After 35 years in the game, Wochnick retires from basketball
Wilsonville—Friday, Feb. 23 was the last time Robb Wochnick would step onto a basketball court as an official. The Wilsonville resident spent the last 35 years of his life working as a referee for high school football and basketball. After Friday's Wilsonville versus St. Helens girls basketball matchup, he will call it a career for one of his sports.
"I'll continue with football," Wochnick said. "Football is not nearly as hard as basketball. Basketball is the stop and go."
Wochnick, 71, has seen it all over the course of his long career as an official on the court. Officiating for current and past basketball stars such as Terrell Brandon, Kevin Love, Damon Stadoumire, and Shoni Schimmel, as well as a number of crazy plays on the court.
"About 20 years ago I had a PIL game," Wochnick recalled. "Don't remember the player. A very good player. Stole the ball, went down and did a 360 spin to stuff the ball. Missed it, and tore backboard down. Tore it down, the whole thing. Missed the shot to boot, and there was glass everywhere. I was trailing the play, and so I was like, 'Whoa!' I'd never seen that before."
Since that time, spring loaded rims keep the same thing from happening to current high school basketball players. Wochnick has seen not only a lot of technical innovation, but also a change in the rules and strategies of the games he governs.
"For football, the biggest change is spread offenses," Wochnick said. "A team used to pass 10 to 12 times a game, and run 50 plays. Now they pass 40-50 times a game and run 90 plays, with scores in the 50s and 60s. When I was in high school and college, scores were in the teens. When I started doing football the scores were in the teens, low 20's."
"Basketball, same thing," Wochnick added. "The three point play has opened up the entire game. Where football is a big person sport, basketball used to be a big person sport as well. Now the little guy can come in. It's a guard oriented game with the three point shots. Anybody can play basketball now if they have any skill."
The games he officiated were paid, $65 for a football game, $56 for a basketball game, mileage included. But Wochnick did not get into the role for the pay; he genuinely enjoyed giving back to his community and participating in the event.
"Thirty five years is a long time, it's half my life," Wochnick said. "But I never thought it was a chore, I never thought it was a job. It's a great vocation, stay in shape, enjoy people, enjoy the game. That's all I have to say about that."
And while he had to put up with some abusive fans, some passionate players, and coaches advocating for his teams, Wochnick realized that he would not be able to please everyone. Officiating any game is a difficult thing, and Wochnick encouraged people to give a try to help give back, and at the very least to gain some perspective.
"Some of the coaches now have gone to clinics and done some summer ball where they officiated," Wochnick said. "They'll always say, 'Gosh, I didn't realize how difficult a job it really is.' You have to be in shape, have to be able to do it, have to know the rules, have to be able to make quick judgment decisions, and be able to do it for 32 minutes. You have to tune out everything else. It's the play on the floor that you have to be concerned with. Most people think it's really easy. If it was easy everybody would do it!"
In Wochnick's last career officiating role, the Wilsonville girls basketball team defeated the visiting St. Helens Lions 58-35.