The game of basketball has been a great thing in my life. It has helped to develop my character. It has taught me the thrill of victory, the sting of defeat, and the perseverance to survive them both. In the past few weeks, helping with the basketball program at the secondary school at our Kasana Childrens Center has allowed me a pathway to form relationships with some of the students.
As much as I learned through playing the game that I love, I believe I learned even more as an official. In 10 years of officiating, I was able to work in some incredible games in multiple states and levels of competition. One of the greatest lessons I have taken with me to Uganda is Rule 10, Article 11 of the NCAA Men’s Rule book for 2017-18.
This rule states:
When a dribbler passes an opponent sufficiently to have his head and shoulders beyond the front of the opponent’s torso, the greater responsibility for subsequent contact shall be that of the opponent
As it turns out, this is exactly how you drive in Uganda. I have actually come to enjoy parts of the experience of driving in this country. I don’t know if there is anything as amazing as driving into a crowded roundabout, filled with people, motorcycles, and taxis, and coming out the other side. It is with this principle in officiating that I am able to perform. It’s the basic rule that seems to be understood by most Ugandans.
The traffic here is no place for passive driving. If you sit back for a moment, a flood of motorcycles, taxis, and pedestrians will leave you stranded in a crowd, searching for a way out. In this place, you have the ball, and you have to drive the lane. If someone reaches a spot in the lane in front of you and establishes a legal position, you will either have to change your route or wait for the challenger to move their position. It is not uncommon to change your direction in a completely counter-intuitive way, just to obtain a more favorable angle to move ahead. However you can, if you can beat that defender to the spot, and get the front axles of your vehicle ahead of theirs, you are entitled to that spot in the lane. Once you have pressed your front axle into this advantageous position, the defender is responsible for any contact.
The great thing about Uganda, is that it seems that this rule is commonly known. I have not seen any act of road rage. For the most part, you will actually see many Ugandans with their windows down, smiling or laughing with one another. You might see two men yelling at each other out of their windows, but as soon as they look away they just laugh out loud. We are all in the jam together, all trying to get where we want to go, so relax! Get in there and play the game, persevere!
Rule 4, Section 36, Article 1 puts it this way: “A defensive player is beaten when the offensive player’s head and shoulders get past the defender”