Last weekend some officials worked as many as seven basketball games in just 24 hours on Friday night and then through Saturday. That’s indicative of the crisis level the shortage of basketball officials has become.
Basketball is the most intimate of sports with parents and fans within arm’s reach of officials throughout the game. The “me first” movement in America has reached epidemic levels and rather than putting up with increasingly rabid fan behavior, many officials have just walked away to spend a quiet weekend with their families rather than getting blasted by mob mentality.
If you don’t have officials, you won’t have sports, that’s the message many fans just don’t understand.
Rather than yielding to the problem, veteran official Macey Mortimore is offering a solution to the growing lack of officials.
“As the assigner for over 10 years for the Fremont county area we’ve always been short of officials. After volleyball season I asked the state if there was anything we could do to help with the officiating,” Mortimore said. “There are some people who wanted to do something new. Is there anything the state can do to put together, a basic intro to officiating volleyball, basketball, etc…I asked them.”
The solution came in a non-credit officiating class taught two days a week by Mortimore at Shoshoni High School.
She has nine students enrolled at present in Breanna Metzler, Bransom Thompson, Trevor Williams, Camron Brown, Jordan Gilbertson, Brodie Shephard, Fynn Franks, Oakley Hicks, and Morgan Neal.
“The WHSAA came with a new program, Ref Reps, thinking maybe they can partner with schools to offer a class and get people started at a younger age, it’s also for adults too without a lot of experience,” Mortimore said. “Max (Shoshoni AD Max Mills) got the email and asked me about it. We talked about it, kicked it around, and said I’d be willing to offer a course and start it second semester.”
Interest was high with some students very familiar with a sport since they were varsity athletes and others who just wanted to learn how to officiate.
“Oakley and Morgan wanted to get registered immediately, “Mortimore said. “Branson and I reffed the first junior high girls game against Wyoming Indian, he blew his whistle three times maybe. Now three months later he’s taken a leadership role and is helping his peers.”
The class meets on Mondays and Tuesdays. The students watch the online content for wrestling and swimming, sports Mortimore is not familiar with, and videos of games and game situations that Mortimore breaks down and teaches what happened with students discussing what was good or bad about a play.
“The kids are so excited, it’s fun to watch them. Last weekend on Sunday there was a youth tournament, seven of the kids went over and reffed a bunch of games and helped each other out,” Mortimore said. “Branson and Oakley jumped in and mentored the younger ones.”
There have been negative interactions as you’d expect from some fans.
“In Branson’s first game, a girl got hurt, hit her head on the floor, and got a concussion. Her father got very upset and wanted to shut the whole thing down right out of the gate,” Mortimore said. “He wasn’t confronted directly but felt the pressure. I told him he didn’t do anything wrong, the best thing you can do is go out and do it again. He experienced parental pressure day one.”
This Sunday the Shoshoni students will work a youth tournament in Lander.
They officiate the first game for free, and then every game after that they receive the same payment as regular officials.
“I’m so proud of all of them,” Mortimore said.