It’s not exactly like peanut butter without jam or Batman without Robin, but for Wyatt Poser the absence of a basketball season this year has left all the local officials with an empty feeling as they, like the players, are longing to get back on the court.
“It’s definitely been different this year,” said Poser, who would have been entering his 12th season of refereeing had it not been for COVID-19. “I was probably refereeing two to three days a week and sometimes we’d do double-headers so going from three nights a week to nothing is a lot.
“We (referees association) just got a letter two days ago that said they’re hoping to get back in January and if we do, there will be all kinds of rules to protect us and the kids so at least they’re (organizers) working behind the scenes.”
Poser said there are no concrete plans to get back to playing, but he took comfort in the fact that the local referees association, in conjunction with the school boards, is at least thinking ahead.
The 62-year-old Poser, who began playing basketball at the age of 12, spent most of his youth on the court. He played high school basketball at the former Sault Collegiate and then played three seasons at Laurentian University.
He spent several years playing in the local men’s league and volunteering at the YMCA before officially taking up refereeing at the age of 50.
But while his high school days are well behind him, Poser says he can identify with what today’s high school players are going through. He said he missed a year of high school basketball due to a teacher’s strike and a half-year due to a custodian’s strike, during which the teachers adopted a work to rule policy.
“I guess you can say I know what it’s like,” Poser said. “I can imagine how the kids feel, you know, those kids going into Grade 12 and this is the end of their high school years and they’re not going to get a chance to have a season. High school is a short four years so it’s pretty devastating.
“You know how it is. You want to play competitive sports and when that’s taken away from you, it’s hard. I mean you’re only a teenager once.”
Poser said he, like the other 15 referees locally, are hoping to get back on the court at some point this season, but he understands the safety of the players is sacrosanct. While officiating serves as a sort of workout from many officials, Poser said he was able to stay active this summer by golfing regularly. But as the season changes, things will slow down for a guy who referees everything from YMCA basketball to elementary basketball to high school to the city men’s league.
“I guess you can call it the love of the sport,” Poser said. “I was doing YBC (at the YMCA) and that’s how it all started. I was coaching there every Saturday and then I had an interest in refereeing so I volunteered and eventually someone asked me if I’d be interested in doing it at the city level. Some of the other guys I played with, Clair Campbell, Craig Morrison, Dan Jodoin, guys like that, were doing it so there’s quite a bit of camaraderie and that makes it a lot more fun.”
He said if he could do it all over again, he would have begun refereeing much earlier in life.
“If anybody’s interested in referring and if I had to do it all over again, I would start at earlier age, maybe 25 or 26,” Poser said. “It’s harder when you start at 50. I mean, at 25, it gives you so much more time to grow and advance yourself and get to the university level. People like Jeff Bussineau who started earlier, can now do university games but he has so much experience. In hindsight, I wish I would have started earlier.”