Battle Creek — A little quiz: You see someone doing something against the rules. You draw attention to it, with a whistle or signal. You enforce the rules by penalizing the offender.
Who are you?
Are you a police officer? Are you a basketball referee?
Trick question. If you are Jim Grafton, you are both.
Grafton was named the deputy chief at the Battle Creek Police Department in September. He has also been a basketball referee for local junior high and high school games the last 11 years.
Police officer by day, basketball referee at night, a unique combination, maybe.
But it is not lost on his boss that the traits that make a good police officer are the same ones you might find in a good basketball official.
“You have to be able to observe, be level-headed, be able to make judgment calls,” said Jim Blocker, Battle Creek police chief. “I think the jobs can be very similar. You also have to be able to tolerate criticism, and you have to be able to do it with a great deal of courage and a little bit of grace.
“As for us, I think it’s a win-win to have one of our officers out the community doing a job like that and representing the Police Department the right way.”
In this 24th year as an officer at the department, Grafton said being able to add his duties as a basketball official to his already busy schedule has been a joy. It has also been something he has thought about doing since he played the sport in high school at Harper Creek.
“I really enjoy it because it keeps me part of the game,” Grafton told the Battle Creek Enquirer. “I have always been involved in athletics, play softball, racquetball, love to stay involved. But I really love being on the basketball court, it keeps me young and keeps my mind fresh.
“Many years before I started as a referee, a friend asked if I wanted to be a football referee. Because of the job, my schedule and my kids being young, I couldn’t because it was bad timing,” he said. “But it got me thinking that I might want to do that someday, but maybe in basketball. I wasn’t a great basketball player in high school, by any means, but what I do love about the sport, it is fast paced and mentally challenges you to stay focused. So I got into it through the MHSAA, started doing some junior high games, and worked my way to doing varsity and it has all worked out well since.”
The Michigan High School Athletic Association sees stories like this all over the state. And it’s a good thing, because the organization adds that there is always a need for more officials.
“High school game officials come from all walks of life. During the day, the people who step up to help out our kids, perform jobs as everything from law enforcement officers to teachers to legislators to general laborers and everything in-between,” said John Johnson of the MHSAA. “These are people who played high school sports, and who have stepped up to give back to the game in the same way that those did when they were student-athletes. There’s an old saying - you can never have too many officials - and it’s true. We’re always looking for folks to get involved.”