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Wearing the stripes

Officiating has been a passion for Rugby’s Foster

March 12, 2010
Matt Mullally

It's a thankless job, one that doesn't offer much compensation, and at times, it can be downright trying.

However, a vast majority who officiate basketball are not there for the compliments nor the money.

Put Rugby's Greg Foster in that category.

For the past 20 years Foster has been officiating basketball, working his way up from junior high and sub-varsity games to varsity and the junior college level.

"It's a great opportunity to stay involved in the game, and also it provides a different perspective,' said Foster, who has also coached at several levels, including varsity ball in South Dakota and Rugby. "I think both have helped me gain insight. When I'm officiating I know what coaches are looking at, and when I'm coaching, I understand what they are doing."

Certainly experience is a factor in being an solid official, but what often separates a good official from a bad one, is those willing to put in the time to become better, the 41-year-old said.

Those who stay in shape, continue to work on their mechanics, attend officiating camps and even read articles or books on the subject go a long way to being better officials All things Foster has done over the years.

"A player or coach can't improve without putting in the time, and that's no different for officials,' he said.

Of course, there is a lot more to officiating than looking the part or having strong mechanics.

Good communication skills are essential. Those who speak to a coach or player in a professional manner are more effective in managing the game. Sometimes they may not like the answer they get, Foster said, but if you're up front and honest with them, more often than not, you will gain their respect.

"You're out there to do a job and provide a level playing field,' he said.

Good judgment is another necessary skill. Basketball is challenging to officiate since much is open to interpretation.

"Many fans understand basketball, but they don't understand officiating,' he said.

The difference between calling a foul or not, is not simply defined by whether there is contact made between players, but rather was an unfair advantage gained by that contact?

And that's often difficult for fans to realize. Officials, like everyone else, want flow to a game, and contact is going to occur. Greg said often more talented teams can adjust to a more physical game, since ball handlers and post players can still make plays, despite getting bumped.

It's the sub-varsity levels, when more fouls are usually called because players are not strong enough to handle the contact.

Of course officials need to be ready to quickly recognize when a game is getting too physical and get back control.

Unlike other sports, the crowd is close to the action. Officials need to tune them out and focus on the play. Foster, who also officiates football, said without question basketball is a more challenging atmosphere to officiate in.

While good sportsmanship remains a point of emphasis for the North Dakota High School Activities Association, Foster admits, at times, fan conduct is a problem.

Even in the past 20 years, officiating has evolved. It's not just taking a rules test and then hit the court. More emphasis is placed on attending preseason and summer officials' clinics and preparation prior to tip off.

Many officiating crews do a pre-game checklist and meet with team captains to cover some points of emphasis. All these things get the game off on the right foot.

Yet there are times when things don't go so well. A bad call is made, or a call is missed, the game gets too physical or a coach crosses over the line with a remark to the official.

"It's those times you have to really stay focused and not ref angry, he said.

Fortunately, those outings are few and far between, and most of his experiences have been positive.

Over the years Greg has worked with many officials, but has three or four partners he's more comfortable with. "You build a good rapport...you know what to expect from them,' he said.

He often works as part of a three-man crew. "I prefer that system,' he said. "I think we are always in good position to see the play and make the appropriate calls."

And just as players desire to be in the big games, officials enjoy working them as well and Foster has had the privilege of working several regional boys and girls tournaments and a state girls tournament.

He still has plans to keep officiating, but admits his schedule may be slightly interrupted to attend his kids' activities in the coming years.

A well-officiated game is often described as one where the officials were not noticed.

However, good ones, like Foster, are.

 
 

 

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