Ammerud-coach Kelvin Woods oppfattes av de fleste som en fornuftig kar med kjølig distanse til det aller meste. Og det hører med til sjeldenhetene å se ham hissig i kampsituasjoner. Derfor er det kanskje verdt å lytte når han tar bladet fra munnen.
I et brev som er sendt til de mest sentrale aktørene i norsk basketball, tar han et oppgjør med den norske dommerstanden – ingen navngitte dommere, men snarere en beskrivelse av hvordan han opplever å jobbe med spillere og tidvis mot dommere. Han sier sågar at han håper å bli utestengt fra flere kamper så han kan konsentrere seg om det han egentlig brenner for; nemlig å lære bort – i stedet for å bli belært.
Det er en stund siden dommere og coacher møttes til en lengre debatt om hvordan vi kan og bør samarbeide. Kanskje er det tid for et nytt møte..? Her er Kelvins brev (gjengitt med tillatelse fra Kelvin):
To whom It May concern!
I have to say that I am extremely frustrated and disappointed with the inconsistency of the refereeing here in this country. This inconsistency in refereeing in fact causes my motivation of being involved in Norwegian Basketball to be almost non-existent.
I love the sport of basketball, but feel like every time one of my teams steps on the floor I am being provoked by the men and women in grey uniforms. I really do not believe that the referees, their evaluation committees, and the NBBF itself understands where the frustration levels of the coaches in this country are currently at and has been at for a long period of time.
Last night, I was thrown out of my first official basketball game. That is fine. I deserved it.
However when you find yourself HOPING to get thrown out of multiple games because you absolutely despise having to participate in official games due to the refereeing, one has to really sit back and re-evaluate the situation he/she is in.
I asked the DK in the BEGINNING of the season for some explanation of how they were calling the games. What is it that they see when a game is being played? What and how they determine fouls? What is their version of advantage/disadvantage means? I even sent in five video clips to the DK with a variety of situations.
Four months later, I still have not gotten one response. I mean, nothing at all. I have tried their process and tried to have a working cooperation, but get absolutely nothing in return.
I am not surprised, because this is EXACTLY what happens when games are played from week to week with the referees on the court. No responses. No interpretations. No justifications. You get to see a whistle in the mouth with a threat of getting a technical foul. Every week a referee asks me for a copy of our game film. My question now is WHY? So that the referees can review the games internally?
I feel like the referees review the games amongst themselves and reconfirm the inconsistencies that repeat themselves quarter after quarter, week after week, from referee to referee. Since I cannot understand the logic behind the calls, I have stopped giving/sending game film to the referees for fear of re-enforcing the inconsistencies presented in each and every game they referee. This is a sad truth.
I have also stopped going to watch other teams play games live because I find myself feeling even more provoked watching other games that I am not even a part of. Another sad truth.
Do I think the referees understand the rules in the rule book? Yes, I do without question. I believe they know every single written word. However, I also believe that most of the referees do not understand the meaning of the word sport nor do I believe that most of them understand the sport of basketball under competition. None of the referees referee international games the way they do here in Norway. Their response to this is «because the refereeing level is higher than the level of play (or basketball skill) in Norway». This has been a statement used by the referees and their evaluation committees for many years.
To this day, I cannot figure out what that means. To this day, there are several more players playing outside of Norway than there are referees refereeing outside of Norway. This is a fact EVERY YEAR!!!
We as coaches, coach this game for 20 – 40 hrs at least every week. Week in and week out for 10-11 months a year. Most of the coaches I am referring to have done this for over 20 years. For some of us, basketball/coaching is our full time job. So it is very important to us. It is our lively hood. Basketball is what we do. We practice and watch and re-watch game film from everywhere in the world. We search and re-search for new training techniques and drills all the time. Always learning and never standing still. Yet for some reason, we are treated week in and week out as if we do not know the sport of basketball. Apparently, we simply do not know or understand the rules of the game. It is truly demotivating to come to the gym and be disrespected every week.
A referee will make a call we do not understand and turn their back on us coaches and sprint to the other side, pretending as if they do not hear me. Yet, if I have something negative to say, they can sprint right across the court to give me or one of my players a technical foul. How does that work? How are we supposed to coach if there is no consistency in what a foul is and what a foul is not? What technique can we use, if the technique we are teaching is a foul or the technique we are teaching against is never called?
Further, if the referees take the motivation and emotion away from the coaches, coaches naturally demotivate their players. Is there truly a wonder that basketball is at an all time low in this country? The referees seemingly self-critique themselves and have done this for years. My question is WHY? Why are they so afraid of letting a coach or two (present or retired) help them evaluate or understand the game of basketball from the coaching perspective? Is it because the coaching is not at a high enough level as well?
There are so many questions I have for the process involving referees that I do not know where to start. If I as a coach criticize a referee, I get technicals fouls and thrown out a game or games? What happens when referees make mistakes that cause a team to lose a game? When is it that a referee can be critiqued? Why are the referees so afraid to help each other?
One referee sees something that another referee does not see, but he will not help the other referee because «that is not his call area». Is the concept of refereeing about being in the right call area to make a call or about making the right call during the game? What happens if one referee is weak? Do the other two step up to cover him? To make matters even worse, when I started to write this letter I even called some of the referees. One referee actually told me that «it is frowned upon for any referee to make a call out of his area EVEN IF HE SAW THE RIGHT CALL.» Seriously? Is it just me that has concerns with that statement? I wish that this whole area of concern was only me. Then it could be said that I am simply a cry baby and move on. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
I am harder on myself and my players than anyone else without question. So a few «questionable» calls are not my concern. It is the stench of arrogance that concerns me. Arrogance on the floor, in the system, and in the whole process of the referee arena. I do not believe it is intentional. I believe that it has just always been that way because the basketball world is simply too small in Norway. Now, we have an unbelievable amount of ex-coaches and players just sitting on the sideline having very little or even nothing to do with basketball. I am one of the few coaches that actually TALKS to the other coaches. Trust me, this area of concern is not just me. It is every coach in BLNO and most coaches in KL and Div I. I have talked to 75% -80% of these high level coaches. I have not found one coach that is satisfied with the performance of the referees. Not one!
I asked some of them to join me in writing a letter to the federation in order to express this frustration and demotivation. When A FEW of these coaches responded that they completely agree with the assessment of the referee/coaching situation, HOWEVER they did not want me to put their name in the letter because «The referees are not professional enough to handle criticism. They will look at the letter and retaliate against them personally and against their respective teams» my heart got even heavier.
The other popular response was «you are wasting your time, but I am glad YOU are doing it because it needs to be said.» Those statements alone tells me that there is a crisis in the relationship between coaches and referees. There is no respect at all for what the other does. However, I KNOW there is higher respect from the coaches to the referees than there is from the referees to the coaches. I will give you a small example of the difference in the mentalities of the referees and coaches, The example is The Shut & Play award.
The award is given to the coaches that show the characteristics of how a coach «should act» on the sideline during games from a referee perspective. This award without question is given out with good intention. For many of us coaches, this award is a complete disrespect and tells us how not to be as a coach. This award also tells us which coach has completely lost his motivation and has just flat out given up on the sport. Another truth that many of us coaches have thoroughly discussed. Hopefully, I will never receive this award. It is not an honor at all that I want to receive. I want to coach with passion, emotion, and with love for the game. I do not want to be «tamed» because a referee might think I am embarrassing him/her or that I talk too much.
Basketball has never been about the referee for me, it has always been about the game of basketball itself. It always will be that way. In all honesty at this time, I have to say that the referees and their evaluation process have lost all my respect. That’s the simple truth.
As I sit here and type this letter, I find myself hoping that as of a result of being ejected last game that the referees will determine to suspend me for the next few weekends. That is not a joke or sarcasm by any means. I would rather just teach the game of basketball in practice as opposed to having to coach official games with referees present. I think that that in itself should pretty much tell you where I am in the crisis.
I am sending this letter to the referees, the federation, and several coaches/organizations with the hopes that the referees and coaches can resolve this crisis. As I stated before, there is no way this situation can and should continue as it is today. I believe the federation has to step in as a go between.
So what am I ultimately asking for?I am asking for a sit down between coaches, referees, and their evaluation process. This gathering should be a calm, critical, POSITIVE meeting, that has the best interest of all parties at hand. I do not want to «knock down» the referees, but the current «its our way or no way» attitudes is clearly not working. I truly believe that an unbiased evaluation of the referee system will solve most if not all of the problems. This system should openly evaluate how referees individually are doing in relation to on-court presentation as well as their competancy of the rules.
I would rather have a referee on the floor with great presentation (personality and relationship with the players and coaches), than a guy who simply knows all the rules. Whether you like it or not, refereeing has A LOT to do with how one relates to people. That being said and taken into consideration, that is why I have never understood how and why coaches have never been truly involved in the evaluation process. They are obviously a major key in the way the game is played and presented. Simply put, there are too many good referees and coaches this situation is and has affected. The result is and has been devastating. There are too many good people that have left the sport because of this crisis.
There will be many more to follow if this saga continues. That is just my opinion that I am openly standing behind.
Thanks for your time.
Kelvin Joe Woods