Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 99 - Numerology - Do the Math

My dad has his Phd from Standford University in Mathematics.  So math comes easy for me.  I'm a nut about numbers.  One of the things we do as officials is always memorize what the time on the clock is when an event occurs that we would like to discuss in post game with each other. So usually while we are lining up the players for a free throw, we do what we call a "sweep" with our eyes.  We check off the checklist: clock time, shot clock reset, lower block cleared out, defense on the first block, right shooter on the line, benches acting civilized, did the same amount of subs come in to replace the subs going out and is the foul count right?  With the foul count comes the next set of checklists, are we going into one-in-one or double bonus on the next shot for a team?  If so, we communicate this with each other.  I always talked in my pregame that during free throws were our time to make eye contact and signal each other for whatever we need to know as a crew.  When one of the crew isn't consistently making eye contact, I would address this in the locker room at halftime.


The officiating crew is a team and we have to be the best team out there without the luxury to be able to call much needed timeouts.  This is all we get...a few seconds on a free throw. So eye contact and non-verbal communication is essential.  I try not to be too hard on the newer officials who are just learning this important part of their game but I positively let them know I "need" them on my team and this is the way I'm assured they are "with us."  I remember being new too.  Basketball Officiating 101 was my first two years and I was just glad to know which end of the court I was on, the blue teams or the white teams?  I was glad to be able to remember which way to point when the ball went out of bounds.  I honestly think that high school officials mechanic of raising your hand first and then pointing is done so that the younger officials have that extra second to think which way to point.  In college, the out of bound mechanic is an immediate pointing signal without the hand raised.

This is how I can tell if an official of a game I am watching is a high school or college official, by their mechanics.  I remember having a hard time being able to use high school mechanics on Tuesday and then on Wednesday use college mechanics and would always make excuses.  "T" once said to me, "BJ, A good official can do both."  Best thing she ever said to me, I quickly made the adjustment and was able to do it since I considered myself a good official.  Basketball Officiating 201was my next three years and I was able to recognize offenses, defenses when coming up the floor, recognize when coaches had changed from zone to man-to-man and know the hot "shooter" in the game.  We are so focused on staying in our area that this takes awhile to develop as we are not watching the game like a fan because we are in it. Being a part of the game it is hard to have the view of a spectator. Sometimes the fans have the best angle, rare but it does happen on individual plays.

The next two years I developed into Basketball Officiating 301, learning what to say to coaches and what not to say.  One time a coach yelled, "Jesus Christ" so loud the entire gym stopped talking.  You could hear a pin drop. I stopped the game, blew my whistle and went over to him.  He said knowing that what he had just done was the reason for me stopping the game, "What? I was talking to my player."  (Heard that before!)  So I responded, "Coach, I'm going to look in the score book and if Jesus Christ is on your team roster, I believe you."  I went over to the scorekeeper and asked to see the book.  With the entire gym watching I slowly went to the table and asked to see the book.  I put my pointer finger on the book and scanned downward slowly with my finger from the top of the roster to the bottom. Sure enough there wasn't a name Jesus Christ on the list so I gave him a technical foul for swearing: unsportsmanlike conduct.  I said, "Coach, there is no Jesus on your roster."  The fans went crazy and laughed out loud. I could get away with this in AAU but I would never do this in high school and college. For twenty bucks a game I had to have a little fun to make it worth my while.

Most of the time high school and AAU coaches and I had a good rapport.  Particularly on the Womens side.  On the Mens side I had to earn the coaches trust, but after I showed them I knew what I was doing, they seemed to trust me too.  The ones that didn't were intimidated by my knowledge that I knew the rules better than they did.  They would try to intimidate me by calling me honey and sweetie.  They put their arm around my waist as if I was one of their players.  I quickly drew the line and they got the message when I said, Ok Sugar or returned the hug with a heavy hand on their waist line.  The element of surprise is always good for the bully coach.

One time while watching my partners at Disney I was sitting in the stands with my referee shirt on.  A man started talking to me and said he was from New Mexico and how they didn't have ANY female officials out there.  He said he had just been to the Bob Gibbons McDonalds All American Tournament in Raleigh and seen a great female official. She was good, really good. I asked him why he thought she was so good.  He said she had made this one offensive foul call that was such a slight hook that was milliseconds from a knee foul by the defender that it was hard to see but she got it. And more importantly, she got it right. I told him that he had made my day as that was me! I was the only female that had officiated in that tournament. He smiled and shook my hand. It was weird that day as walking away from that conversation back to the locker room, two more fans stopped me and said they had seen me in Raleigh and wanted to tell me what a good job I had done.  Three fans in one ten minute interval with accolades.  A miracle!

My last three years was Basketball Refereeing 401 this is when you've reached the level that you can memorize all the numbers.  A referee shouldn't count with your finger when players substitute that you have ten players on the court. The right thing to do is rely on logic.  There were ten players on the court before the substitution.  Do the math, one player from white comes in and two players from red.  Just wait to put the ball in when one white player and two red players exit the court.  You know what numbers are the star players, who your captains are, how many points each player has and how many fouls each player has and what the time was on the clock when it happened.  You know the numbers of the subs when they leave so that they don't try to sub back in before time runs off the clock. You see the court with a wide lens both vertically and horizontally.  You can prevent fouls by talking to starter players on a free throw line up.  You know exactly what to say to coaches and most of all what NOT to say.  When a player looks at you because he got caught off guard by an illegal screen, you know to say, "Don't look at me, talk to your teammates who didn't call it out for you."

The best statistic in basketball was coined by Coach K.  He said that teams who shoot 80% from the free throw line, win 90% of the time.  So even though basketball is a team sport, the winning teams are made up of individuals who can shoot free throws with an average of 80% or higher.  I used to think it was ridiculous that we ended practice with free throws.  We had to run devils drills if one teammate didn't make it. We also had to shoot and make ten free throws in a row before we could leave practice.  That's where we got good, in practice.  That is also where we get good in officiating, in practicing, which unfortunately needs two teams to practice with. We are learning at practice, real games.  Just as a player doesn't make all ten free throws in a row the first time but with time and effort he can do it, a referee needs time to develop too.  Just like a coach who coaches his first year, he sees things for the first time and learns from his/her mistakes. Sometimes the coaches and fans forget the 1,2,3's of this dilemma and yell at the officials.  We need to remember that all referees are 100% human 100% of the time.

While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.  ~Henry C. Link

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