It’s a long road to become a referee

Posted Nov. 24, 2008, at 10:20 p.m.

Basketball officials endure hours of in-class and on-court instruction

The next time you attend a high school basketball game in eastern Maine, take a look at the game officials down on the floor.

Ever wonder where these men and women come from? Or, better yet, ever wonder how they got there in the first place?

If you do, then think no more. Today, we’ll take a look at the process that produces officials, then take it all a step further to Dave Mansfield’s office, and he’ll explain the rest.

The 1961 Bangor High School graduate enjoyed a successful 20-year run as a certified International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO) referee before moving into executive positions such as the assigning of officials to one of 42 different Board Number 111 schools.

Mansfield has been involved for over 30 years in sports in the Bangor area.

I first met the likeable man at the Bangor YMCA in their old Hammond Street facility when I was a college student at the University of Maine. He and his pal Joe Gould, a well-known radio and TV broadcaster, were volunteering their time – two days a week, actually – to coach young kids in the Middlers’ League.

Dave has also coached local Little League, and he spends a lot of time, still, with Senior League World Series stuff at the annual end-of-summer event.

Today, assigning officials is his baby, and he speaks with a lilt in his voice about the upcoming basketball season and all the behind the scenes work necessary to put trained officials out on the floor. Dave assigns 2,500 games per year, including middle school action.

“There’s more to all this than just having officials show up for a game,” Mansfield said. “It’s a lot of work for them and us.”

Us, meaning, of course, the IAABO executive committee, and, of course, Commissioner Peter Webb.

The men and women who show an interest in becoming an official must work their way into and up an arduous system which includes an educational process, including an officials’ school of rules instruction of sixteen hours; an on-court instruction period of six hours; and a floor exam of mechanics and signals.

Once the applicant passes those three preliminary exams, he or she is awarded an IAABO membership.

Next up, is the actual blowing of the whistle at recreational, YMCA, and middle school games. Trained observers view the new officials and each future ref is given a written evaluation.

Once these officials get to Mansfield for placement in actual games, they are the products of a system, which now rates them, and their ratings – in large part – determine how far they can go in any given year.

Although simplified to accommodate the length of this column, it is a safe system, going all the way up to ethics and on-the-floor performance.

Mansfield is not only a student of the game, but also a team observer of who can do what.

So the next time you’re at a game, keep in mind how difficult it is for officials to reach the level of hoop arbitration that these fine people have attained.

“We take great pride in our product we put out on the floor,” Dave said.

30-Second Time Out

I caught a Friday night ESPN NBA game last week, and there he was. The distinctive New York accent of legendary Hubie Brown was there to provide color commentary for the broadcast.

I told my wife that it must be basketball season because Hubie is on the air.

I first hooked up with Coach Brown at a basketball coaching clinic a number of years ago. Since that time, he and I have been involved in several hoop activities. We’ve done a couple of sports talk radio shows together, and the former Memphis Grizzlies head coach was kind enough to help me with my last book.

He is certainly one of the great ones.

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