Referees Embracing Faith Conference 2019 was blessed to be joined by NCAA National Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officiating, J.D. Collins. Collins spoke during the afternoon session at Prasco Laboratories in Mason, OH, delivering a personal and pointed message based on personal and professional life experience.
A native of Bluffton, IN, Collins worked as a college basketball referee for 19 years and officiated in ten NCAA tournaments, which included being assigned to work the Sweet 16 five times, an Elite Eight, and the 2008 Final Four matchup between UCLA and Memphis.
“Basketball has been really good to me, but my priorities are God, family, business, and then officiating,” Collins said to open his speech. “Part of my DNA is my faith in Christ, and I don’t apologize (for that) anymore. I am not about just basketball; I am about my relationship with Christ,” he said.
Collins said that he loves the work he does as national coordinator of officiating for NCAA men’s basketball, “because I believe that if you’re going to do something, you ought to do it as a good steward of what Christ has given you, and do it to the very best of your ability,”
Collins told the assembled gathering of how a family tragedy, losing his brother in a vehicle accident when J.D. was a young boy, set his heart searching in the wrong places with the wrong people and vices until God got a hold of him.
“From age 12 to 17, to put it bluntly, I lived a very, very destructive life; that’s one way of saying it,” Collins said. “Another way of saying it is I became all about me; there was no other person I cared about except my own needs,” he said.
Collins accepted Jesus in the summer of 1975, which marked the beginning of his journey of discovering the depths of God’s forgiveness and love, and the joy of living for Jesus instead of for self.
“I live by ‘by the grace of God go I,” Collins explained. “It’s just part of what I do and who I am. I know that I have the saving grace of Christ blanketing everything that I do. I’m still going to mess up, but I know that.”
Another decision that Collins made is that he was going to live by Biblical standards, and how Jesus wants him to live, and outside expectations were not going to influence his decision making.
Collins went on to recount the time in his life immediately after giving his life to God, and the simple routine of school, athletics, and Bible reading laying many of the foundations and stability for his new life.
“I keep in my pocket Phillipians 2:3-4 every day of my life,” Collins said, removing a slip of paper from his pocket with the scripture written. “That servant attitude started to come upon me and I started to understand what it meant to serve others,” he said.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.
He went on to introduce and expand on the importance of discernment and our responsiveness to God’s promptings.
“How many times has God nudged us and we think ‘it’s probably not for me,” Collins began. “What I know is when I listen to what God is nudging me towards, there is always a reason,” he said. “Listening and discerning leads to action,” Collins continued. “In our lives as Christians and as officials, we are called to absorb chaos, create calm and provide hope.”
In 2009, Collins sustained a serious knee injury and had it replaced in 2010, effectively ending his time as an on-court official. During that process, Collins’ wife of 35 years, Jenny, bought a book called A Grace Disguised, which had one profound line for J.D.
“It said that we ask the ‘why’ question of God while reading one sentence of one paragraph on one page in one chapter of a really long book,” Collins said. “We have to have faith and trust in Christ that there is a reason, even if we can’t comprehend it.”
That ‘why’ moment that Collins experienced after his knee injury and replacement set in motion a career shift, which saw him transition to coordinating, initially for the Summit League and Mid-American Conference, and ultimately by 2015, he was the national coordinator of officials for NCAA men’s basketball. The position that sees him interact and have a positive impact with thousands of college basketball officials.
“Do you think I had that impact as a solo referee? No I didn’t!” Collins said. “God had a plan, and it’s really okay. My life is going to be good with or without basketball; that’s not what my DNA is about.”
Collins concluded his message by emphasizing the importance of our actions.
“Your actions will tell a lot about you,” he said. “When I go to my grave, if Jenny writes on my gravestone, ‘his yes meant yes and his no meant no,’ I will be a happy man because it says my word is good. I do what I say and I say what I do and it’s consistent,” he said.
To view J.D. Collins video message in its entirety, visit S.O.S. on YouTube. Previously released messages from REF Conference 2019 include Alika Arisumi, Nate Harris, and the first two Salvation Seeds from Pat Fraher and Darron George. Further messages, including keynote speaker LaMorris Crawford will be released in the near future.
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