News: Refs enforce rules with the power of whistle
Story by Sgt. Christopher Zahn
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. - The intramural basketball season puts teams on the court four nights a week as they chase their hoop dreams. The games are frequently chaotic, with players more used to pickup games than to organized basketball.
Keeping order in the chaos is the crew of referees who enforce the rules, police the players and keep the games running smoothly.
For many of the officials, this is just a continuation of their love for basketball. They can’t play like they did in their younger days, but being a ref enables them to stay on the court.
“When you realize you can’t play as much as you used to and you don’t want to deal with the coaching aspect, you’re still able stay on the floor the whole time with the game you love,” said J.P. Duckett, a 9-year officiating veteran. “I play a full 40 minutes, I always win. It’s awesome.”
Having experience as a player can make an official’s job easier, because they have an innate understanding of the game as it happens.
“You watch the play set up and you already know what’s going to happen,” said Howard Long, an 18-year officiating veteran. “That helps you get in the right position to be able to make the right call.”
It can also make their job harder, as they have to stop thinking like a player and more like an official.
“Speaking for myself, there are times when I’ll see a play and go ‘I would have played through that, so it’s not a foul,’” Duckett said. “But I know that’s wrong.”
There’s more to being an official than wearing a striped shirt and randomly blowing a whistle. Their understanding of the game and its rules goes far beyond what they knew as a player.
“You’ll see guys out there who think they know the game,’ Duckett said. “We definitely have to know the game.”
They also train frequently to keep their skills sharp.
“We talk about difficult situations, about the rules, interpretations, case studies and things of that nature,” said Long. “You do a lot of training with your team about different aspects of the game.”
They’re also frequently under the microscope from their fellow officials, who critique the calls made during a game.
“They’ll sit in the stands and then ask you to walk them through a play, why you called it the way you did, what you saw,” Duckett said. “It’s just another way to grow your skills.”
They welcome – challenge even – others to step into their shoes and learn to officiate.
“If you’re going to sit in the stands, making faces, catcalls and running your mouth about officiating, then get out here and give it a chance,” Long added. “Then maybe you won’t be so hard on the officials. We’re not perfect and we don’t see everything, but we do try.”