Being a ref is quite volatile.
Every game is different. The amount of fans, who the fans are, how they behave, how the coaches act, the age and ability of the players, the intensity of the game, and so much more affect how the next hour of your life as a ref goes. It can all together so nicely to the point where you feel bad for even accepting a fee for your time. It can also fall apart so severely that you can wonder what on earth made you think this was possibly a good idea.
Last week, I experienced mostly the negative side of being a basketball ref, with coaches and fans acting outrageously and ruining what should be a positive environment for the kids. This week, I experienced mostly the positive side of being a basketball ref, with coaches teaching their players the sport and valuable lessons in the process, and fans being more interested in supporting their children than hurling insults at whomever they can latch onto.
I did another middle schools girls game, and it was the least-intense game I’ve called to date. There were not many people in attendance, and most of those who were there didn’t make much noise. The coaches largely kept to themselves and their teams, and the players were no issue at all. Then, I did a few rec games in a row – three girls, one boys – which was much calmer than I’ve grown accustom to in the other leagues.
That’s not to say there was nothing. With 45 seconds remaining in the middle school game, the away team led by 12 points. Considering the time and teams, the deficit was insurmountable. At that point as the ref, my job is to get the game over with as quickly and as safely as possible. The winning team had the ball, and the girl was dribbling around the perimeter. Her defender was being a bit too generous with her body, and I mentally noted that she was fouling her. I didn’t call anything, though, because I didn’t want to pause for free throws in a game that was virtually over for a non-shooting foul that wasn’t too egregious. Nobody wins if I blow my whistle in that scenario. Instead, I opted to audibly tell the defender to back off and keep her body to herself. A fan of presumably the winning team did not like my strategy and began to yell at me from about 10 feet away that those were fouls, and I needed to call them, at least in so many words.
I’m glad that my experiences lately have been more positive than the ones I had before. Being a basketball ref isn’t all bad, and I don’t mean to portray it that way. It’s pretty solid pay for the amount of hours of work you put in, especially if a game or event is close to where you live, and there are rewarding moments while interacting with the kids.
But after almost every game, even the ones that go relatively smoothly, I come home with a sense of disappointment at how much better the atmospheres around these games should be, yet aren’t. I feel more comfortable fulfilling the rest of my current commitments this season, but I will need to see some serious changes in myself and in the environments around me before considering to continue this into next year and beyond.