By Scott Long

I know it’s hard to fathom, but please remember that we (referees) are human beings. We make mistakes just like you.  But unlike you, we have no stake in the outcome of the game.  I promise we don’t care who wins; only that the game was officiated fairly.

Most of us do this for the pure love of the game as well as for the kids. We most certainly don’t do it for the money.  We get paid peanuts to put up with some serious abuse!

Most of us spend countless hours studying our rulebook and standing in front of a mirror practicing our signals.  We go to officiating clinics to work on our craft.  We spend countless hours on the road away from our families in an attempt to help your have a great experience.  I used vacation days from work, missed birthdays, holidays and my own kid’s school plays to referee a game – because I enjoy it that much.

Now, I know and respect that each of you has also sacrificed a great deal – but you have a stake in the outcome of the game!  Understandably, you want your team to win so badly, that your vision and your judgment can sometime be skewed.  And then you choose to berate us?!

Here are a few pieces of advice:

Parents and fans, just because you paid $5 to attend does not give you the right to act like an lunatic and certainly doesn’t give you the right to give me a hard time. Be positive and support your team.

Players, the entire reason we are here is for you! We want to make sure you stay safe and that we uphold the rules of the game so you can compete fairly.  Treat us with respect and we will do the same.  Whining and complaining will not help your cause, trust me.

Coaches, similar to the players, we are here to serve you. Please know we are doing our best just like you are.  Please appreciate that we must process a ton of information in a very short amount of time and then make a decision in a fraction of a second. Yes, we will get some calls wrong… but we get more right than you think we do!  As a coach, you often only look at the end result and at one side of things.  As a referee, I have to look at the whole play and decipher how that fits into the entire flow of the game (which is much harder!).  I don’t mind you objecting, disagreeing or even raising your voice for emphasis… but I strongly prefer you don’t use foul language… and I will not tolerate you questioning my integrity, ever.

I hope this helps give some insight from a referee’s perspective.


Scott Long

ALAN STEIN NOTE: This is the second post of a 2-part series about high school basketball referees. Scott Long, a veteran high school basketball referee from Nebraska, wrote it. Scott is one of the best in the business and I really appreciate his contribution and perspective. I highly recommend you follow him on Twitter at @CoachRefSLong. Hit him up if you need to ‘ask a ref’ anything! 


(Basketball Manitoba Note: Some references made are tied to the American NFR and NCAA rule system)

  1. There is nothing in the rulebook that references ‘over the back’.  It doesn’t exist. It’s called a ‘push.’  If you want me to call it, please make sure your player boxes somebody out. Just because a player is taller than the one on the inside, it is not an automatic foul. There has to be contact for a foul to occur.
  2. ‘Over and Back’ is one of the most misinterpreted rules out there. If the defense tips the ball (in the front court) during a pass and an offensive players touches it before it goes into the backcourt, it is ‘over and back’ if the offense retrieves the ball.
  3. Just like on the playground, the hand is part of the ball.
  4. Defensive players are entitled to the space from the floor to the ceiling in a vertical plane.  But this rule only applies when position was legally obtained.  This does not include moving into a shooters path or moving forward in a belly-up type situation.  Even if the defender is ‘straight up’; if they move forward and initiate contact it is a foul.  Offensively, if a defender is in their vertical plane you are responsible for all contact.
  5. Lifting the pivot foot does not cause a person to travel, putting that pivot foot back down prior to the dribble does.  FACT: It is impossible to travel when dribbling.
  6. It is completely legal for a player receiving a pass to ‘fumble’ or drop the pass, regain control and then start a dribble. Running while a fumble occurs is not traveling.
  7. A kicked ball must be intentional to be ruled a violation.
  8. A moving screen is not a foul unless there is contact.
  9. Most good officials rarely call ‘3 Seconds’ unless the offensive player receives a huge advantage.  Two additional thoughts about 3 seconds in the lane:  If I am looking at one player for 3 straight seconds, I am missing the important action.  If I hear someone yell “3 seconds!” – I start my count over.
  10. ‘Reaching’ is not a foul. There must be contact and the player with the ball must have been placed at a disadvantage.
  11. A high dribble is legal provided the dribbler’s hand stays on top of the ball and the ball does not come to rest in the dribbler’s hand.
  12. For better understanding of the difference between a ‘block’ and a ‘charge’, you need to know the concept of legal guarding position and other keys components:
  • Legal guarding position is obtained by having both feet touching the floor and the torso of the body must be facing the opponent.
  • The defense does not have to be set to get a charging call as long as legal guarding position is obtained and they occupy the position on the floor first.
  • The defense must have obtained their position on the floor prior to the ball handler making their commitment to the air or the starting of the shooting motion (this is continuation).  If a defensive player moves into the path of the offensive player after the shooting motion has begun the foul is on the defense regardless of whether they are set during the contact or not.
  • If the offensive player can get their head and shoulders past the defense prior to contact the contact is most often the responsibility of the defense.
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