The Other State Tournament
Most officials aspire to officiate at the WIAA State Basketball Tournament. The first weekend in April numerous officials again gathered in Oshkosh to officiate at a State Basketball Tournament. Saturday, April 6, WIAA referees officiated six games and concluded with six more on Sunday. No, this was not the WIAA Tournament, but one just as meaningful to the participants and their supporters.
The Wisconsin Special Olympics State Basketball Tournament again concluded another successful weekend at Kolf Fieldhouse on the UW Oshkosh campus. Each year certified officials volunteer their knowledge of the game to make sure these Special Olympics athletes compete under conditions similar to WIAA member schools. In return, the athletes reward officials with compliments, handshakes, high-fives, smiles, and thank you’s. Where else can officials be greeted this way before and after games?
After the seven Saturday games, officials limp into the hot tub, replenish the liquids lost, then retreat to dinner regaling each other with the day’s highlights. Sure, basketball situations are discussed, but the conversation focuses on the smiles and laughs the athletes and referees enjoyed. As the tired bodies receive rest, officials share true stories from the past, enjoy the NCAA tournament games playing on television while concluding another successful day as a WIAA referee.
Sunday, officials find it a little more difficult getting up and down the court, but the bodies comply knowing the organizers, coaches, and athletes expect the best from themselves and the officials. Sunday’s games bring the same results: compliments, handshakes, high-fives, smiles, and thank you’s. No losers exist at the Special Olympics’ competition. At these games, even the officials are winners. No compensation can replace the accolades from the spectators, coaches, and athletes, or the camaraderie shared with fellow Special Olympic referees. At this stage in our officiating careers, we look forward to the state tournaments every year both in Madison and in Oshkosh.