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Thank You, Coach E!

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The 2011 Summer Evaluation Program will come to an end this week and I feel great about my chances for promotion. When I reflect on all that has transpired to get me to this moment, I think of Coach E, a mentor and friend who began preparing me for SEP from the time I became an official seven years ago. This week marks his birthday, and this blog is my birthday card to him.

Coach E, a nick name I gave him years ago, is a retired veteran varsity official, coach, teaching professional  youth basketball league administrator,father and friend.  His 20+ years of officiating experience coupled with superior coaching skills gave me the confidence to continue my pursuit of officiating excellence.  With Coach E, it was never simply about getting promoted. It was and still is about being the best I can be. When we officiated games together, he quickly pointed out what I did well, and reinforced that particular behavior in my game forever. He showed me how to handle players and coaches. I called my first intentional foul in a game where we were partners. I reported the foul and watched him deal with the players, keeping them apart, and speaking directly yet discretely to the offending player, warning him without embarrassing him. It was a teaching moment in game management. Dr. E was often the first person I called after a difficult game to seek his counsel on situations I encountered. He was a great listener and gave me the gift of his time and knowledge.

He created one of the best youth official programs I have ever seen. As youth league president, Coach E conducted intensive pre-season training sessions for new and returning officials. He promoted officials as they increased in proficiency,and rewarded the best and most reliable with higher game fees, recognition and responsibility. Every weekend during the season, he drove to every gym where his league played, and observed the officials in action.  I officiated some of these games and noted over the years the improvement by parents and coaches in their behavior towards officials. This was clearly due in large part to his leadership and the culture of good sportsmanship he created. Naturally, there were some less than stellar sideline moments. During a boy's final where Coach E was present, I ejected two parents for abusive behavior and would not continue the game until the parents left the gym. Coach E supported my decision despite the fact that he knew the parents, their kids, and that based on the kids' ages, this game was likely to be their last youth league game they would play. Coach E had my back.

Coach E is contemplating retirement this year from the presidency of the youth basketball league he has lead for 31 years. After three decades of service, he deserves a winter break. Knowing him, he will simply redirect his passion for coaching and excellence in another direction. Whatever direction that may be, I will applaud in advance, the future accomplishments of those officials and athletes whose lives he will touch.

I owe you a debt of gratitude, Coach E, for all you have done for me. Thank you, Coach, and happy birthday!