★ Hey Coach... I Blew The Call!!! ★
Coach: Congratulations on a well-played game yesterday against XXXX XXXXXX HS. I also wanted to apologize for my late game call. Obviously, my judgment became skewed and I am glad that it did not change the eventual outcome of the game.
I have rehearsed the play over and over in my head trying to figure out what I was thinking. I watched your very skilled dribbler make his final approach to the bucket and the XXXX player was beat and bewildered to the point that he was in the wrong place at the right time and deserved the blocking foul. I remember watching the play and went into zoom mode and I focused much too tightly on your driver’s motion that veered slightly right to ensure the contact. That clicked in my head and I went into charge mode, when by all rights I should have called the obvious block. I can’t explain it, I made the call, and I have every myopic clue to back it up, except it was the wrong call for that play.
KUDOS TO YOU - In years past, you probably would have completely lost it on me and your team would have lost their composure. I flash back to your actions yesterday and I give you very high praises. Were you displeased? You Betcha! Did you lose your composure? No way! Did your team stay focused? Absolutely! And you walked away with a win, even though a very obvious botched call did not go your direction.
I will work on this in the future and do my best to keep the big picture focus while still looking for all of the fine details that help solidify the correct call. Thanks again for the great game experience!
Respectfully, Michael Leavitt
THE COMPLETE ACCOUNT
Here is the fuller story....
As a high school basketball official I often find myself leaving the gym with certain plays running through my head over and over again. This is part of my learning process as I work to improve as an official.
The hard part about basketball is that the game moves so quick that there is little or no time to stop and debrief, while at the same time the game keeps moving and more rulings and calls have to be made.
What most people don't know about me is that of the various sports and levels I officiate, I secretly desire to be the best at basketball. The harsh truth for me is the constant reality that I have so far to go to reach my goals of being able to confidently officiate all levels of high school basketball. With hard work I am making huge progress, but due to the speed of the game at the higher levels, I still have so far to go.
So why do I so freely confess my limitations as a basketball referee? For me, it is the reality of the job. Everybody in the gym sees us in action. You can look good when you and your partner walk into the gym. You can move well up and down the floor. You can give an aura of confidence when calls are being made. But by the forth quarter of the game everybody in the gym knows yours strengths and weaknesses. They can see how you have handled the game situations and they know whether they are dealing with a rookie, an angry ump, or a good developing official. What I am am happy with in my own development is that I rarely shrivel up inside myself anymore when disaster strikes on the court. My confidence is definitely waxing stronger when tough calls and actions need to be made. But I still have such a long ways to go....
SO WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL?
I left a game the other day with one play running over and over in my head. I was in great position. I saw every aspect. But at the last moment something clicked in my brain and I overturned the call in my mind and confidently sold the wrong call. I could completely justify my call, for legitimate reasons. But all of those reasons did not justify my potentially game changing call. I was even proud of my ability to sell the call to the bewildered head coach by saying, "32 initiated the contact... Coach, he initiated the contact."
And with that, the game moved on for about 15 seconds until his team regained possession of the ball and he called "Time" and immediately came my direction to express his displeasure with my previous call. By that time, my brain had cleared enough to know that I needed to give the last play some serious rethinking. To his credit, he gave a horrible glare, but he did not explode in the way I thought he would. Instead, he confirmed with me that I really thought that was a "Charge" and I simply told him that we needed to move on and play ball.
The final couple of minutes expired with his team winning by 7 points. But as I walked off the court I knew I needed to debrief and rethink the play, the call, and the overall game management. When I told my partner that I do not know why I ended up calling a charge, he simply said, "Yeah, that was a pretty sketchy charge call." That was his was of confirming that I shanked it pretty badly. And that is where a partner needs to be brutally honest when the debriefing occurs.
TOSSING AND TURNING
The drive home left me rewatching the play in my mind. Walking through my front door found me sharing the details with my lovely wife and then my oldest son Adam. Closing my eyes with my head on my pillow I found myself dreaming of solutions to prevent this from happening again. When I woke up early in the morning it was crystal clear what had happened and I had a clear solution to keep it from happening again. And with that, I knew that I needed to reach out to the offended coach so I crafted the following email.... (See the top of this blog entry)
I felt good about sending off the email to the Coach, the Principal, and my officiating partner. I never expected any responses as I really had no idea what they would think when they opened their inboxes.
Head Coach's reply....
First, let me say that I appreciate the e-mail. I thank you for letting me know. However, I also hope you know that you didn't need to apologize. I umpire baseball, and I know I miss calls all the time. I do the same thing, where I run the replay in my mind, and I know I've missed many calls.
Secondly, I honestly believe you both called a good game yesterday. There are some officials that I dread calling our games, but having had both of you ref our games in the past, you are always professional and fair. In the heat of a moment, I may act angry, but please know that it is fleeting, and I appreciate you coming out and reffing our games.
It was a fun game, and thanks for the e-mail!
Assistant Coach reply....
I appreciate the email and recognize the character you are demonstrating by sending it.
You didn't need to. . . . but wow! Kind of cool that you did.
Is there a way we can have you be our permanent official? You and Troy are fantastic.
No worries on our end. . . . I'm just blown away still that you would even reach out to us.
My partner's reply....
That was very professional of you to send that. It's hard to admit we blew a call and I hate when refs can't admit to making a mistake because man we make a lot of them!
This has been a good learning experience for me in the officiating world. Make it a great day! Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah
WHEN IS THE LAST TIME YOU WROTE AN EMAIL OF APOLOGY?
NOTE: The cover photo for this blog is not the actual game photo.