Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Calling Fouls on Convicts

I agreed to go on this ministry trip. I ended up as the LONE ref on one of the 1/2 courts. The game was 3 on 3 and WHEN a person was called for a foul the other team got to shoot 2 shots AND keep the ball. I guess this is designed to reduce agressive play. We also played multiple 12 minute games with a running clock. I put on the stripes and found my whistle. Then it hit me, I am going to be calling fouls on behind bars criminals. In all honesty I wasn't intimidated and felt that I called the games with confidence, whether good or bad.

What I found out about calling pick up prison games:

+ It wasn't easy. The first few games were easier to call since the players were more fresh and less aggressive. I also think that as our players began to fatique the play became a little more sloppy. This was evident after we had our balogna, greens, squash and beans lunch.
+ I did get a few complaints about not calling fouls from both sides. Actually of the 9 guys from the ministry team I took the most verbal abuse from the only 2 guys I knew. Only one other ministry person complained a few times. I only had one convict seriously complain about not getting foul calls. It was to the point I stopped the game and reassured him I was doing the best I could by myself. Ironically I later had this guy call games with me and he rarely called fouls either. Having him ref took some pressure off me and was probably the best thing I did all day.
+ I think by not calling a tight game early it did allow for a little more aggressive play later in the day.
+ A few players definitely played clean ball while others just played more out of control.

This was the first time in about 8 trips that the SportsReach Ministry team lost the overall number of games. Could blame it on me and my poor officiating. Although I one point I yelled, "I can't put the ball in for you!" Plus, one of our guys, CB, was 1 for 8 from the free throw line.... a al SHAQ!

It was a good experience. Most of the convicts were playing in government issued boots. One guy's socks were poking out the holes in his shoes. Only a few guys were wearing the prison issued tennis shoes which we were told are marked in case they ever escaped.

We also found out that is was only the 2nd time in a year that the indoor gym was used. Normally these guys are out in the hot sun playing ball WITHOUT a referee on the blazing pavement. I'm sure that game is a lot more physical than the ones I witnessed.

End result of the trip is that a few guys accepted Christ, a few rededicated their lives, a few asked for bible study material, the guys received a few real leather balls to play with, and I got to see that convicts are real people too.... and they complained a lot less than the freeworld guys.

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