Mac Engel

Here’s an idea: Rather than rip your youth coaches and refs, just thank them

A recent girls basketball game in Fort Worth between 9 and 10 year old yielded some ... interesting statistics.
A recent girls basketball game in Fort Worth between 9 and 10 year old yielded some ... interesting statistics. Star-Telegram

The referees are terrible and the coaches drive you crazy, and we are all forever in their debt.

Without them our kids wouldn’t be playing basketball, volleyball, baseball, football, soccer or much of anything else, other than staring at a screen.

For fun, I filmed my daughter’s recent 10U basketball game so I could experience the joy of watching the same turnover, missed shot and blown call 500 times. “Forty minutes of hell,” indeed.

What was initially done out of curiosity — to see just how bad the numbers really were — instead resulted in an even deeper sense of gratitude for the “horrible” referees, who are paid minimum wage, and all of the “terrible” coaches, who volunteer their time to teach a kid a game that kid has no clue how to play.

You officiate a kid’s basketball game and see how many calls you get right; I did it once, when I was in college in need of extra money. I did it only once for a reason.

The Sunflower State Games in Kansas.

The games were girls ages 8 to 10. I can still hear the parents yelling at me, in a game where the score at one point was 72-6. I tried in vain to get the losing team to 10.

Part of the responsibility of the youth sports’ ref is to keep the game moving, so the next one can start only 30 minutes behind schedule rather than an hour.

You coach a herd of little kids how to set a screen, or dribble correctly, without pulling out your hair, your teeth, losing your voice and questioning why God did this to you.

Before you embarrass yourself and erupt on either the official or the coach, never forget no youth ref has it in for your team. They just want to call a game and go home.

The coach is a volunteer (please don’t get me started on the “professional” youth coach, or the well-oiled economic scam of “select” traveling kids team).

The final score of this particular game was Pandas 7, Heartbreakers 4. In 40 minutes.

Had Dr. Naismith known this was coming when he hung the peach basket, he may have torn up the rules and told the kids to play in the snow.

To protect the truly innocent, there are no names included.

A quick recap:

The Heartbreakers tore into the afternoon with the determination of a starving badger, and made two of their first five shots for a commanding 4-0 second-quarter lead. If only the Heartbreakers knew the heart break that awaited them.

Twenty-six seconds into the second quarter, the Heartbreakers had made their final field goal, and scored their final points of the game.

This was a mashup of the Bad Boyz Pistons vs. Anthony Mason, John Starks, Charles Oakley and the Patrick Ewing New York Knicks.

The teams engaged in a nasty jump-ball fest for 32 tie-ups that indirectly led to a combined 54 turnovers. At one point the official’s whistle sounded like it was going to break.

Compounding matters was the chair in front of the scorer’s table that was actually on the court. Normally this chair isn’t a problem but serves as a nice piece of floor decor.

In the third quarter, the Pandas went 1995 Chicago Bulls against the Charlotte Hornets in their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series when the Bulls let Muggsy Bogues shoot open jumpers so they could double-team Alonzo Mourning because Bogues couldn’t hit water in a full ‘tub.

That or the Pandas simply forgot to cover everyone at the same time. Things happen.

For most of the game it looked as if four points were going to hold up, but the Pandas had their own version of the ‘85 Houston Rockets’ “Twin Towers.” Just too much height.

The Pandas exploded for consecutive baskets in the fourth quarter to take a 7-4 lead. After the last basket, the girl who scored extended both arms and flashed the “No 1” fingers and actually executed a Russell Westbrook-style shimmy.

When you’re good and you’re up 7-4 in the fourth, you Beastbrook.

The Heartbreakers three times had breakaway layup attempts to potentially re-gain the lead, but each shot bounced off the rim.

The Pandas won, despite shooting .075 from the floor.



Field goals: 2-18 (.111)

Free throws: 0-0

Turnovers: 36

Steals: 9

Blocks: 2

Rebounds: 24


Field goals: 3-40 (0.75)

Free throws: 1-4 (.25)

Turnovers: 18

Steals: 19

Blocks: 0

Rebounds: 30

( * Statistician’s note: Don’t worry if all the the numbers completely align; the accuracy here is a plus/minus of 2. Ish. )

As you can see from the box score alone, there is no easy way to officiate, coach — or even watch — such a game.

I initially did this exercise to find laughable numbers but instead, I came away with more gratitude for all of those “blind” refs and coaches who “don’t know what they’re doing.”

Like the kids, they’re all trying. So they suck ... who cares?

Without them, these games that are so essential to so many parents and their kids are not possible.

I thank all of you.

Before accepting the 2018 Davey O'Brien Trophy in Fort Worth on Monday night, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray said he picked football over baseball simply because he loves the game.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.