|18 March 2011|
|New Zealander Gavin Zimmerman is one of the three referees from Oceania that will make the long trip to Europe in the summer to officiate at Youth Championships|
On another continent and in another century, the frequent advice to young men who wanted to advance themselves was to go west, to the land of opportunity.
Gavin Zimmermann, Sean Myers and Damian Lyons are trekking west from Oceania to Europe to whistle games in the European Youth Championships.
We do live in different times and in a far more globalised environment, but the advice still seems sound for those wanting to advance themselves in basketball.
FIBA has five basketball continents, but basketball opportunities are not evenly spread across the globe. Europe is the undisputed leader in basketball success, in basketball development and in basketball systems.
If you want proof, just look to the final placement of teams at the 2010 World Championship in Turkey.
Team USA took the gold, but of the top 10 teams, six were from Europe and nine of the top 15 teams were European nations.
And if proof were needed that this was not a 'flash in the pan', in fact that there is something serious cooking in the pot that is European basketball, six of the final 10 teams in the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 also came from Europe.
So it should come as no surprise that when FIBA Europe, through the FIBA world headquarters in Geneva, invited FIBA Oceania to send some young and upcoming FIBA International Referees to the European Youth Championships this summer, there was strong interest from 'down under'.
After putting out a call to the seven eligible federations in the Oceania Zone with qualified officials, FIBA Oceania Secretary General, Steve Smith announced last week that Gavin Zimmerman (NZL), Sean Myers (AUS) and Damian Lyons (AUS) have been nominated to officiate at the U20 European Championship Men in Spain, the U18 European Championship Men in Poland and the U20 European Championship Men Division B in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"This program has now been running for six years and the fact that this year we have been offered three places reflects very well on previous participants," said Smith.
"I know from the feedback received from past participants that this opportunity has been an important stepping stone in the transformation from a high ranking national referee in their own country, to making an impression on the international stage."
"One of the great difficulties for basketball in the Oceania zone is our relative isolation from the "hot beds" of basketball in Europe and North America and while modern communication can stream basketball games into our TV and onto our computer, nothing beats being there, and being part of it," Smith went on to say.
"One of FIBA's objectives is to have consistency in the way the game is called around the world and by giving our Oceania officials another chance to work alongside colleagues from Europe and the rest of the world, FIBA Europe are helping to achieve that goal."
The European referee exchange is not a project with just personal benefits for the participants. Returning officials in previous years have provided their federations with observation notes, which highlight the trends in play and officiating in Europe and help their federations keep in touch with the international scene.
"On behalf of basketball in our zone and especially officiating in the region, I would like to express my thanks to FIBA Europe for providing this opportunity to our Oceania referees and also acknowledge and thank FIBA for facilitating this very worthwhile program," Smith concluded.