In Fairfield this past weekend, 30 kids earned their officiating stripes at the Junior Referee Officiating Clinic hosted by the Fairfield Basketball Club. Mike Schmidt wrote this report for us:

Both boys and girls in grades 6-12 traveled from as far as Anaconda and Havre to participate in this one day event. This clinic was the first of its kind in Montana and was offered at no cost to participants. The format for this clinic paired young participants with seasoned members of the Montana Official's Association (MOA) so they could learn from the best and hopefully continue on in an officiating capacity.

A request for mentor officials went out to referee pools across Montana, inviting them to help us educate the young referees. The response from the officials’ community was outstanding. We had 13 MOA’s join us for the day with two, Casey Richardson and Nate WhitemanRunsHim from the Missoula pool even flying in and landing on frozen turf at the Fairfield Airport just so they could help out at the clinic.

The day started with Great Falls Official Bo Scott and North Star Official Brian Campbell leading the initial “on court clinic” while the other officials joined in and demonstrated court placement and the basic fundamentals of calling a game. All youth participants received a complimentary referee's shirt and whistle so they were prepared for the day. Jr Ref participants then broke into small groups with their MOA mentor which allowed for further discussion and continued preparation to actually referee a real game alongside their mentor.

During the Jr Ref Clinic, there were 12 elementary age, competitive games played throughout the day in two gyms. This gave Jr Ref Clinic participants the opportunity to actually put their new skills to use and referee these games alongside their mentor. Participants and their mentors rotated in and out of games so the young referees had the opportunity to be involved in officiating multiple games. The common scene was a mentor with a hand on the back of their assigned youngster guiding them to where they needed to be or the mentor standing beside the participant gesturing as to what to watch for or what should have been called. The feedback during and after each game by the MOA officials was invaluable and a true joy to watch.

The kids learned so much and gained confidence in BLOWING THE WHISTLE! This was evident at the end of the day when three 14 and 15 year old boys, officiating solo without an accompanying mentor, were observed adjusting players on the block, calling and explaining an over and back and then high fiving the young players after the game.

The  Jr Ref Clinic was huge success and would not have been possible without the expertise of our stellar group of officials – Bo Scott, Brian Campbell, Kody Lambert, Pat Mellinger, Alvin YellowOwl, Rob Spicher, Nate WhitemanRunsHim, Casey Richardson, Daryl VandanAcre, Reid Fleming, Don Olsen, Willie Widhalm and Jeremy Smith.

The Fairfield Basketball Club, organized and run by Mike Schmidt, believes sports in Montana High Schools need to be Educational Athletics in nature. The Junior Referee Clinic is an example of how sports can be more than just running, jumping and playing games. Leadership, teamwork, accountability as well as “stepping outside your comfort zone” are all important life skills that our youth need more than ever.

Plans are already in the works for another Jr Ref Clinic next year. To find out more about Fairfield Basketball Club or to help support its many and diverse activities, please visit If other communities are interested in hosting a similar event, please contact Mike Schmidt. The FBC would be happy to help.

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