My season as a middle school ref is done.
I did two middle school games since the last update, both boy’s matchups in a good league. The level of play was the highest I’ve done all season, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed them.
Over the weekend, I also did more youth rec ball. It was the lowest level of play I’ve seen from that league yet as I mostly had third and fourth graders, as opposed to the fifth and sixth graders I had seen in previous weekends.
This week truly showed me how much more difficult it is to ref lower level basketball.
In my middle school games, teams had multiple players taller than 6 feet, they could fly up and down the floor, and they had the athleticism to really get up. Because the basketball looked like, well, basketball, it was pretty easy to ref. When someone got fouled, you could see a divergence from the normal flow of play. Players would be more aware of when they fouled, and their body language would sometimes also give it away. All in all, everything is clearer, and everyone has a better idea of what’s going on.
In the rec games, which is really just children indiscriminately running while moshing around the ball, it’s very difficult to see what is or isn’t a foul. The kids need to be reminded to dribble half the time, so expecting them to set a legal screen is a bit of a stretch. It’s easy in that the stakes are non-existent and it’s more important that the games stick to the schedule than who wins or loses, but the actual game play is difficult to decipher.
I genuinely had fun calling my two middle school games. The talk from coaches and fans was there but minimal, and nothing was personal, which was what I really took issue with in past instances. The kids were fun to interact with, and the games were fun to watch because of how competitive they were. The teams could really get up and down the court, and that always makes for exciting basketball.
I had been planning to not ref anymore after my commitments this season ended, but after my experiences this week, I’m not sure. If I knew my games would be more like the ones I did this last week, I would happily do them, have fun and accept the money. I’m not sure how I get that guarantee, though, so I’ll have to think on what I will do.
But I do know that my season is over except for two more youth rec dates. I have no more middle school or high school games remaining, and I have no plans to add to my schedule. Soon, my first season as a basketball ref be completely behind me, and I’ll be able to reflect on a months-long journey that has been quite the roller coaster.