By ray lutz


My high school basketball coach, Ed Farnham, now long deceased, was fond of telling his players that the greatest compliment any one could give you as an athlete was to call you “a great competitor.” When I was 16 years old that “great competitor” thing did not resonate with me. I did not really understand what his point was nor did I really understand the term “competitor” in its most athletically spiritual sense.
Now, flash forward three years to when I was a freshman playing basketball for the University of Northern Iowa, where I was well down the depth chart. There, two teammates, neither of whom were nearly as gifted as myself, were starting at the guard positions, and I could not understand why. It soon became obvious to me that they were both much more tenacious, prepared better, way more focused and battled through every possession. In short they were far better competitors than was I.
As I traveled down my officiating path I began to notice some officiating partners that displayed some of the same great competitive traits that I had witnessed by my college teammates. It soon became clear that those officials were the same ones that other officials wanted to work with and that coaches picked to work their big games. They were great competitors, and that trait made them great basketball officials.
In officiating we are not competing against another player, team or even another official for that matter. The competition is the game itself. The “win” comes in defeating the game. The win comes in being able to handle anything the game can throw at you whether it is its speed, its physicality, the skill level, the play above the rim or even an out of control coach.
Great competitive officials come to the game fully prepared, both mentally and physically. They break the game down into small parts, into sequences or possessions and battle through each one of those. They will not be out worked. They will have a good look on every play. They will physically move their body when they need to. They will not be worn down by the game. They will stick their nose into every ugly play from the opening tip until the last buzzer. They will not “disappear” when the going gets tough. They will not be intimidated by any player, coach or crowd. They will have your back from the time you leave the dressing room until you get back an hour and a half later.

They will battle to the end.`

In short they will be great competitors, and that is the highest praise that can bestowed upon them.

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