I lived in a neighborhood many years ago that had the local regulars out and about. Every morning I saw a man who carried three plastic bags full of crushed aluminum cans. He was coming back from his morning walk and dumpster diving and I was on my way to the daycare to drop off the kids and then on to work. On my way home, I saw a women who appeared to be in her fifties jogging with much effort. These two people were out every day doing the same thing because they could. They had become a part of my daily routine. She was out there doing it, giving it her best. Not fast, but slow and steady. I admired this woman's effort as I know how hard it is to run being a referee. An official runs about 2.5 miles in a game without timeouts. The timeouts come at the mercy of the teams which are always convenient for us. Think about it, we don't have timeouts when we need a break and we have to officiate the entire game without substitution.
The other aspect of officiating that fans, coaches and others don't comprehend is that these players are between fifteen and twenty-two years old. And they stay that age. We get older every year and yet we have to be faster than they are to beat them down the court to be in position to see the play develop and finish. I took pride in knowing that the majority of my games I had always been in proper position to see the play. I may get beat on a fast break occasionally but for the most part I could hang. Not bad for being twice their age. Even while officiating the boys AAU during the summer and wearing a knee brace, I hustled to get into position.
One time in camp, I was told by an observer, " You seem to run well, do you have to wear that brace?" Well the brace is the reason I was running so well so I wasn't about to take it off. I had four knee surgeries and was able to fully recover due to a great physical therapist, knee physician and this brace. I realized what he was telling me. Coming to camp, paying the $500, you had to be separated from the pack to get one of the two jobs that were available. Separating ourselves from the other 120-200 campers should just be on how you officiate, your knowledge of the rules and your ability to make a good partner. The reality was the knee brace made it appear that I was "damaged goods."
No recognition that we officiate an average of 200 games a year. No recognition that we spend our off season of two months getting surgeries to get better in time for camp. No recognition that in my case after five years of four knee surgeries and a foot surgery that every year when the season rolled around my body was ready to officiate. The hardest part is not the games, it's the recovery. I had found that the NFL players who are veterans are right. They say that after Sunday's game, when they were rookies, by Wednesday they were ready to practice. After ten years or more, it took until Friday or Saturday before their body was ready for the next game on Sunday.
I had weighed over 250 pounds when I started officiating. I thought I was too heavy but after listening to football players who went to camps, I thought if they can do it, so can I. The right thing to do sometimes is to just be determined to reach a goal, make a plan, write it down, and live everyday as if that goal was the only goal in your life. We can think to ourselves, we must take steps everyday toward this goal or our life is over. We can make it come true with sheer determination alone. This what I did. After one year, I lost eighty pounds and started officiating.
I know when I first started I looked young (probably because my kids weren't teenagers yet!) So on the crew I was always the baby. Partners were surprised many times to find out that I was actually older than they were. After officiating a regional final, one of my referee buddies called me to tell me that my crew had called a great game. He mentioned that a buddy of his who attended the game with him mentioned something about one of my calls. As he told me what his friend had said, all I heard was, "blah blah blah and the older female official...blah blah blah." What older? Are you serious? I checked the photograph of the crew that was taken that night and I saw what he meant. With the added wrinkles and wear and tear on my body, I did look older than the twenty year old female partner I had that night! This really was a revelation to me because I didn't feel old.
Now when I am out and about collecting aluminum cans or when I'm out trying to exercise with much effort I think about the neighborhood regulars from my past. I bet they didn't feel old either. In fact moving kept them feeling young. There by the grace of God, go I. I may not be able to run anymore, but I can walk and ride my bike. The question is, have I become the neighborhood regular for somebody in my neighborhood on their way to and from work? Is there someone in your neighborhood that is a regular? Who will do the right thing and pick up where they left off when they aren't around anymore? Will it be you? Can you?