It was 2:30p, Saturday March 24, and I stood in the gymnasium at SCH Academy. We were scheduled to have completed our 6th Annual Hoops Madness Tournament an hour and a half earlier. We had more younger kids this year, more girls divisions, and a lot more 4th graders for some reason. In short, we were oversold and undermanned, especially when it came to managing each division.
Most of the groups played for two to three hours, and I ended the day as the referee for what I thought was the semi-final game amongst very competitive 4th graders. I made an executive decision to have the remaining teams do a one game knockout round, given the fact the day began at 8:00a with registrations. The parents lined the sidelines, some coaching and some cheering, showed their unhappiness to me while I attempted to get control. One father whom I knew, looked at me and acknowledged that I was making the right decision.
Fast forward, the 2nd best team beat the undefeated team in what was scheduled to be a double elimination tournament. Now we had two teams who had one loss, and another two teams that were still playing as well on the other court. The parents started to walk towards me again to see what bright idea I was going to come up with next. I had started a nice dialogue with a group of parents, acknowledging that we didn't administrate a couple of divisions very well and that we were well beyond schedule.
I began getting the same questions from a different people in the same area and I was losing my patience. Frankly, I wished they would have asked me if I needed a bottle of water. At 2:30p, seeing the was not near, I called an executive decision and offer a five minute lighting round where teams play a single game final four like format. The kids looked disappointed that it was only five minutes, but most of the parents where happy except for one mom who wanted to leave.
On the main court two teams played, one remained for the championship game, where the team would win a pizza party to Cosimos Pizza in Chestnut Hill. This set up a rematch of one game I refereed, this time the intensity was much greater. Parents lined the sideline with front row seats, and were as vocal as Jack Nicholson at Lakers games. Back and forth game, the team who was initially undefeated prevailed in a nail biter. There was jubilation and tears, the effects of a long but great day.
Here are a couple of observations:
- It's very difficult to referee a competitive game with parents watching and sometimes questioning every move and call you make, even if your name is Matt Paul Basketball.
- Some parents have no perspective on how crazy they look or sound and I hope I remember my view from the court the next time my kids play.
- One young man from another age came up to thank me for the event, His name is Kevin Cotton, and his parents should be very proud of him. He was the shining light that I needed, as I stood on an island surrounded by tension and judgement.
- Two other boys came up to make, shook my hand, and thanked me as well. I needed that to restore my faith in humanity.
I told my six year old Richie how many kids thanked me out of the 250 participants, on one of the longest tiresome days I have experienced. Without hesitation, he thanked me, which made me feel better as well. I share this to bring some light to how difficult it is to be a perfect referee, and also to give some perspective to parents reading this about what lessons are most important to teach kids. I don't remember who won the 2017 5th Annual Hoops Madness tournament in the 4th grade division, but I do think I will remember this one.