Knicely Done: These refs officially rule the court
There is no cover charge for the Saturday morning basketball games at the Butler-Gast YMCA in North Omaha but the entertainment value is rich.
Two side-by-side courts are filled with energetic beginners who, without supervision, could run helter skelter.
That's were two referees who are around retirement age step in.
Richard Partee and Mitchell Pinkard have been working with the youngest of basketball players for a number of years. One handles the game on court one while the other officiates the game on court two at the same time.
For the full understanding of the impact these two men have on the young people they're working with, be sure to watch the video included with this story.
"Our league is pretty much based on these referees because they definitely make a big difference for us, their caring, and compassion for the game," explained Skip Carter who coordinates the games at Butler-Gast YMCA. "That's what makes these games go so well. Without these guys we wouldn't have a good league."
What they do is patiently teach the game to the youngsters with each situation. Reminders to slow down, to dribble, to keep hands up on defense.
"I always try to keep a smile on my face," explained Partee, "l always try to be encouraging and not downgraded the kid, instead uplifting the kid."
Pinkard played on Omaha Centrals State Championship team in 1975 and went on to play college ball at Dayton University.
"At this level the real enjoyment is to see the light go on with one or two skills," he said. "If might be the ability to grab the ball and protect yourself, or understand out of bounds limitation on the court. When the light comes on for one of these youngsters, it tells me that it's a gratifying experience for them."
Clearly the parents and coaches appreciate the way Partee and Pinkard manage the games. Drop by Butler-Gast YMCA at 35th and Ames some Saturday and you'll see why.