After being on the “disabled” list for several weeks, was I ever excited to be on the road officiating high school basketball. Being on the “unable to perform” list for officiating is not where one wants to be but it is where I had to be for the first couple weeks of the season.
First time back and I found myself in Show Low, AZ assigned a junior varsity boys’ basketball game and a girls’ varsity basketball game. When the games were with Alchesay High School my heart did one of those beat irregular things. So most of you know that I was an assistant principal at Alchesay for the previous two year prior to retiring and it was my favorite work assignment of all time. Truly an amazing experience with an amazing group of high school students. So with all that being said, I found myself in the locker room prior to game time just a bit nervous with butterflies in the stomach because I knew that these games would be very emotional for me. No not because of the officiating part but because of all the memories that would flood my senses.
Sure enough as I walked down the hallway towards the gym, I hear those “hey Mr. Fruit” sounds from just about everywhere. It really impacted me emotionally as I was saw so many students and was able to say hello, hug, shake hands, and so on with. As most reservation teams do, the fans follow the team and usually become the home team in attendance even though they are on the road. Doing a JV game usually might be low key, this one was a thriller as Alchesay won by about 4 points. To literally know each and every one of the players was something special. To have the specials smiles and hellos just warmed me up.
The varsity girls game was really something. To see all those young ladies that I had known and not ignore me but really go out of their way to say hello just about floored me. I was blown away. The two teams had an epic battle for 3.5 quarters with Alchesay coming on strong in the 4th quarter to pull away.
To visit before and after the game with so many young people made me realize that yes I had impacted many students in such a positive way. I can’t even explain how I felt. I was on an emotional roller coaster that kept me welling up with some pride and a whole bunch of hidden tears. I realized that not only did I impact the kids in a positive way but they had really impacted my life in ways I can never ever explain.
Most people know that I often times prior to games plug myself into some music that gets the blood flowing and gets me ready for the game. Headphones in, game face on, I oftentimes listen to a special song from a group that gets my adrenaline rolling. My officiating partner through the 90’s was a good friend that currently lives in Idaho, Ted Pettet. Ted knows what I’m talking about because we sort of lived for this song. So to Alchesay High School, I want you to know that you left me “Thunderstruck”!