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The Road to Varsity: Practice How You Play

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High school basketball season has begun with scrimmages scheduled from early November till the end of the month. Scrimmages not only give teams the opportunity to practice plays and game situations, they give officials the opportunity to practice these as well.  Scrimmages take on added importance to me this year as I transition to Varisty level officiating.  With this in mind, I approach the scrimmage with an open mindedness,a heightened sense of responsibility, a work ethic and commitment to hustle, work hard, and be receptive to suggestions from my fellow crew members.  I make a promise to myself to "practice how I play"-- a term my son, a youth coach,  uses to describe his expectations of his players during practices. 

The officiating crew arrived at the gym 30 minutes prior to the start of the scrimmage. We are greeted briefly by the coaches, then immediately, get down to business discussing this year's rule changes. One rule change that received a lot of attention was the administration of free throws following multiple fouls especially when technical fouls occur before, during, or after a player has released the ball on a  try for a goal. Different scenarios were discussed and it was clear that while the rule was clear, the application of it was not nearly so. Each official brought an example to the discussion based on past experience where the application of the rule was not clear cut and could in fact create an unfair advantage for a particular team. It was a fascinating pre-game to say the least because the officials were focused not solely on understanding the rule, but applying it fairly and consistently during a game.

I officiated three out of six Varsity quarters, followed by three out of five JV quarters. In these three hours of play I was confronted with several game situations that only boys basketball can provide: (very) fast breaks, (very)aggressive post play by 6'1 players, struggling over held balls even after the whistle has theoretically stopped play. The one situation, however, that stands out, is the one that I was forewarned about earlier this summer after my promotion. That, as a new official, I will be a target for and tested by an experienced coach. And, sure enough, within the first minute of my taking the floor, I called an "and one" shooting foul against the home team's player. I was standing in front of the defense's bench, within feet of the head coach. He immediately jumped on my call. Up to that point, I noticed that he did not disagree with any of my partners' calls, just mine. What did I do?  I turned to him and acknowledged his disagreement, politely and firmly, without emotion. Did it work? Hard to tell, because he continued to disagree with me and point out the bad call that I made.  Even after his scrimmage was through and the JV scrimmage was ongoing, the coach passed me near the end line to point out a call he felt I had missed. Clearly, I have much to learn still about dealing with coaches during the game and after. My next chance to practice this will be Thursday during a Girls Varsity scrimmage.  I can hardly wait....