this case, there was no contact with the defensive player (he landed in a heap on his own), but if there was, I wouldn’t have called it because the block happened first. If they happen simultaneously, many officials will call a foul. If that contact happens first, I don’t even think its debatable.




Thanks, Coach, for the endorsement

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

I received an e-mail from David Johnson, head boys’ basketball coach at Robbinsdale Cooper in the Twin Cities. Cooper has been one of the top programs in Minnesota for the last several years. Coach Johnson recently finished reading BasketCases and had these words to say:

Good evening Derek,
I wanted to take this moment in time to thank you for writing the book basket cases. Each summer I try to read a least two - three books over the summer months to help myself grow as a teacher/ coach.

Your book was very enjoyable to read and had some great insight into understanding the game of basketball, parents, players and coaching at all levels of play. I know your book had much insight into youth basketball but was very helpful to me as a head coach at Cooper High School in district 281. I plan to focus on Chapter 27 and made a copy of the parent letter… God Bless you!, and Chapter 30 ten things you can do to become a better coach. We have already practiced running the baseline after a made basket.

Thank you so much for helping me become a better coach and teacher. I will treasure your book this season.

David Johnson Head Boys Basketball coach a Cooper High School

Lessons learned at Referee Camp

Monday, July 6th, 2009

During the final weekend of June, I traveled to Sioux Falls for an officiating camp run by Northern Sun co-assignor Colin Kapitan. I rode with fellow Twin Cities officials Isaiah Conrad and Jeff Mosca to the three-day camp (two other Twin Cities officials, Brent Svor and Jason Naber, attended the camp as well.)

Referee Camp is an opportunity to learn from and work good AAU-level games in front of college officials/clinicians, who provide tips about how to improve. There was also an opportunity to learn in a classroom setting.  Some of these are new things I had never thought about before; others were phrased in a way that sunk in. Here is a list of lessons learned at Referee Camp:

* Stay on the endline after a made basket. Officials have a tendency to start to head up court after a made basket. Just when an official starts to do that, is when they get out of position to make a line call.

* Do everything the same, all the time, on every play. If you do that, officiating is simple.

* Slow Down!!!

* Have a patient whistle

** This one gets two asterisks because it was perhaps the most simple yet profound thing I heard from a clinician named Justin Ingalls: “If you are not a good person, you are not going to be a good official.” I assume that same theory holds true for coaches and parents as well.

* Pay attention in warm-ups

* Four theories from a veteran basketball mind named Tynes Hillenbrand (sp?):

1) A short pencil is better than a long memory (write things down so they stay with you - I am complying with this one)

2) 80 to 90 percent of what we learn is what he hear and see (a better learning model than just lecture)

3) Failure or success is not forever (don’t rest on your laurels if you are good, and if you work hard enough you will achieve a level of success)

4) No advantage is permanent (similar to point 3, you have to keep working to catch up or get ahead)

* “Nothing good can come from an extended conversation with a coach”

* Two buzzkills of officiating: comparison and conceit (always comparing yourself to another official, “I am just as good as he is, why does he get better games” and conceit about your own self)

* If there is nothing in your lap, extend your vision

* In officiating, there are no “nevers” and no “alwayses”

* The best calls you make are usually “no-calls”

* Be your own best critic

* Dress to impress on game nights or when you go to camp

* “Every play has a beginning and an end. If you blow your whistle in the middle, you have missed the play.”

* “If you are good and passionate about your officiating, you will get noticed.”

* It’s not that fans don’t like officials, they just don’t like the shirts we are wearing

* Referees need to practice - teams practice every day after school

* Don’t call the second infraction, call the first


Article about BasketCases in St. Croix Press

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Chris Hamble wrote a nice article about BasketCases in the St. Croix Valley Press last week. Here is a link to the article: