When basketball leagues on Saipan resume, they will be missing referee Richard Babac.
A former referee in Asia’s first pro league, the Philippine Basketball Association, Babac returned home yesterday after living on island for more than four years and calling matches in various tournaments here.
“I had a great experience officiating games on Saipan. I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to handle games and continue my education as a referee and also share my knowledge to people who love the sport, especially to my fellow referees,” the 50-year-old said.
While working in different leagues on island, Babac said he was able to improve his communication skills and be more patient in explaining to coaches and players the calls he made or addressing their concerns. He is also thankful for getting the chance to call matches both in in indoor and outdoor leagues.
“I am used to officiating games in indoor courts back in the Philippines, so it was really a different experience when I had to work in outdoor venues. There are many challenges when you call games in an outdoor setting, particularly the court dimension you have to cover. Referees need much better view of the situation during the game to be consistent and make appropriate calls,” Babac said.
Before leaving Saipan, the former Armatech employee managed to officiate games in leagues involving different age groups—high school tournaments, masters, open, and U18—and saw players that have the potential to move up to higher-level competitions, such as the collegiate and semi pro ranks.
“There are players who have a chance to make it big outside the CNMI. You have Coby Santos, Dean Blake, and Kobe Mendoza. They have the talent and right attitude and given enough opportunities and more experience playing off-island, they will continue to get better,” Babac said.
As for his fellow referees, Babac hopes they will continue educating themselves, particularly with the new FIBA rules and share ideas during, before, and after matches. They encouraged them to remain open to constructive criticism from fellow referees, coaches, and players for better understanding of the game. Babac also acknowledged organizers of leagues who trusted him to officiate their games and wishes to see more balance competition on Saipan and inclusion of referees training before the start of every tournament.
“My sincerest gratitude to all of you and to the late Arnold Mesa, who encouraged me to referee games, again.”