Ray Eakins had a chance to umpire several Little League baseball games in the past with his sons, Reagan and Ryan.
With both sons now officiating high school basketball games, Ray was also hoping to get the chance to officiate a prep game together.
They accomplished that goal last Saturday night when the three of them officiated the Switzerland County-Trinity Lutheran boys varsity basketball game together.
Ray says he has been officiating high school basketball for over 30 years.
“It was between 1986 and 1990 when I started. I’ve worked with each of them individually, but never the three of us together,” he said.
“What I try to do every game is call the best game we can call. That’s all we try to do. Basketball has been very good to us, and we’re just trying to be good back.
“I’ve worked a full schedule this year, the most in a long time and I’d say it’s half and half (girls and boys.)”
He said there is no question that it’s easier for three-man crews to work games than two-man crews.
“I think early on there were only two referees, so they’ve gone to the three-man crew which keeps someone like me still being able to do it,” he said.
“I pretty much love everything about the game of basketball. I had a lot of enjoyment watching my kids play. I love the game, I love being out there on the court with kids and see them have good play, good effort in all the things that they do.
“I love competition. It’s a good way to stay in shape a little bit and run up-and-down the floor and just have a good time with the kids.”
Sometimes there are questionable calls made on the floor, and one of the more open-ended calls in all of basketball is the block/charge call.
Ray said, “There’s no question the block-charge, in most cases, could almost be called either way, almost every time. We’ve had a lot of discussion about that. We’ve looked at a lot of plays that have been called both ways and have tried to come up with what we believe the right call is. It’s a judgement call, snap decision. You’ve just got to go with your gut a lot of times, and do the best you can. Don’t go into it pre-conceived that you’re going to call something a certain way and just let the game flow.
“I did the Brownstown-Seymour game this year and that was probably the roughest game I’ve ever had to do just because of the intensity of the game. No one mistreated me. Everything was good. It was a one-point game, but it was intense.”
Junior varsity games consist of 7-minute quarters while varsity games are 8-minute quarters. Ray believes the game is easier to call as the skill level increases.
He said the reason is the players are fundamentally better “and there’s not as many turnovers, helter-skelter bad shots and reaching fouls and all the stuff that you get.There’s a little difference between a 7-minute JV game and an 8-minute varsity quarter but it’s not as much as you’d think based on the level of play.”
He hasn’t called a triple overtime game so far this season, but Ray was part of a double OT game, which he officiated with Reagan.
Reagan is in his fourth season calling high school games, and he said he’s done a little bit at all levels.
All three of them said they have full schedules this winter. Reagan said, “I’ve done several JV games and it’s a lot more area to cover with a two-man crew.”
Reagan and Ryan both played basketball and baseball at Seymour High School. Reagan graduated in 2008 and Ryan graduated in 2006.
Reagan said, “Baseball and basketball really shaped me a lot growing up. They made me part of the man I am today. It’s a good opportunity to give back to the game that gave a lot to me. An opportunity to meet some really high class individuals, and meet people, and be put in situations that make you grow. It’s been a great experience.
“When I got out of coaching a few years back I didn’t want to get out all together from the game so this was a way to stay involved and stay active.”
Reagan, who resides in Columbus, coached basketball a total of seven years at Bremen, Wawasee and East Noble high schools. The year he coached at East Noble he coached with Ryan. Ryan was the head boys basketball coach.
Ryan coached at Bremen, Columbus North and East Noble for a total of 10 years and is in his first season of officiating basketball.
Reagan said, “One thing I love is the comradery with other officials, whether you’re working in a crew with two guys you’ve known your whole life, or working with someone for the first time.
“Everyone has a different story, and it’s cool to get to know people and work with different guys. I had an opportunity (Friday) to work with a couple of very experienced officials (at Pekin Eastern) that work a lot of college games.”
Being an Indiana basketball fan his whole life, there’s an appeal of seeing different gyms across the Hoosier State that Reagan enjoys.
“It’s cool meeting different people and being able to stay active and stay involved in the game of basketball. Being an Indiana basketball fan my whole life, its cool getting to go to different gyms, and gyms you’ve never been in before,” he said.“There’s kind of a science to it, and it’s all kind of dependent upon where you were the play before, and what’s going on, and rotating from side-to-side. You’re always in a different place so you can’t just be strong in one area. You’ve got to see the game from all vantage points.”
Reagan thinks the travel call is another one that people have varying opinions on.
“Travel is a call everybody has an opinion on. Travel calls and block-charge calls are up there,” he said. “For us, you’re going to get different things that happen every game and certain things you can’t really predict.”
As for Ryan, he said, “I’d say the block-charge call is one of the hardest calls. I think the important thing on traveling is not to split hairs about it, but the block-charge is one that probably you’re never going to agree with everyone on. Those are quick and sometimes they’re bang-bang.”
Ryan, who lives in Kendallville (north of Fort Wayne), said he got into basketball officiating partly because of his father and brother.
“As a coach I was able to get to know a lot of officials. I’ve done baseball for a long time, and I’ve done football for six years,” he said. “I had some connections with officials with those two sports, and guys I’ve known through basketball. I’ve had the privilege of quite a few veteran officials kind of bringing me under their wing and teach me how to do basketball.”
Ryan sees some differences between how basketball is played in the northern part of the state as opposed to the southern side.
“I think the physicality is slightly different in some ways. I’ve noticed that scoring down here is a little bit higher,” he said. “There’s a joke of south of I-70 ‘a layup being a three-pointer.’ If you go toward South Bend and that area the game is very physical, and a lot of times the officiating allows it to go that way.
“In coaching, especially, I thought kids sometimes, if they were used to a gym where the wall was close behind the basket it was tough to adjust to a more open gym like we played in Seymour. I think sometimes players struggle with that. When you get into a smaller, more intimate gym sometimes those games are really loud and really fun.”
He said he tries not to pay attention to hecklers sitting in the front row. “I think the best thing to do is to try to ignore the noise. We as officials say we’ll communicate back and forth with the head coach, but everyone else we try to limit that with.”
Ryan is familiar with a lot of coaches in northern Indiana, so he can interact with them a little differently than when he’s down here. He also enjoys how you get to interact with players on both teams, which is something that coaching doesn’t present.
“It’s just an opportunity. I’ve been to a lot of gyms this year it’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “Honestly, almost every official that I’ve been with or worked with they’re some of the greatest guys around. They’re very helpful, very kind, they want to do what’s right. They just want to be here to help the game, help kids and coaches. It’s a great way to stay involved. I’ve loved the game as a player, loved it as a coach, and now as an official, so it’s kind of cool to play all three roles at some point.”
But the two officials he worked with last Saturday night at Trinity Lutheran will be something he never forgets.
“It will be a memorable experience,” Ryan said of working with his father and brother. “I hope we get to do it more into the future. With me living up north it’s not an opportunity we get all the time.”