With a whistle at their lips and the next ticking off never far away, a referee’s life can be a difficult one.
If they are deemed to have had a good game, a team of officials leaves the court with no-one giving them a moment’s thought. They pass through the changing rooms and into their cars like ghosts.
If they have had a poor game, they leave with the frustrations of players and coaches ringing in their ear, and the vitriol of the fans raining down on them from the stands.
Ricky Fetske, a 25-year-old forward for Leeds Force used to react to the officials in such a manner – until their profession became the subject of his thesis when studying for a masters.
“They’re moderately stressed and highly motivated, and had good coping strategies for the stressful times,” was the conclusions he drew from research that earned him an MSc in psychology from the University of Northumbria.
“The officials have been very respectful to me since undertaking the study. I think a few of them have probably worked out it’s me who sent them the questionnaire.
“I feel like I can empathise a bit more with them. I can understand their viewpoint.
“A lot of times as a player – or as a coach – you only consider what’s best for you and your team, while the referees are the middle men.
“As I wrote in my thesis, whenever a referee blows a whistle they’re upsetting at least half the people in the court.
“I can now relate a bit better to what they’re going through and seeing.”
That greater empathy with the men in control has helped the New Jersey native adjust to life in the BBL.
This is forward Fetske’s first year in the elite tier, having come to England two and a half years ago to play in the English National League with Bradford Dragons.
“It was a big decision, especially with my family living in America,” said Fetske, who then moved on to Northumbria for his second year ‘across the pond’.
“I was coming into a new country where I didn’t know any of my team-mates and my only communication was over the email with my coach. But it was still a dream for me to play a sport that I love and get paid to do it.”
Having played against Fetske for two years in the national tier, Force knew the kind of player they were recruiting when they brought him with them on their step up to the top table of British basketball.
And for Fetske, the move also allowed him to combine his professional playing career with studying for another masters, this time in sport and exercise psychology at Leeds Beckett University.
“It works well; the classes never cut in to practice and vice-versa,” added Fetske.
“I’d like to think I’ve developed as a player in England and I attribute that to my coaches giving me more responsibility.
“I’ve adjusted to the English style – and the English referees.”
He looks to continue that progression tonight when Force host Manchester Giants in the league (7.30pm), a team they have already beaten in the BBL Cup.
“We’ve proven we can compete and against Manchester tonight we have the chance to claim another win.”