Roskelleys whistle while they work

Auburn family connects to basketball through officiating after father teaches children the craft
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Sam Roskelley beams with pride when he sees his son or daughter hustling down the court, surveying the action and making the right call in a pressure situation. The Roskelleys haven’t played competitive basketball in many years, but they’ve found a way to stay involved with the game they love. Sam is a 19-year veteran of the officiating game and the next generation of Roskelley referees is proudly following in his footsteps. Blake, 26, started calling basketball games when he was a raw eighth grader. Now he’s one of the most highly regarded high school officials in the area. “It started as a father-son, fun, bonding thing,” Blake said. “I wanted to do it and be like him, and it was a good way to make money at the itme. It turned into a hobby. I quickly got bit by the bug. Now it’s one of my favorite hobbies. It’s an avocation that allows me to stay close to the game I love.” Sam admits he introduced his children to refereeing, in part so they could earn some money during their high school years. But daughters Emily and Rachel fell in love with it and have not put down their whistles yet. Emily, 22, calls high school games in Salt Lake City, Utah, and refereed throughout her college years at BYU. Rachel, a senior at Placer High, has worked middle school games and youth games for Auburn Recreation District. Sam got his start under longtime Foothill Officials Association coordinator Jerry Hash, working ARD games. A graduate of Roseville High, Sam grew up playing basketball in church leagues in the area and found that officiating gave him a basketball fix. “I enjoy the exercise, and it keeps me close to the game,” said Sam, who is co-owner of Sierra Pest Control. The life of a referee is rarely glorious, and can sometimes be downright unpleasant. Inconsolable coaches and foul-mouthed fans come with the territory. Sam said it takes thick skin and a steadfast confidence to perform well when the pressure is on. “A good ref has an unshakable demeanor that doesn’t go to the highs and lows of the game,” he said. “He stays even keel – doesn’t get caught up in the emotions of the game.” Emily said officiating is a welcome contrast to her day job as a tax accountant. Her first experience as a ref was a nerve-racking affair. “My first game was scary,” said Emily, a 2007 Placer grad. “I was really nervous. I tripped over my own feet and fell on the court. I still enjoyed it and now I love it. It’s a lot of fun.” The chance to spend time with her dad was a special bonus for Emily as she learned the craft. “I had the best experience learning with my dad training me on the court,” she said. “At every timeout and between quarters he would talk to me about the plays that happened and he would explain it all right there on the court. It helped me improve pretty quickly.” Blake, who works as a structural engineer in Sacramento by day, spends just about every weeknight in his striped jersey during the winter and early spring. His father has been one of the most highly regarded officials in the area for several years and Blake already has an outstanding reputation. “Now Blake’s exceeded me,” Sam said. “It’s great to see your kids excel at something and he wants to go on and do college games.” Blake said the competition for coveted college refereeing gigs is fierce. There are officials even younger than he landing NCAA call-ups and even finding their way into NBA rotations. “I go to camps in the summer to improve my game, get better and try and continue to move up,” Blake said. “My ultimate goal is to officiate at the highest level of NCAA basketball. That’s been my dream ever since I got into it. That would be a dream come true.”