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Finally, the long season is over for Justin. His first year as a basketball ref has come to a close, and he can now fully reflect on the experience.

Becoming a Ref: Practice, Practice, Practice

This week, I wasn’t able to make it to ref class, which wasn’t even class. Rather than meet like we had, this week, the class attended our local association’s meeting and were introduced to the area’s officials as the latest crop to enter the ranks.

I, however, couldn’t make it, so this week was all about individual work, and I feel like I made progress.


I often go to the gym to shoot hoops myself, maintaining my game for when Joe Tsai finally accepts my challenge of a 1-on-1 battle for all the enchiladas. This week, I spent a good chunk of time each visit working on my toss for opening tips. I would stand in the middle of the court, then get in position as if I were just about to start a game. I practiced tossing it at multiple heights, preparing myself for a matchup among third graders and a showdown between varsity high schoolers. I’m aiming for it to be as close to the center of the mid-court line as possible and monitor where the ball falls.

At first, it was difficult to get the ball to consistently land where I wanted. But after only a handful of tosses, I figured out how to keep it from spinning too far forward or backward. Setting up similarly to normally shooting a basketball, I keep my elbow directly under the ball and gently hoist it upwards, trying to keep my motion limited to up and down only to keep the rock in line. Like playing basketball, it’s about muscle memory, and as I continue to work on my toss, the process will become ingrained in my bulging ref body.

I have been working on my whistle, too. When I’ve been home alone this week, I have picked up my noisemaker and let her rip, accepting my confused dogs as collateral to get more comfortable hitting the plastic. It’s not the same as when you’re in a gym, so it’s tough to get an exact gauge of how much better I’m getting at blowing it with conviction, but it certainly is feeling better and better.

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The next step is to work on my calls in the mirror, which I have done a little bit of, but not as much as the toss and whistle. I’ll spend time on it this coming week, and by the time class rolls around next weekend, I’ll be a better ref than the last time my instructors saw me.

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