|FIBA Europe's Alan Richardson showing a clip to the U20 European Championship referees during one of their daily morning meetings in Bilbao, Spain|
Constant, daily progress, trying to be a little better today than you were yesterday, is what several hundreds of people that find themselves in Bilbao, Spain during these rainy days of July are after.
But it's not only the young players and coaches of the 16 teams who take part in the U20 European Championship that chase this holy grail every athlete, and especially the younger ones, dreams of.
The referees that officiate at the championship also improve from one day to the next, says experienced Referee Instructor Uli Sledz who, along with FIBA Europe's Alan Richardson, is trusted with the task of helping the officials in Bilbao to get better on a daily basis.
"One important factor is that the referees here are officiating day in, day out, while under normal circumstances they do one game a week, during the club season," the seasoned Instructor explains.
Practice makes perfect, for sure, but is not enough in itself. The instructors have to make sure every little detail turns into a valuable experience referees can learn from, and they now have the necessary tools at their disposal.
"The Observer Software is the tool that enabled us to pass from the Stone Age to the Space Age, it's as simple as that," reveals Sledz.
"Before, we would have handwritten notes with the exact minute and second of the game an action that needs to be analyzed occurred.
"Now, it is a question of seconds. Alan and I will mark the action in the system and we have the relevant video clip at our disposal instantly.
|Instructor Uli Sledz commenting on a play from the previous night game action during a morning meeting|
"Immediately after the game, we can simply go to the locker room and discuss with the officiating trio all the details, while we all look at the videos together.
"This makes for the most productive feedback and it would be impossible before the Observer system came into play.
"It's quite difficult for a tired referee who's given his all for 40 minutes to recall an action in detail just because you remind him of the minute in the game it took place!"
This kind of personalized technical workshop that was simply unthinkable a few years ago, is not all the Instructors have in their arsenal.
The referees in Bilbao attend a daily morning meeting, where Richardson and Sledz present clips and notes they have put together in the Observer system from the previous day's game action.
If what takes place after the game is all about improving based on what the referee can learn from his own individual experience, the morning sessions are beneficial to the group as a whole.
The referees are exposed to situations that occurred in the rest of the games, and as a learning technique, it amounts to a collective pool of experience they can draw from.
At the end of the day though, there is only so much even the most experienced instructor can teach you, even with so much information and support.
"After a certain point, it is up to every individual referee how much they are dedicated. The ones who really want to get better, do so," Sledz says.
So how long does he have to wait to see the fruit of his work?
"I see the results every day! There is perceptible improvement game after game, and even more if you compare the same referee on day one with say day five," he smiles with satisfaction.
Daily progress might not be exactly as valuable as the holy grail, but it is exactly what Uli Sledz, Alan Richardson and the referees came looking in Bilbao.