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Basketball season at risk due to low number of referees

A basketball referee clinic is taking place this weekend in Glendon amid a shortage of referees in the Lakeland. Those involved in basketball leagues in the region are hoping more people get involved as officials.
File photo

A referee clinic is taking place on Sunday, Dec. 4 in Glendon from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Email Rachel Hunt at mhunt.rachel or Daryn Galatiuk [email protected] to RSVP for the clinic or to get more information.

LAKELAND - The basketball season is set to begin for junior and senior high students in schools across the Lakeland, but a hiccup could cause some challenges.

"Alberta in general is seeing a shortage of officials as many stopped officiating during COVID and have not returned," says Rachel Hunt, an Ardmore School teacher who also acts assigns referees to basketball games with the Lakeland Association of Basketball Officials (LABO).

The association is seeing a shortage especially within the senior high division.

"We have, in the last few years, had new members join our association, but it takes time to learn the rules and mechanics and gain the experience needed to manage a senior high game. That combined with the minimal number of games that we have had the last few years has had a big impact on our ability to train new officials," explains Hunt.

The lack of officials could mean games are cancelled due to no one being available - and in dire cases could mean leagues do not run at all. So, Hunt and others involved in basketball in the Lakeland are hoping to encourage more people to become referees. 

"Officiating is great for people of a wide range of ages to get involved in. We do have students that officiate for us and for those that also play. Officiating helps them understand the game better, and also to have an appreciation for how hard it can be to officiate," says Hunt. "Students and adults who officiate are usually more respectful as players, coaches and spectators because they have inside knowledge of what goes on when you're an official."

Acting as a basketball official also offers some hidden benefits - such as exercise. 

"I always say I don't need a gym membership during basketball season," says Hunt, adding, it's also a was to socialize and interact with people of all ages, while having a direct impact on student-athletes' experiences on the court.

When asked if there were any misconceptions about being a basketball official, Hunt said there area a few. 

"Officials take a test every year to make sure that we know our rules. There are a lot of rules and they can change from year to year so we are always needing to keep working and improving at knowing those rules and interpreting them during a game. It often can feel that people think officiating is an easy job and that we should never make mistakes, but when there are 10 athletes on the court all moving full speed and two people to watch it all, it's not possible to see everything."

She compared being an official to a "balancing act." 

"Our job is to keep the players safe, help teach and enhance the level of basketball but in the end, it is about the players and not us."

Official do have to have a thick skin, "as often people do not agree with the decisions we make." So, being able to talk to people and stay composed is important.

This is Hunt's first year working as the assignor with LABO. She says often associations in the area work together and send officials to cover games if one association is short. 

"In the end, we want to give athletes in our area the opportunity to play, learn and enjoy the wonderful game that basketball is."

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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