Thursday, August 19, 2010

Refs Handicapping the Game!

During my summer travels, I am constantly reminded of how the ineptitude of local refs is limiting the growth of girls basketball in San Antonio. For various reasons, local event operators have a reduced pool of basketball refs that truly know and have played the game.

Having played the game in a competitive environment may not be a prerequisite to being a great official. The word "govern" can be defined as, "bring into conformity of rules or principles or usage". How can a referee understand the intent of certain basketball actions if they have never been subjected to the action/situation? How can they fully comprehend the "principles" of the rules if they have not been governed by them?

For instance, I have seen athleticism stymied in the city at the youth level by ineffective referees. Jumping is one of the most important aspects of the game. Learning to jump and land appropriately can not be emphasized enough, especially in girls youth basketball where the boogie monster goes by the name of Torn ACL. Local refs do not do their part to help teach this vital part of the game because they frequently DO NOT protect leapers. Too many times I witnessed athletic kids leave their feet only to be undercut by opposing players. When living or traveling in other parts of the state/country, the game is played (officiated) differently in many ways, particularly in encouraging leaping. If a person has never been in the air, totally vulnerable to cheap shots, they can never fully understand why an undercut is a different type of foul.

It can be argued that a blocking foul is the same as a pushing foul. They are both violations of the rules. Some would say that all rules should be enforced by the book. The problem with that mindset is that a foul call is more subjective than any other call in the game. A travel is a travel. At least it should be. However, a foul is not always a foul. One foul that must always be a foul is the "low bridge" that takes out the legs of players while in the air. I blame this lack of enforcement in making a number of San Antonio players "land dwellers". Players and coaches that consistently teach this practice should receive increased discipline. Not only is it very dangerous to the well being of the players, it cripples our ATHLETES. No sane person enjoys pain and as a player, few things compare to jumping as high as you can and landing on your back or hip as a result of being low bridged. Until you have had your wrists hurting for weeks due to having to break a fall from being undercut, you can not understand why this foul is more than a typical foul. Like laws that designate some violations as misdemeanors and some as felonies, UNDERCUTTING IS A FELONY and the judges(refs) must protect the citizens(players) and the community(the Game) by punishing the practitioners accordingly. If not, the game suffers.

A few other misinterpretations of refs in the city:

Continuing Education- The game continues to evolve and so should the knowledge of refs. A properly executed Hesitation Move, where the ball never comes to a discontinued dribble nor does the palm face the sky, is not a "Carry"(palming) violation. When done properly, a Pro Hop is nothing more than an exaggerated jump stop and is not a travel violation. And forget Euro Steps, this move seems to be to hard for a lot of local refs to comprehend. One of the most FUNDAMENTAL moves that is whistled as a violation locally is the OPEN STEP. We really need a referring clinic to teach some refs that an Open Step is legal and very fundamental as long as the ball is dribbled before the pivot foot is moved. Re-screening is legal! The discouragement of leaping has led some local refs into viewing clean Blocked Shots as fouls. As difficult as it may seem to some, it is legal to block shots girls basketball!

It is a disservice to our young aspiring ball players that their development is being hindered by local refs that do not live the game. Our players visit other cities and states and like all great players, they learn moves from their peers to add to their own games. They then subsequently try to apply the great things that they are learning only to be told that it's illegal. As we try and catch the more recognized cities in the state in regards to producing college bound players, it is going to take a community to help raise our future college stars and the local refs are a major part of our community.