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    November 25, 2013

    Off the Rim - Good Referees?

    By Hoops

    This week, I thought I might really stir things up by writing about something that usually creates a great deal of discussion and debate within the basketball community - referees - and what exactly might make a 'good referee'.

    Hoops decided to do some talking to players, coaches and fans and, not surprisingly, I found no shortage of people willing to express an opinion on this topic. What I found most surprising was that, out of the 15 people I surveyed with the same question at three different games, "What makes a good basketball referee?", not one mentioned anything about knowledge of the rules of basketball. It appears that the various officials clinics I see advertised, where I assume the referees get together to discuss rules and the interpretation of those rules, might not be necessary.

    So what did I find out you ask? Here are some of the responses I most commonly received and, in most cases, these are quotes :

    • "someone you can talk to without being threatened with a technical"
    • "someone who doesn't think he/she is more important than anyone else at the game"
    • "someone who doesn't take it all, including him/herself, too seriously"
    • "someone who can be an official without being too officious" - I liked this one
    • "someone who seems to be giving a good consistent effort to be in position, no matter what game or level it is"
    • "someone who makes calls with confidence and who you can hear"
    • "someone who is not afraid to admit that he/she could have made a mistake"
    • "someone who seems to be enjoying refereeing the game " - I liked this one also

    I also found it interesting that at least five people commented that they felt some officials do too many games and that they would like to see some other officials being given more games. I am not aware of how officials are assigned, but I have to admit that I do see the same referees at many different games and, as I heard from some people "it must be difficult to do so many games and still be sharp". However, we do know that there is an increasing number of games being scheduled and there are probably challenges covering all of them.

    If I can conclude anything from this very unscientific poll, I guess it would be that, like many things in life, it appears that the ATTITUDE of the person plays a huge role in his/her ability to be what others would describe as a good basketball referee.

    I would invite some of our basketball officials out there to weigh in on this topic.

    We welcome your comments on this topic by posting them below!  Basketball Manitoba welcomes submissions from the basketball community to its website.  If you would like to become a regular contributor, please contact our webmaster.  

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    1. I think these answers are what makes for a good game. I especially like to see an official who likes the game.

    2. Those first two points and last two are so important. The ability to dialogue and converse with coaches and recognizing that the officials are not the focus of the game is growing increasingly rare. Also, the ability to admit that a mistake has been made is so incredibly valuable. I don't know when stubbornness became such a prized trait, but it's become an epidemic in our basketball community.

      It's also amazing how often I encounter refs nowadays who enter a game with the mentality that it's the primary duty to "teach someone a lesson", whether it's a player or coach (because they've boasted about it to other officials while they were in the stands before the game and didn't realize people could overhear their conversation).

      I've often wondered why officials in the US are always so willing to interact with coaches during the game, while our officials refuse to do so. At every time-out in the US, there is an official that stands right by the scorekeeping table and makes themselves available to ANY coach (no matter whether it's an assistant of head coach) to discuss something that has happened. Meanwhile, all our officials stand on the opposite side of the court, you have to wave them down to get their attention, then they make a big deal about you leaving the coaches' area/sideline, then they make a big deal about whether or not you're the head-coach, then if you get past all of that you might get 5 seconds to discuss some aspect of the game. That's also if they actually allow you to have your entire time-out, because we've regularly had refs try to break up a timeout before the allotted time. In fact, it's gotten so bad that now we try to have our scorekeepers put time on the board for the entire time out. We've had refs try to tell us to break a time-out because they say there's only 10 seconds left, and when we point to the clock it's still at 30 seconds.

    3. I posted this a few years back in the old forums.

      The following is my personal opinion of what it takes to be a good referee. It should not be taken as gospel, and certain aspects may not suit everybody's style of refereeing. It is what I have learnt from my own experience, from talking to my peers, and most importantly, by watching referees that are better than me, and learning by example. I cannot stress this enough - the next time you watch a high level game (i.e. NBA, CIS, Olympics, etc) watch the referees even if only for a quarter. Ignore their mechanics as it will probably be different to the level that you are at, but pay attention to what they call, how they call it, and why they call it.
      Anyway, below is a list of the qualities that I believe makes a good referee as well as a short explanation of why it is important, and how to improve that quality in your game.

      Professionalism: To me, this is the most important factor of all. A senior referee once told me "if you look the part - players will believe that you know what you are doing" and this is very true. Professionalism means several things; uniform, not shooting around during timeouts, half time etc, being on time and most importantly, treating the players, coaches and spectators with respect, no matter what happens. The game is there for them - not you!

      Consistency: There is nothing worse than a referee that calls one thing at one end, but not at the other. Equally, there must be enough communication between referees to ensure that both officials are calling the same things. This goes back to the importance of a pre-game conference.

      Confidence: This cannot be taught, but is vital to being a good referee. If you are hesitant with your call, and blow the whistle softly, no-one will believe that you are positive that you have made the correct call. If you can "sell" a call to a player with a strong whistle and firm, accurate signals, even the most doubting player will walk away thinking "hmm, well maybe I did do that". Obviously this is something that will come with practice, but it also requires that you have faith in your own ability.

      Communication: This plays a major part in refereeing (and life in general). Communicate with your partner throughout the game, verbally, using body language and by making eye contact. Try and talk players through situations that don't require a whistle - for example some comments that I use frequently are: "hands off ", "drop the arm", "play on", "he was straight up!" etc. However, you need to learn when to make the call, and you must be sure not to talk too much - the whistle is there for a reason! Remember treat the players with respect, never swear at or physically touch a player, regardless of the situation.

      Know the Rules: It is not necessary that you can quote every article of the rules by number, but you must have a sound knowledge of the rules. Almost as importantly, you must have an understanding of the spirit of the rules. That is, you have to be able to adjust your refereeing to the level of the competition that you are refereeing. For example, if you are doing the Gold Medal game of the Provincial Tournament, you will (hopeful) run it differently to the first round of the local under 12's miniball!

      Fitness: Although you don't have to be Superman (or woman), you must be able to at least keep up with the play. Make sure you stretch before the game, and train during the season to maintain (and improve) your overall fitness.

      Be Human!: Referees are allowed to smile! Also, I have found that making the occasional joke can quickly diffuse a difficult situation. This is especially useful if you already know the people involved well. Warning: You need to be positive that your comment will not inflame the situation further, and you must be careful not to use any defamatory, discriminatory or obscene language.


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    Item Reviewed: Off the Rim - Good Referees? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Adam Wedlake
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