Zophila Mthembu coached for PeacePlayers International – South Africa from the year 2003 to 2006 before moving up to an area coordinator position, overseeing Emolweni until 2010. For him, his time with PeacePlayers was only a stepping stone within basketball. Instead of taking the path of a coach, Zophila chose to pursue refereeing. The choice has paid off, as he is currently a FIBA International Grade referee, a title well deserved according to PPI-SA Leadership Development Coordinator, and FIBA referee Thobani Khumalo:
“Zophila is one of the best referees in South Africa as shown by his international experience, professionalism and attention to detail. He also has an incredible ability to teach, not just from his own opinion but through the rule book. I remember the first time I refereed a game with him, he asked me what I wanted to work on for that game. I looked at him like he was crazy. He then proceeded to name three things he wanted to focus on, and afterwards spent time evaluating himself on those three areas. I’ll never forget that game, and it’s something I practice as a referee today.” – Thobani
Last month Zophila was in Angola reffing the Africa-wide club champion’s tournament. Last Friday, Zophila found time in his busy schedule to give back to PPI by running a referee training for this year’s coaches.
The session began with Zophila taking questions from coaches on rules they did not understand about the game, which set the stage for what was covered the rest of the morning. Coaches reviewed and learned the hand signals for calls, discussed topics such as the importance of body language while reffing and how to stay neutral during a game, and how to properly blow your whistle.
It was an important first step in our Professional Development Program. While planning for the year, PPI-SA realized that one of the weaknesses within its program was the quality of refereeing; a task that is the responsibility of our coaches. This has become even more important as the quality of play within our programs continues to improve.
An often overlooked aspect of the game, refereeing offers job opportunities. Zophila currently works for a number of national and international basketball associations and has had the chance to travel the world through refereeing. Perhaps more importantly, as learning to play the game does, refereeing teaches skills that apply outside of the court.
“The two biggest things I learned from refereeing were:
- Preparation and Decision Making. Refereeing is all about being in the right place at the right time. As a referee you have to position yourself to be able to make the call. This is the same in life. I’ve learned how to position myself for opportunities to learn and/or grow which has improved my ability to make good decisions.
- Moving on: As a referee you’re going to make mistakes. Often times they are mistakes that you cannot correct. As a referee you don’t have the option of dwelling on that mistake. It’s helped me learn to stay confident, learn from those mistakes and move on.” – Thobani
PeacePlayers International – South Africa would like to send its sincerest appreciation to Zophila Mthembu for his time, and to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund for making this training possible.