Officiating

When I was growing up I always thought being a professional umpire or referee would be an awesome and great profession. One of the perks I considered was that you would be surrounded by all the elite and famous professional athletes, and you could get whatever and whomever’s autograph you wanted. Plus watching unlimited games and visiting every stadium around the country would be pretty exciting, too. If I wasn’t going to make it as a professional athlete, I wanted to be as close to the action as possible. And what better job to have….none other than an official. Of course, at the time, I didn’t realize that if I ever became an official, I could not be bias towards my favorite team. I had to be fair and equal to all. But I wasn’t thinking at all of that as a kid.
As I got older, being a professional athlete or professional official slowly left my mind. Although my love for sports was always there, doing it as a full time job was not what I wanted to do. However, whenever an opportunity arose I officiated at a much lower level whenever possible.
I first started officiating in college during intramural volleyball games. I can’t recall how much I got paid. I know it wasn’t much. But being a poor college student, any amount of money was more than enough. It might have even been just a free t-shirt I was working for. HA! I refereed my fair share of intramural volleyball games throughout my college years, as well as Middle School games while I was student teaching. When I became a teacher after graduation the unwritten rule at all the Lutheran Middle Schools where I taught was that any PE teacher/coach had to become an official. I had no problem with that, and was excited to take on the responsibility. Depending on the situation, the level of games, and the school determined if I was to get paid or not and/or how much. The amount of money didn’t matter. I enjoyed what I was doing. Plus, the more and more I officiated, my proficiency improved drastically.
During my nine years of teaching, I refereed and umpired soccer games, volleyball matches, softball games, basketball games, even track and field meets. So when I came to prison and sand volleyball officials were needed, I jumped at the opportunity immediately, not thinking what I was getting myself into before I started. Sand volleyball rules and hardcourt rules have a few minor differences, but nothing too drastic. But going from Middle School volleyball to prison volleyball was a big change. In Middle School, the athletes are still learning the game and while skills are being developed. They listen to the officials and abide by the rules. They respect the referee’s calls when an error is made.
In prison it’s a whole new ballgame. Inmates already know everything, or at least they think they do They can’t stand when a penalty is called against them. They think they play perfectly and that they can’t possibly do anything wrong. They will argue, argue, and argue, and try everything to bend the rules and give themselves an advantage to win. Every other word that comes out of their mouth is a curse word, while encouraging and uplifting words are seldom said. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been threatened to get taken into the bathroom for a beatdown or to get shanked (stabbed) over a call I made. Officials are the bad guys on the volleyball court.
Thankfully, though, throughout the years, I’ve earned the respect from the other inmates, as they realize that I do know the rules, can play the game well, and am eager to help them out. Officiating volleyball games outside of prison I would be making $25 per match. Inside these fences, though, I make a whopping 25 cents per match! I referee anywhere between 10 to 20 matches per week, so I’d be rolling in the dough if this was my after work hobby in the evenings outside of prison. But paying for a few phone calls while in prison to my loved ones is all I need to do what I enjoy.
As my time here winds down, I will miss the opportunity to officiate sand volleyball matches. It has definitely helped me develop more patience, my communication skills, my character, and control my emotions. Once again, another positive outlook on life that has happened to me while in prison.

 

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Mothers

love you forever

When you scraped a knee or got hurt as a kid, who did you run to? When you were sick, who did you turn to for sympathy? When you were hungry and needed something to eat or clothes that needed to be washed, who did you ask? Who is the first person you would say Hi to if you made it in front of a television camera? If you haven’t guessed it by now, the answer for all of these questions is “Mom.”

How important are Moms? In my opinion they are one of the most important people on the face of the earth. Everyone needs a Mom. They are the nurturers, caretakers, and caregivers of the family. The Moms I know, including my Mom, give 110% when it comes to being a Mom. They will do anything for their family and make incredible sacrifices. We all have a Mom or have had a Mom. Most of us know our mothers pretty well. From day one they have been with us every step of the way. Their love is unconditional, and cannot be denied.

I love my Mom very much. She has shown her love and support for me at all times, especially these last 6+ years while dealing with the judicial system and while I’ve been in prison. Was she disappointed in the choices I made that put me in prison? Absolutely! She was very hurt. But she forgave me, and continues to love me. It seems like she works non-stop in dealing with judges and attorneys in trying to get me released and back home. She never gives up, and won’t stop until I’m free. I’m very thankful and appreciative of her. I’ve never once heard her complain. If I ask her for help, she does it with open arms. A phrase she would pin up to each of our bulletin boards growing up was, “No matter how I’m acting on the outside, I keep loving you on the inside.” She is a leader, a role model, and an inspirer. I strive to be like her.

Growing up, I think she spent 24 hours a day in the van, driving all four of her kids to and from the countless number of activities we participated in. And yet, she still found time to cook dinner for us at night. Her relaxing time of the day was spent quizzing us for upcoming tests before we went to bed. And unless someone was deathly ill, she made sure the entire family would attend the 8am church service, followed by Sunday School, which she taught as well. And every morning before anyone else got up, she would spend her time with God. She always put God first, and still does today.

My Mom is the best because no matter what I do, how I act, what I say, or where I am, her love for me will never fail. She loves me unconditionally. The words of a song she used to sing to me while reading a book when I was a kid goes like this:

I’ll love you forever   I’ll like you for always

As long as you are living   My baby you will be.

Mom, I couldn’t ask for a better Mom. You are definitely one of a kind. You are loving, caring, forgiving, helping, nurturing, guiding, protecting, supportive, kind, gentle, encouraging, uplifting, motivating, trusting, and faithful. Thanks for all you do and for helping me grow into the Godly man you wanted me to be. Words will never be able to express how much you mean to me. Mom, I’ll love you forever and always. Happy Mother’s Day! Wish I could celebrate with you.