OFFICIATING at the elite level even once is an achievement, but for Victorian referee Todd Spain the thrill still remains even after he reached a significant refereeing milestone over the weekend.
Spain celebrated his 500th game at the NBL1/SEABL level, solidifying his place as one of the state’s longest-serving elite officials. The milestone game was held on Saturday night as Dandenong and Kilsyth battled it out in the NBL1 Men’s competition.
From his first steps on court as a referee at Eltham, all the way through to the heights of the sport nationally with our country’s elite men’s and women’s leagues, Spain has ensured he has been ready to meet the demands of the profession.
As he reached that incredible milestone, Spain appreciates the opportunities basketball has provided and the great friendships gained over the years.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time refereeing in this league and I’ve been lucky to have met so many fantastic people,” Spain said. “I feel like even after all these games, I’m still continuing to develop as a referee and have been lucky to have officiated some fantastic games which has given me invaluable experience.”
“The continual challenge to better yourself and improve game-on-game and season-on-season is what I have really enjoyed, we as referees always strive to be the best we can be and as the game changes, we work hard to adjust.”
Refereeing consistently at a high level in pressure situations whether it be in finals or in tough close games above all resonates the most with Spain, providing an opportunity to learn and experience Australian basketball at a high level.
The intensity of the games and seeing the season culminate at its highest point – for Spain it remains the greatest experience to be part of that, even after multiple finals appearances as an official.
But the most enjoyable and important part for Spain is coming off a game with the referee team feeling that you have done a great job and called the game accurately and consistently.
“Finals are the games you always strive for, however every game during the season presents a new challenge, in this league there are so many talented teams and close games which is great to be part of,” Spain said. “There’s been plenty of games where it comes down to the last shot and we as referees work hard to make sure that we get the calls right and don’t impact the game and let the players decide who wins.”
Like so many referees before him, Spain got into the stripes as a way to pick up some extra pocket money, but he soon dove deep into his newest passion and never looked back.
“It was back when I was 12 years old – my father did the referee course and he wanted me to join him, which I did for a bit of extra pocket money but also to participate in a different part of the sport which I was playing in” Spain said. “I really enjoyed it and continued to progress through the different leagues which helped me to further develop.”
Going from the local leagues through to the Junior Championship Panel and then to State League Senior Panel, CVIBL, Big V and of course SEABL and now NBL1 has been a rewarding journey to get the experience needed at a high level.
Spain wanted to encourage the next generation of younger referees coming through the ranks to prepare well and be ready for the necessary demands of officiating, but most importantly to savour every opportunity and relish the journey.
“The key thing is to enjoy what you do, I think that is one of the most important things you can do as a referee,” Spain said. “you have to love what you’re doing.”
“The other thing would be to make sure that you prepare – make sure you understand the game, understand the teams that are playing, work on your rule knowledge and learn from others, especially the referee coaches. This will help your accuracy and consistency.”
“I have been lucky to have had many other experienced referees and referee coaches help me along the way with invaluable feedback that has helped me to become a better referee which I would like to thank them for.”
Basketball Victoria’s Technical Officials Manager Bill Mildenhall said Spain’s passion for officiating and willingness to improve has enabled him to reach this phenomenal milestone.
“Todd’s a classic example of someone who has been so persistent and credit to him for the fact that he has continued to excel over a long period of time,” Mildenhall said. “On behalf of the Technical Officials Department, I’d like to congratulate Todd and acknowledge this achievement – it’s a massive achievement to work 500 games at the elite basketball level as it takes a long period of time and a lot of perseverance.”