|Miguel Betancor at the FIBA Europe preparation camp for the officials of EuroBasket Women 2011, in Warsaw, Poland|
28 Referees, four Commissioners and the Instructors for the forthcoming EuroBasket Women in Poland gathered in Warsaw on Wednesday to prepare for the biggest women's competition in Europe.
The two-day meeting has become an integral part of the officials' preparation to ensure that, like the players, they hit the ground running on 18th June when the competition starts.
The referees met to discuss the finer points of the rules mechanics and interpretations, but in addition to this they also spent time problem-solving and reviewing video material covering a number of different areas in the modern game.
Richard Stokes from the FIBA Europe Referee Department commented: "Our goal is to have high level officiating of course, but we also need very consistent officiating from the first game to the final. These teams are playing for the EuroBasket Women crown, but also for a place in the Olympics in 2012, so there is a lot at stake.
"With the players being under so much pressure, the referees will also have to deal with this. Our role in the Referee Department is to support them from now until the end of the competition and in doing so we will try to ensure that the referees perform the best that they possibly can.
"We have a number of younger referees and some who are participating at this stage of the competition for the first time, but we are also seeing the fruits of our work in the last six years with our development projects to improve officiating in Europe."
"In addition to support from the FIBA Europe Referee Department, there is also support from sports psychologists, physical trainers and technical support from the FIBA Europe Techno Centre. We have also invited former NBA referee Tommy Nunez who has already seen some of these referees at the clinics in Gran Canaria, to continue his work with this group.
"On the technical side, all of our Instructors will have the latest version of our new Observer software with which to give feedback and support the officials after each game. This is a part of the bigger project of preparing the 2012 teaching materials. Even though we are just finishing the 2011 version, we need high level competition to produce the best teaching examples in the future."
Alan Richardson from the FIBA Europe Referee Department was in agreement: "We have a long-term structure in place now for the development of referees. A few years ago this kind of meeting was one of the big pieces of the jigsaw. We have now added so many elements to the support of our officials that there are a number of equally important pieces that enable us to get the referees to this competition in better shape, mentally and physically, whilst also improving their experience and knowledge. We are starting to see new faces in these competitions, but the selection process is becoming harder because the quality is improving all of the time"