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Scott Jenkins: Both Sides of the Whistle

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

Coach: Don’t you see what they’re doing?
Referee: I’ll watch out for it.
Coach: You’ve got to make that call.
Referee: Just settle down and get back in the coaching box.
That’s one conversation that is familiar to basketball coaches and referees. And no one knows what that conversation is like better than Scott Jenkins.
Why Jenkins? Well, he’s been on both sides of the whistle.
Part of a family with four generations of coaching, Scott Jenkins was almost a certainty to follow in that profession from the time he could dribble a basketball.
Jenkins knew the game as a player and later as a coach. He knew plenty of other coaches in the area. After all, his father Steve started as an assistant coach for Ironton and then became the head coach at New Boston Glenwood where he played for his father Joe and later coached at the school.
“Actually, my grandfather coached at New Boston. He was the only coach. That’s how it was back in the 1940s and 50s and early 60s. He was the football coach, the basketball coach, track coach, baseball coach. So obviously, when dad grew up, he grew up right there in Glenwood’s gym.
“We’re the only three generations to coach in the (Southern Ohio Conference) plus we all coached at the same school,” said Scott Jenkins. “That was one of the reasons I went back to New Boston a few years ago, to go back because of the family tradition that was there.
“With dad coaching, I grew up in a gym. So, wherever dad was, in the gym, at the stadium or baseball field, I was tagging along. I had a good idea what I wanted to do. After playing for dad, I immediately went to college and took health and P.E. (physical education).”
Jenkins attended Shawnee State and played basketball for one year. He attended Shawnee for two years since the school was only a junior college at the time. He transferred to Rio Grande to complete his education.
Since he was a P.E. major, Jenkins was required to take the officiating course.
Unknowingly, the course would play a big part of shaping his life.
“That’s what led me into referring basketball,” said Jenkins. “(Veteran official) Harry Weinbrecht taught the class and that second year of college I started officiating junior high and jayvee ball.”
Teaching was something that was common in the Jenkins family. He had uncles and grandparents who were all teachers.
“So, obviously, it’s a family business,” said Jenkins.
From 1987 to 1992, Jenkins officiated basketball, baseball and softball all thanks to his officiating course at Shawnee State.
“I kind of liked the basketball course so much that I took the baseball and softball course in the spring. Dad kind of led me on that it was great money while in college and it was. I did it for a few years and there were a lot of people there to help me along and give me tips. You think of guys like Bill Cook, John Tipton, Dick Hyland and Bill Newman. I can go on and on.
“Even when I came up to Ironton when I first started, if I ran into Ronnie Vanderhoof, Bobby Ackerman, Allen Russell, they helped me. There were a lot of guys who knew dad. Unlike it is today, I sort of stuck around and watched some of the varsity game and you watched and listened to what the older guys said.”
Jenkins began calling varsity games in 1991 and he was hired by the late Jim “Bear” Mains who was the Southeast District secretary and assigned officials for tournament games.
“Another thing that has changed, you had to work your way up. Today, you see a lot of young officials are being advanced. They’re moving up the ladder as far as regional and state tournaments. My first year I got a play-in game and that was it,” said Jenkins.
“In 1992, I was at South Webster and I was helping Rick Bowman. I was doing a girls’ district semifinal. So, I was moving up the ladder as an official, but I still wanted to coach. The following year, I was hired out at Northwest and I quit all the officiating all together. Even in baseball and softball I was advancing into the district tournament. I quit everything to focus on coaching.”
The whistle was now being blown from the other side.
After three seasons as soccer coach and assistant basketball coach, Jenkins was hired as the boys’ basketball coach at Portsmouth West. He spent 12 seasons at West as the coach and is now in his 24th year as a teacher at the school. He has taught 28 years overall and coached a total of 16 years. Add to that 15 years as an official.
“I can only think that the three years I missed out was when my son was playing. When my daughter decided not to play basketball as a freshman and Matt was a senior, that’s when I went back and got my basketball license.”
His son Matt graduated in 2008, so in the 2007-08 school year Jenkins was back as referee.
But that didn’t last long.
In 2014-15, Jenkins took the head coaching job at New Boston when the school was in need of a head coach. Being his alma mater, Jenkins returned for three seasons.
But the game had changed in terms of the attitudes of players and the demands that were expected of a head coach.
“I didn’t think I’d ever go back and coach. When you’re an official, you may only see a team once or twice a year where you dealt with their fans and that team. The great thing about officiating and coaching, you do it for the love of the game. It’s not a big money-maker,” said Jenkins.
“The one thing I’ve found when you’re officiating, you’re going somewhere else the next night and you’re seeing 10 different players and two different schools, whereas when you coach, it’s night in, night out. You have to deal with issues those kids and their parents and things going on at school and just the grind of being at practice every night.
“As an official, if you want off, you can take the next night off. You don’t have that luxury as a coach. You’re either scouting or watching game film or doing something. Of all the sports. Basketball is the longest season. When you get that supplemental contract, it’s 11 months. You’ve got to run a camp, you run practices, you’re in the weight room, you take them to shootouts or whatever. That takes a lot of time, whereas as official there are things you don’t have to do. It keeps your mind fresh.”
While there are greater demands on coaches, Jenkins said there are signs that officials are needed outside of the regular basketball season.
“I do see one thing that is coming, especially with the younger guys, I know when I talk to a lot of the older officials and the ones who just retired, it was like a hobby. You just loved the game and wanted to be around it,” said Jenkins.
“Now they expect to be out there to officiates those summer ballgames and summer camps. You’re seeing how the direction of athletics are changing both as an official and a coach.”
A fourth generation of the Jenkins’ family has now coached in the SOC when Scott’s daughter Kelsey was hired as the Beaver Eastern softball coach. She continued another family tradition when she was named SOC Coach of the Year making all four family members a recipient of the award.
Returning to the sidelines presented some conflicting emotions for Jenkins since he worked with and became friends with the officials who would call his games. But it also had its benefits.
“Guys have told me that it was hard when I coached — even the first time because I went from officiating to coaching — a lot of guys I went to class with that started with jayvee ball, they’re varsity referees and they would always tell me ‘you know where you’re supposed to be at, you know who’s supposed to be making what call, you understand the rules’ and I thought that was very important as a coach that you had to know the rules,’
“The hardest thing is you’re friends with them and, yes, I’ve got to yell, so for 32 minutes you’ve got to have the understanding that once the game is over, it’s over. That was one of the great traits that dad passed down to me. I know a lot of the friendships that both my grandfather and my dad had with both coaches and officials, I have the same thing just because of that. You’re able to leave it after the game.”
Coaches are always trying to “work” officials to get calls to benefit their team. Jenkins said that really doesn’t apply although there are going to be a few moments. Jenkins said he understands what that situation is like since he’s been a coach.
“The coaches who have been there for a lot of years — coach (Norm) Persin, coach (Tom) Barrick, coach (Howie) Caldwell — you’ve got to have the respect for the many years they’ve done it. They’ve had so many games under their belt, they know how to work everything, but they know where there’s a time to get a technical and start yelling, and there’s a time to focus on the kids,” said Jenkins.
There are some coaches who will openly ask an official to call a technical on them for strategic purposed. Jenkins doesn’t adhere to that but he said his experiences as a coach allow him to know where to assess a technical on a coach.
“I always had that sense as an official because I’d been in that seat before and think ‘yeah, he wants one right now.’ I’ve had coaches really get up in me to see what they could get by with, especially when I was younger. And the game has changed so much, I think today it’s so less tolerable than what it used to be,” said Jenkins.
The change from two to three officials, the 3-point line and more physical play have changed the way the game is coached and called.
“Today you have three officials, you’ve got your own little area that you’re soft of responsible for, and, of course, if you see something you go and get it and help other guys if they need it. The trapping, the pressing, the different defenses that are going on, the game is played so different because of the 3-point line.”
One thing officials deal with on a nightly basis is the emotional yelling and complaining from the fans, not just the coaches.
Jenkins said officials learn early on that they have to block out the noise and focus on the job.
“You’re out there and you have to concentrate on the ballgame and you can’t worry about what’s going on up in the bleachers. And you’ve got to have a little bit of patience with coaches because they have so much on the line. There they are going on their practice plans and everything they’ve worked on and here they are in a game and things aren’t going right. I’ve always understood that being from a family of coaches,” he said.
And Jenkins has done a good job of blocking out the fans. He said he has never ejected a fan from a game and he doesn’t like calling a technical foul. He said most officials don’t like that, either.
“I’ve never thrown out a fan. The number of technicals is probably from eight to 10. I think it’s because of the experience I’ve had on the sideline that I’m a little bit more understanding to what’s going on,” said Jenkins.
Officials have a bond between them much like other professions, but Jenkins said that officials take great pride in their job.
“The bonds you develop with the guys you referee with — Danny McDavid, Tommy Hardy, Doug Davis, David Hopkins, Keith Throckmorton, Rod Nichols, it is great to officiate with those guys and it’s a lot of fun. If we drive to the game, it’s fun on the way there and it’s fun on the ride home. But I’ll tell you, when that ball is tossed, we’re all serious as can be and that’s the most important thing,” he said.
Jenkins said there will be no more switching back and forth. He plans to finish his career as an official.
“The way I was taught and raised, it’s just so different today. The lessons I learned and the drills that we ran, they’ll still work and the plays will still work. It’s hard to comprehend kids not wanting to come to practice, not wanting to be there in the summer time, kids not wanting to come to the weight room, and the demand that’s on you all the time. You don’t have that with officiating.”
Good call.