BigO Tyres

Winning on the road requires sharper focus and better play, because often the breaks — and whistles — fall to the home team. Behind...

Winning on the road requires sharper focus and better play, because often the breaks — and whistles — fall to the home team.

Behind the Clipboard By Clay Kallam

   We went to a tournament and stayed overnight, and we did OK, but the refs were so biased. We played local teams twice and each time, they got all the calls. Our best player fouled out in one game. Does that always happen when teams go on the road?

T.M., Concord

   Here’s my favorite story about getting homered: One year at Campolindo, we traveled to Winslow, Arizona, to play in a tournament on the Navajo reservation. We were very good, and got to the finals. The night before, one of our parents asked me how we would do. I said, “We’re probably going to lose because they’re going to foul out our best players.” She was shocked.

   So when we come into the gym the next day, I notice one of the refs walking into the opposing coach’s office (we were playing Winslow), and he stayed there for 20 minutes. When the game started, the whistles started blowing, and our top players were all in foul trouble. Winslow was pretty good, so going into the fourth quarter, we were down 13 in front a packed gym of Native Americans screaming for the home team. Our little suburban enclave of parents and players was huddled around our bench, frustrated and beaten down.

   But then the referees lost focus, and we came storming back, and managed to send the game into overtime. The crowd is going crazy the whole time, and once in OT, our remaining top players fouled out and we lost.

   After the game, people were coming up to me and saying “Winslow never loses at home,” or “Great game,” or “Too bad your girls fouled out.” 

   Finally, one old Native American comes up next to me, puts his arm around me and says “Now you know how Custer felt.”

   Or, to answer your question another way, any time you’re playing far away from home, you’re likely to get hosed. Even in your own gym, you need to be at least 10 points better to guarantee a win because high school officials, like high school players, work hard but may not be all that talented. But when you’re playing in a situation where the officials know the other coaches by their first names and have never seen you before, you should plan on playing 15 points better if you expect to win. Or maybe 20.

   It’s not that anyone’s cheating, it’s just human nature — and that’s why it’s the mark of a superior team to be able to go on the road and beat a quality opponent. So don’t whine about the officiating; just play better.

Clay Kallam is an assistant athletic director and girls varsity basketball coach at Bentley High in Lafayette. To submit a question for Behind the Clipboard, email him at

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