COLUMBIA — There is more to the Show-Me State Games than the athletes. There are the referees, too. Officials like Ron Zetcher have been travelling to Columbia for more than two decades — not to participate and compete, but to judge and analyze as a supervisor for basketball referees.
Zetcher was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame last year for his officiating skills. He has worked 17 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournaments, 20 National Invitational Tournaments and is a supervisor of basketball officials for the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
He has consistently uses the Show-Me State Games as one of his officiating clinics, and free of charge, the Show-Me Games receives professional quality referees.
Zetcher runs most of his clinics in the St. Louis area, near his home in O’Fallon, but during the weekends of July 18-20 and 25-27 he will oversee about 100 officials in Columbia for his Show-Me clinic.
Even referees need to stay sharp in the offseason, and the Show-Me Games is a great opportunity.
“It’s a good tool for me to identify prospective officials,” Zetcher said. If he is impressed with an official, Zetcher will help them get officiating jobs with Division I basketball and other organized sports.
About 75 officials will come with Zetcher the first weekend of the games, but he said that all of his referees will do something this summer to stay active.
Ken Ash, executive director for the Show-Me Games for 6 years, says he and his staff try to use the best officials they can possibly get.
“(Zetcher) brings a lot of good officials that are at a college level,” Ash said.
Zetcher says calling a game at the Show-Me Games is similar to officiating an NCAA event. The rules are the same, and the competition is just as fierce.
“The best college players in the state of Missouri are at the Show-Me Games,” Zetcher said.
The talent doesn’t end with college students; there are the older athletes who used to play in college who participate Zetcher said, and his officials need to be able to handle any situation.
There will be a mix of veteran referees and those that have never worked with Zetcher before.
“It will be great experience for the new people. It’s really competitive,” Zetcher said.
He said the veteran officials bringing experience and the younger referees bringing ambition will push each other to learn together. Zetcher observes the officials and analyzes their job, and after a game will work with them on what can be improved.
Ash said, “If (the referees) make a mistake he’ll call them out and go over it with them.”
Both Ash and Zetcher benefit from one another because the referee’s get experience while the Show-Me Games doesn’t have to worry about paying for their time.
“I think they do a great service for these games, and it saves us money,” Ash said.
Zetcher said his work with Ash has grown beyond a professional relationship into a friendship, and that Ash and the Show-Me Games have “always treated us like a million dollars.”
Ash says Zetcher is “professional all the way.”