By Alan Stein, Stronger Team

“I’m blind. I’m deaf. I wanna be a ref!”   That will always be one of my favorite cheers. I get hyped when the DeMatha student section roars it.  Given I am the only strength & conditioning coach in the history of high school basketball to get a technical foul during a game, it is safe to say I put referees in line with IRS auditors on my scale of favorite people.  Hell, I won’t even shop at Foot Locker because their salespeople wear zebra stripes.

Settle down, I am totally kidding.  I have the utmost respect for referees. Seriously.

But because so many players, coaches and fans choose to devote an inappropriate amount of focus and attention on referees during games, I felt compelled to write this 2-part blog series.

This initial post (1 of 2) is 100% my opinion and my perspective. A veteran high school basketball referee (Scott Long from Nebraska) wrote Part 2. I had the pleasure of meeting Scott at a clinic this past fall and really appreciate his contribution and perspective.

I am thankful to work for a head coach that ‘gets it.’ I truly admire Coach Jones demeanour with referees.  He never lets them affect his ability to coach or our team’s ability to play.  He doesn't whine or complain.  He is firm when he objects, but he does so in a respectful manner. If one of our players mouths off to a referee or shows bad body language after a call… Coach Jones subs them out immediately. That is not tolerated at DeMatha.

Number one Gonzaga boys hoops against number two DeMatha. If you want your team to be successful, you need to make sure your players play, your coaches coach, and you allow the referees to officiate.  As soon as players or coaches try to do the referee’s job… the team’s performance suffers.

Head coaches have the right to voice their disapproval of a call – but they need to do so professionally.  If you treat referees with respect; they will reciprocate.

And coaches… learn to choose your battles. There is no sense in arguing a judgement call if the referee was in the right position to make it. Just agree to disagree and let it go.

After all, in the history of basketball, a referee has never, ever changed a judgement call based on a coach’s difference of opinion.

Ref trots to the scorer’s table, “Foul is on Blue, 22 – blocking foul.”
Coach jumps up and down like a petulant child and screams, “What? No way! That is a horrible call! That had to be a charge!”
Ref looks at the coach, and then looks back at the scorer’s table, “Correction. This coach makes a great point.  Change that.  Offensive foul on White, 45.”

Ridiculous, huh? It will never happen so save your breath.

As a coach, quickly let your opinion be heard, then move to the ‘Next Play.’ Your team follows your lead.  If you spend a ton of time complaining to the officials it will trickle down to your players.

And let’s not forget that referees are human beings.  They actually have feelings. Imagine that!  If you don’t like the way a referee is calling the game, why would acting like an A-hole make things any better?  If anything, that will make things worse!  Would you give the benefit of the doubt to someone who treats you like garbage? I sure wouldn’t. And neither would a referee.

For the record, a referee never ‘wins’ or ‘loses’ a game… no matter how close the game was.  Wins and losses result from an accumulation of every play that occurs after the jump ball.

If you are in a position where a referee’s call ‘makes’ you lose the game – you didn’t capitalize on a number of previous opportunities. That one call gives the perception of losing the game because of when it was called.  What about the missed lay-up or unforced turnover 2 minutes ago? That is why you lost.

For me personally, there are only 3 things I would love to see from referees at the high school level:

  1. Hustle! Bust your tail to be in the right position to make the call. If you do that, a coach is really in no position to argue your judgement (they may disagree, but they shouldn't argue!).
  2. Consistency! Whether you want to call things tight or let the kids play, stay consistent for the entire 32 minutes.  Don’t change the way you call the game when there are only two minutes left.
  3. Develop! Work on your craft the same way the players and coaches work on theirs. Coaches and players watch film to help them improve. Referees should do the same.

Make sure you read Part 2 to get an actual referee’s perspective!

Alan Stein
Hardwood Hustle Blog

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