This season I worked a basketball game with a young lady in her late 20’s, one whom I have seen develop as an official over the last decade. Yes, she started coming to Division I camps in her teens. She was so young and impressionable, I remember.
She and I were having a very candid locker room conversation about her career path as an official. Her story convinced me that she, like myself, is suffering the consequences of going to camp too early and too often before she was ready.
She is one of those girls that many of us love to hate. She is young, beautiful, highly intelligent, and confident. She is a lawyer full time and loves officiating part time. Yep, she could be easy to dislike. And honestly, a lot of people don’t like her. Not completely without justification, but perhaps unfairly.
She is a victim of what I call the “Don’t Be Forgotten” scare tactic placed on young officials who think one day they want to work Division I basketball. She was a young basketball player who loved the game and thought that being an official would be a great way to stay connected with the game. So she showed up at a local high school officiating camp and a Division I supervisor spotted her.
An invite to the Division I camp followed and she had her first big time Division I experience. Woo Hoo! Right? People were helpful (in part b/c she was a naive, beautiful young lady – but hey that’s besides the point, right?) and she was told she had a great future in officiating one day. And the “Don’t Be Forgotten” messaging began.
A little full of herself she spent the next couple years working and talking a big game. Though her confidence appeared on the outside, she was busting her tail to be as good as she was trying to convince everyone she was. She was putting in the time, doing as she was asked, and continued to go to camp, year after year. Now 4, 5 and 6 years later the common response in her evaluations were “She’s a good official, she’s just young.” But… (insert whiny voice here) she wasn’t young any longer. She was now 6 years into her career — but nobody could see her experience through their first impression memories.
Assignors and clinicians watched her age, but never let her grow out of that initial perception of who she was when they met her nearly 10 years ago. Now she is stagnated on the cusp of the “next level” because she is still seen as that girl from years gone by.
This young lady is victim of the “don’t be forgotten” messaging that is so many times given to young officials. She always feared being forgotten and now it continues to stall her career. Maybe she would have been better to take a couple summers off the camp circuit, going to a different coast for some of the training, or simply finding different mentors.
My take away for this lesson is that if you are a young official, you may do yourself more harm than good if you continue to attend the same camp with the same assigners and same clinicians year after year. Give yourself a break; go try somewhere else; or just take a summer off. Don’t worry about being forgotten – sometimes that is a really good thing.