December 10th is circled on my calendar; it has been for some time. December 10th is the date that I’ve been working towards since last January when I signed up and paid for attending a basketball official’s camp at a nearby college. Do well at the camp and I’ll be recognized as an official capable of working varsity basketball games. December 10th is the date that I’ve been thinking about throughout the summer and fall as I try to learn more about being an exceptional referee. December 10th is what I’ve been seeing in my mind’s eye as I lift weights, stretch out and try to stay fit for this upcoming season. In June as I try to keep these old legs limber stretching out at the gym I think about…December 10th. As I work my abs and upper body in July…December 10th is on my mind. As I work a basketball tournament in a small humid sweaty gym in rural Iowa in the middle of August I wonder about December 10th. December 10th is my first varsity basketball assignment. Two games in a town an hour’s drive from where I live. December 10th. It was a goal of mine last January as a first year basketball referee to be assigned to work varsity games in my second season, which doesn’t happen very often. December 10th.
I get butterflies in my stomach as I think about it. I’ve talked to other officials about the school; it’s a new gym…practically state of the art. We get our own locker room verses the usual “coaches office” or “equipment room” to dress and shower in afterwards. It’ll be a great first experience; I just know it.
I rationalize that I’ve worked plenty of varsity scrimmages with big, strong kids. By the time December 10th rolls around I’ll have worked over two hundred games in the past thirteen months and heard plenty of angry coaches…but I’ve heard good things too. I’m fast; I keep up with those young’uns. I’m fair, heard that from the losing side. I know the rules, heard that from other officials who have more experience. December 10th.
While November has been a lukewarm month of working AAU tourney’s and middle school games it’s been a month of trying my best to work the game in front of me and being the professional that I want to be known as. While November can be known for the quantity of games officiated in one day (I worked six games in one day. Argh, that’s a lot of running! Why didn’t I keep my big mouth shut?) December, January and February will be known for the quality of games played. Good games deserve good officiating. December 10th.
I’ve been assigned a steady diet of varsity, sophomore and a couplea freshman games sprinkled in there for good measure. For whatever reason…kids are bigger, stronger, faster and way more talented these days. Quick as a flash something just happened and now three players are on the floor diving for a loose ball and while one coach is screaming for a foul the other is yelling “TIME OUT!! TIME OUT!!” It doesn’t help that no one stands still while we officials hustle to figure out what just happened and now what’s happening (which takes all of two or three seconds for the proverbial poop to hit the fan). I’ve been blessed with wonderful mentoring and an understanding wife who won’t see me as much as she’d like for the next couple of months.
December 10th. Wish me well and if you don’t mind…say a little prayer for me and my crew that night. To be totally honest with you I say a prayer before each game, usually in my truck, as I drive towards the school. It goes like this:
Dear Lord…please pour out your blessings upon me and my partner tonight with exceptional rules application, explanation and interpretation. Bless and protect the players, the coaches, the fans and my partner and I. Help and guide us to have a fun, safe and healthy time. In Jesus name we pray. Amen
December 10th. I’m pumped! I’m excited!! I’m ready. Game on!!