This blog is dedicated to all the new school leaders and teachers starting new positions this year. There will be plenty of new things, new experiences, and new situations that you are faced with, so my best to you. It is my hope that you have some mentors, friends, and coaches as I’ve had along the way that have guided me in the right direction. This is just one example of one of those types of stories.
[Additionally, many of you reached out to me after the “Shoulder to Shoulder” blog #115 released in July 2020 asking about who that official was. They loved what he did and appreciated that story. That gentleman was Raymie Styons, a class act all the way around. If you haven’t read it,click here.
Today’s story is about Roger Ayers, a final four official from Roanoke, VA, and my experience in my first Colonial (CAA basketball) playoff game.
March 2008. The Richmond Coliseum. I have the 12:00 pm game, the first of four games that day. It’s the hometown VCU Rams versus the Drexel Dragons of Philadelphia. I am fired up, happy, and proud to be there. I’m also excited to be working with the legendary Roger Ayers, final four and veteran college basketball official. Some say he’s got the best hair in Division One!
Roger keeps a calm demeanor throughout the pregame with some light laughs and conversation about the game ahead. I am dialed in, focused, and listening. Just trying to soak it all in. As we’re walking on the court, Roger grabs my shoulder and says to me “You were meant to be here. Have a good game.” I appreciated that small gesture on his part and it brought my nerves down a few notches.
The game was a fantastic competition with both teams fighting very hard. We ran our asses off and called a great game. With under a minute left, there was a tight play where we couldn’t tell which team had touched the ball last as it headed out of bounds. I was on the play and Roger directed us to go to the monitor (as you are allowed to review plays under two minutes on video replay). Once at the monitor, it still was hard to determine who the ball went off. Roger focused on the screen and I was kind of frozen. He looked at me and said, “it’s your call, kid.” I was stunned that he was allowing me to make the call. He asked, “What does your gut say?” I told him who I thought should get the ball and he said “then let’s go with it. I agree with you.” We informed the coaches, teams, and the TV crew of the call, which of course received a split decision from the crowd. There were loud boos and the arena atmosphere was tight. The game went down to the last shot and finished the game without incident.
In the locker room after the game, we received confirmation that indeed we were correct in our decision. Roger gave me a wink and a nod like he knew it was right the whole time. This was very comforting to me as we always want to get the right call. I exhaled deeply and was relieved to have gotten it right when it was such a tight decision.
I share this story on #ELBlog because I was so impressed by Roger at that moment. He trusted me and empowered me to use my gifts and talents to make the necessary call. There will be many scenarios for veterans, new principals, and assistant principals this year and it’s important they are empowered to make those decisions. They are hired to do so and while we certainly need input from stakeholders in those we work with, it’s important that these school leaders are empowered to make those decisions. It is important that we, as school leaders, allow those around us to feel empowered by our actions. Roger at that moment knew I was ready and allowed me to make the call. My guess is if he thought my call was way off he would’ve stopped me, but I never sensed any doubt or hesitation from Roger. He believed in me and it felt great to take the lead in that moment. Just like his hair gel, he is sharp, smooth, and does a great job.
I wish all of you a great school year and you won’t have to look hard for these moments. They will be there for you throughout the year and then some. Thank you to all of the leaders and mentors out there who consistently help guide our new leaders. Shout out to Roger Ayers and all of my officiating mentors over the years who helped guide me. While this story may seem to be about making a basketball call, to me it was more than that. It was about leadership, trust, and mentoring young people along the way. #KeepRolling #SurviveThrive
Quote: “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
– Kevin Durant
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