** Warning: Completely Raw and unedited. Hoping this touches someone**
This weekend we spent some time at Courtside Basketball Center watching family play youth basketball. Truthfully I hadn’t been in a basketball center like this since we lived in Denver at Gold Crown Field House where there were 6 huge courts. I know these places exist everywhere these days but it had just been so long since the last time. This was also Bella’s first basketball game and experience as well, and so it really made me reminisce on “where did it all begin?”
For me it was an elementary school gym in Lakewood, Colorado about 16 years ago. My first game was a 2nd grade girls game I worked with my dad. At just 12 years old I was responsible for adjudicating the laws of basketball on these 2nd grade girls. I really couldn’t believe i had that much power! inalso couldn’t believe I’d walk out of the gym that day with 25$ all for just calling a couple travels and double dribbles. But I also walked out in love with this new profession. It wasn’t soon after I’d be called up to the big leagues to work in Denver’s version of Courtside Basketball Center, called Gold Crown Field House. As a 12 year old kid this place made you feel so small, but it was where all the ball was played growing up. I had been playing there for years by this time but when I walked in to that place for the first time with my black and white stripes it changed everything. A 12 year old kid didn’t realize that it really wasn’t an awe and admiration that all the hundreds of people were looking at the referees with, but it sure felt like it. At 12 I felt so respected and honored. Oh goodness it was different then.
Flash forward to this weekend and as I sat there and watched this little 6 grade girls game with my new baby girl it really did take me back. It reminded me of working hours and hours of games with some of my best friends growing up and also some of my mentors. I mean It was the hours spent at Gold Crown when I was 13, 14, and 15 acting like Joey Crawford with best friend for hours working these competitive games. To be honest it’s also hilarious to me know to even reflect on some of the arguments I had at coaches at this age, as I can only imagine how they felt yelling at a young teen and in return loosing that argument no matter how right they were.
But I was taken back. In the hustle and flow of this massive industrial warehouse filled with courts on top of courts I really realized that a place Like this doesnt just mean a lot to the players and families who make up all the teams playing but also to the referees. For most it’s not just a rung on the ladder to the NBA or some other “successful referee career” but an opportunity to serve and give back. To remain apart of the experience that is so impactful for so many kids.
I know we can always get caught up on the money, and whether these youth officials should be paid more or less. But the truth is I’m not sure there is a right amount of money to be paid to be yelled at or abused by a first time mom or dad after “little Jimmy“ traveled and then in all of his undeveloped athleticism fell off balance and fell onto the floor after a missed layup like he was shot out of a cannon. No, truth is there is a part of every referee that realizes that their impact or even existence won‘t be appreciated until years later if it ever comes. But that doesn’t matter. I’ve realized it was never really about the money growing up, even though making $25 an hour at 12 years old was nice. It was about being apart of something larger than me. It was about being a part of a game that was such a huge part of my life. It was about being apart of an environment that represented such a complex yet simple community that illustrated a small taste of the wonder and brilliance of what’s to come in Revelation 7:9.
It was this weekend as I watched these games that I used to work religiously because it was what I thought my first stepping stone into the NBA that I finally understood how important those guys in stripes are and how needed they are. In some way I felt so proud of them, of me and everyone who decided to referee youth sports.
I wanted to share that with you. I wanted you to be reminded that it doesn’t matter if you work YMCA, AAU, or High School. it doesn’t matter if you work 300 games or 27. You matter so much to the whole of the game. THE GAME, that will forever remain bigger then you, me or any player/coach/official to come.
It is because of you and your continual support that we have the opportunity to bless referees in this environment every once in awhile. Sometimes it’s dinner, sometimes it’s just a Gatorade or sometimes it’s just a simply going out of your way to say ”you are appreciated“, especially coming from one official to another.
So if you find yourself working games this weekend or find yourself in one of these massive warehouse basketball complexes, why don’t you take a minute and appreciate an official? Bless them some how. Referees are disappearing, and money doesn’t always make people stay. More so, feeling important and appreciated will always do the job. So unless you are going to fill the gap, help keep referees from going extinct.
I hope this blesses someone and encourages others!