How to Properly Deal With Officials


Given I am the only strength and 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 right above IRS auditors on the totem pole of life. I won't even shop at Foot Locker because of my distaste for refs!

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

I truly admire our coach's attitude towards referees. He doesn't let 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 you want your team to be successful, you need to make sure your players play, your coaches coach, and the referees ref. As soon as players try to coach, or coaches try to ref, you lose focus and your team suffers.

It is not a player's job to criticize a fellow teammate. Players need to be positive and supportive at all times. Constructive comments and corrections need to come from the coaching staff. Players need to learn to talk to a teammate -- not at them. There is a difference. Effective communication is vital to success.

Same goes for coaches and referees. Coaches have the right to voice their disapproval--but they need to do so professionally.

There is no sense in arguing over a judgment call if the ref was in the right position. In the history of basketball, a referee has never, ever changed a judgment call based on a coach's difference of opinion.

Seriously, how crazy would it be if this happened?

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 have a negative effect on your players.

Referees are human beings. They have feelings. If you don't like the way the ref is calling the game, why would acting like a jerk make things better? If anything, that will make them worse! Would you try and 'help' someone who treats you like garbage? Neither would a ref.

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 probably didn't capitalize on a number of previous opportunities. That one call sticks out because of when it was called. What about the previously missed shot or turnover?

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

  • Hustle! Bust your tail to be in the right position to make the call. If you do that, I won't ever argue your judgment (I may disagree, but won't argue!).
  • Consistency! Whether you want to call things tight or let the kids play, stay consistent for the entire 32 minutes. Don't call your first hand checking foul with 2 minutes left in the game when both teams have been doing it all night.
  • Develop! Work on your craft the same way the players and coaches work on theirs. We watch film of our games to help us improve. I think referees should do the same.

Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the Head Strength and Conditioning coach for the nationally renowned, Nike Elite DeMatha Catholic High School boys basketball program. He spent 7 years serving a similar position with the Montrose Christian basketball program. Alan brings a wealth of valuable experience to his training arsenal after years of extensive work with elite high school, college, and NBA players.

His passion, enthusiasm, and innovative training techniques make him one of the nation's leading experts on productive training for basketball players. Alan is a performance consultant for Nike Basketball as well as the head conditioning coach for the annual McDonald's All American game, the Jordan Brand All American Classic, and the Nike Summer Skills Academies. Alan is a camp coach at the prestigious NBA Players Association's Top 100 Camp as well as the Chris Paul CP3 Elite Backcourt Camp. Alan has filmed over a dozen DVDs on improving performance and is a sought after lecturer at basketball camps and clinics across the world. He has been featured in Winning Hoops, Time Out, Dime,,, American Basketball Quarterly, Stack, Men's Health, HOOP, and FIBA Assist Magazine.

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