Good Call: Referees Keep the Ball Bouncing in Naperville Youth Basketball

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

If you visit Fort Hill Activity Center on a Saturday during the winter months, you'll see the first floor gymnasiums and lobby bustling with activity. Children in basketball team uniforms and their parents, grandparents and siblings are streaming in and out of the building at the start and finish of each game. Coaches confer with their assistants and gather their teams, the scoreboards light up and the buzzers sound.

Referees in their traditional black and white striped uniforms not only start and stop the games and enforce the rules, but they also step in to instruct players and keep the focus on good sportsmanship.

Girls' game at Fort Hill Activity Center

A referee instructs a player in the boys' game

Tyrone Weston, one of the referees for the Park District's Naperville Youth Basketball (NYB) program, said that he emphasizes fairness and learning the rules. When calling a foul, he takes a moment to instruct both teams in what the error was and how to correct it.

Tyrone instructs players on both teams about dribbling rules

Tyrone has been a referee on weekends for youth sports for ten years and first came to Fort Hill Activity Center in 2019. "I work as a referee for exercise and for the love of the game," he explained. He played basketball in high school and taught his sons and stepdaughters the game. His two sons play high school basketball and also work as referees.

He enjoys being around kids and seeing them catch on to the rules and even explain them to their teammates. He referees for other organizations in the area and notes that Naperville Park District's basketball program is well structured and well attended. In his view, the program's goal of participation by everyone on the team is important, along with teamwork, good sportsmanship and learning the basic skills of the game. Ideally, he said, "I like to see each child get a chance to score a basket."

The NYB program, like the District's popular Naperville Youth Soccer program, depends on parent volunteer coaches and assistant coaches. The District provides training to the coaches, including detailed plans for practices and a sequence of skills to teach over the course of the season.

One of the program's first time coaches, Regan, said that the coaches' manual is "immensely helpful." He agreed to become head coach for his son's first grade team this year so that his son could play. As a former high school basketball player, he knows the game but is brand new to coaching youth sports.

"Everyone here is easy going. It's been a great first experience as a coach," he said. Although the boys on the team did not know each other before this season, he said they get along with each other very well.

Coach Regan's team and the opposing team in the post-game greeting

The NYB program began in 2016 when Fort Hill Activity Center opened. The first fall season had 463 participants and the program has grown steadily since then. Even through the first phases of the pandemic, the Fall 2020-Winter 2021 season had more than 1,300 players take part in a modified program that emphasized skill learning with added safety protocols in place. In the 2021-22 season, more than 2,500 kids are participating, with many more on the waitlist.

Thinking about NYB for your child?

Registration for Fall and Winter Naperville Youth Basketball takes place in early fall with information provided in the Program Guide. Parents, consider becoming a volunteer head coach or assistant coach! Instruction and support are provided. The time you invest with your child and the team will benefit you and your family now and will build memories to treasure later.