Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Zen of Officiating

Through most of my life, I've had some sort of regular involvement in sports as a player, coach, or parent of a player. I've even refereed, something I'm doing--and will do-more in the future.

One of the things I enjoy best about officiating--I officiate basketball and soccer at the youth league level--besides the kids, is the fact that for an hour or so, there is nothing else in the world except that game.

  • Officiating is a practical practice of complete mindfulness.

My mind must concentrate on the game. If I get distracted by spectators, coaches, an itchy nose, or even a random thought, I might miss something critical to the game's outcome.

I have found that when you are an official, you have to be even more mindful than if you are a player or a coach. Not only do you have the two sides' players and coaches and players mad at you if you miss a call, you have a lot of spectators on your case as well.

Nothing like peer pressure to keep you focused!

  • Officiating is a practical practice of non-attachment.

To be a good and fair ref, you can't have any attachment in the outcome of the game. You can't have any pre-conceived notions. I ref my son's 6th grade basketball games. Each team provides a ref in rec league play. Believe me, this is difficult when you know all the kids on your son's team and particularly if you have to whistle your own son. But it is a good practice.

You also cannot get mad, particularly if a coach gets after you. It is incumbent for a ref to understand that they may have a strong emotion but then to not act on that emotion. The good official only calls on what they see, not what they feel.

  • Officiating is a practical practice of impermanence.

In a game, typically someone wins and someone loses. The game is played intensely, celebrated, then forgotten. There is nothing to hold on to except some memories. The game is a lot like life.

  • Officiating is just plain fun.
All the Buddhist stuff aside, being a ref is fun. It is a way to stay involved in a game you love. It is a way to help teach the game. It is a way to get some exercise. But it can also be a practical Zen meditation.

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Paul Sunstone said...

I think one of the remarkable attributes of Zen is that nearly any activity can be turned into a Zen practice, whether that be flower arranging, archery, or officiating at a basketball game.

They call him James Ure said...

It is so liberating when we realize that we can be in a constant state of meditation.