Home Local News Local men devote time to refereeing at annual Hobbs Holiday Tournament

Local men devote time to refereeing at annual Hobbs Holiday Tournament

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Andy Brosig/News-Sun

Shawn Williams says the time he spends officiating basketball uses some of the same skills he employs in his day job as fire investigator and Hobbs Fire Marshal.

Ty Friend, who teaches at the Alternative High School in Hobbs, told the News-Sun much the same between games Wednesday, opening day of the annual Hobbs Holiday Tournament.

Officiating “makes me have more patience,” Friend said. “It helps me to work out problems so they don’t get worse.”

Friend and Williams are just two of the 15 officials working the games this week at Ralph Tasker Arena at Hobbs High School. And, they’re both former players — Williams for the Eagles and Friend in high school in Virginia, where he grew up. 

It’s a love of the game and working with the students that’s kept them each going for decades, they said.

“It’s a way to give back to the kids,” Williams said. “To give them a chance to play like I played.”

Friend has been officiating games since high school, he said, with a break while he served in the military. He got serious about refereeing while attending college after his military service in the mid-1980s. 

Friend moved to Hobbs from Idaho several years ago, he said, even coaching basketball here for a time. Both Friend and Williams appreciate the physical aspects of officiating, they said.

“I thought of it as getting paid to work out,” Friend said. “I can referee a game or two and get a workout.”

For Williams, the physical side helps him decompress from the stress of his job, first as a firefighter then fire investigator with the Hobbs Fire Department. 

“It’s sweat therapy,” Williams said. “I get a chance to be a part of a basketball game, also to get a little exercise, release some stress. It’s a win-win for me.”

Tournament play isn’t much different from regular season for officials, Friend and Williams said. But the stakes can be higher for the teams, Friend said, who may have travelled hundreds of miles to compete.

“These kids don’t travel to get beat in the first game,” Friend said. “And there’s a lot more pressure on the referees … to make sure the kids have a level playing field and can enjoy the game because it’s played fair. We’re the way to ensure that.”

One way officials make sure the situation is equal for both teams is communication, Williams said. Referees, particularly at the tournament level, meet regularly, talking about the teams they’ve seen and the upcoming games they’ll be officiating, Friend and Williams said. 

They compare notes on players who might get a little heavy handed, pushing boundaries on the court, or which coaches are likely to question a call. That gives the officials a chance to perhaps step in proactively a second or two earlier and defuse potentially tense situations.

The same goes for the crowd — parents or fans who arguably get more involved verbally in the games than they should be. For the most part, though, officials are typically so focused on the action on the court comments — even insults — from fans tend to just roll off their backs, they said.

“Our priorities are not anybody yelling or screaming,” Williams said. “Again, we have to be patient and let the play play out before we blow the whistle.”
Friend agreed, noting it’s important to balance the effect of a call on the game and whether a player maybe got too much hand on a ball blocking a shot or was a bit too enthusiastic on a particular play.

“If the players are able to work through things without us blowing a whistle, the fans don’t always like that but that’s a judgement call we make,” Friend said. “Sometimes if you jump to conclusions you can mess up a call.”

One of the biggest issues, particularly in high school sports now, is a growing shortage of people willing to invest the time training and becoming certified to officiate, Friend and Williams said. It’s becoming more common for games in most sports to be postponed or cancelled outright because there’s nobody available to referee. 

And ensuring student athletes continue to have the opportunities to participate in sports Friend and Williams has is a big factor that keeps them coming back, they said. And the lack of qualified people is a recent phenomenon, one Friend said wasn’t an issue when he was playing high school sports.

“I don’t want the shortage of referees to be the excuse for kids not playing,” Friend said. “Anyone can learn a few simple rules and do it.

“And we make sure the kids have a level playing field and can enjoy the game because it’s played fair. That makes the game exciting for the kids, not having to worry about all the rules, just enjoy playing the game.”

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