Basketball Referee

Basketball Referee


20 Years Experience

Chicago, IL

Male, 60

For twenty years I officiated high school, AAU and park district basketball games, retiring recently. For a few officiating is the focus of their occupation, while for most working as an umpire or basketball referee is an avocation. I started ref'ing to earn beer money during college, but it became a great way to stay connected to the best sports game in the universe. As a spinoff, I wrote a sports-thriller novel loosely based on my referee experiences titled, Advantage Disadvantage

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604 Questions


Last Answer on July 09, 2018

Best Rated

When a player inbounds from the baseline after the other team scores, he gets lazy and inbounds with a foot over the line. This never gets called. Is it just so immaterial that it's not worth calling?

Asked by steve w about 6 years ago

First, the rule. Your position on the court is based on where you stood (or touched last). So after a rebound a player establishes himself out of bounds (one foot or two), and then lifts a foot through an imaginary plane along the baseline, he is not inbounds until his foot hits the floor inbounds - no violation for breaking the plane by the player throwing in the ball. Secondly, there is the dominent philosophy of basket officating called, "Advantage Disadvantage" which holds that you should only stop the game if an opposing player caused a change in A/D. So, you pass on uncontested palming in the backcourt for example.

How do I become a basketball referee for local high schools & rec leagues? I played high school ball, but are there any other credentials or certifications I need?

Asked by Michael N about 6 years ago

There are some sports where it is difficult to officiate if you have not played (wrestling, diving, gymnastics). In my view basketball is not one of them, although people with playing experience often excel. Every state is different, but here's how it goes in Illinois: you apply to the state to get certified. In the application you attest to your non-criminal background, and you list 3 references, one of whom should be associated with high school basketball. You send in your application and $40 and they will send reference cards (probably emails by now) to your three people. Once they respond in a satisfactory way, then you are sent the rule, case study and mechanics books and the questions for an open book exam. In Illinois you also have to attend an annual rules meeting (now online). If you want to work the state tournament you must attend a certified camp at least every three years. I wish I would have attended camps early in my career - they are humbling and usually stress judgement and proper mechanics but you learn so much. Having done all of this you will be "patched", that is you've passed the state requirements and they send you the state's patch to sew on your uniform. This is half the battle. Now you must get booked for assignments, usually starting out doing freshman games. In most states, it is worth it to join a local official's association. Not only will you get valuable training at the meetings from the veterans, usually each association also has assignment chairpersons who come to the meetings and are members. They often give favorable treatment to members of their associations in terms of game assignments. Some of these associations offer mentoring programs where experienced officials will watch you work games and offer critical feedback. In the summer camps you will also get great feedback from the refs running the camp. Sometimes they will shadow you on the floor, helping you with positioning, angles, and mechanics. It all sounds like a lot, but if you love the game like I do, officiating is a wonderful way of staying connected long after your playing days are over - and they will even pay you for it!

If a ref gets in the way of play in some meaningful way (e.g. ball bounces off him and rolls out of bounds), is it a jump ball? If not, how is it decided who gets possession?

Asked by da worm about 6 years ago

The ref is part of the floor. If the ball bounces off a ref, it is ruled based on where the ref is standing. If the ref is standing one foot out of bounds and player causes the ball to hit the ref it is ruled out of bounds (even if the ball never crossed the line). Likewise if the ref is legally in bounds and the ball hits him, play on. Think hockey.

What can you do if two of three refes in middle school allow a team to punch players with their fist and rip open a girl players nose with a metal hair bow and so on while not calling it. The whole bench is quiet cause they expell anyone making a sound.

Asked by josh over 5 years ago

Completely unacceptable. If I was the coach I would lodge my complaint with the referees as soon as it started getting rough. If they continued to fail to enforce the legitimate rules of the game I would be compelled to act. I believe that a coach’s first responsibility is the safety of the players, and if I felt that the team’s safety was at risk I would pull my players off the floor and forfeit the match. Then I would write a commentary along with game tape and get the referees bounced (and decertified) for 1) not enforcing the rules of the game and 2) allowing the environment to threaten the safety of the players. It is hard to believe that state certified officials would let this happen - it is also strange to hear about 3 man crews working middle school games. In the conferences I worked, only high school varsity games used 3 ref’s.

Has a player or coach ever accused you or a colleague of making racially-motivated calls?

Asked by Geoff about 6 years ago

Yes, a coach once said, "you wouldn't let it get so rough if the player wasn't black". I immediately blew my whistle and told the coach he was out of bounds. If he wants to say that it is getting rough in there, then say so. But to suggest that it is rough because the post player was black was an attack on my integrity. I gave him a chance to rescind his comment (remember, I rarely use technical fouls), and he immediately agreed that it was inappropriate and inaccurate - he apologized. More often in my experience there has been racial trash talk between players which must be immediately penalized. A few years ago a school's student body was taunting a black player with a racial chant. The referees failed to stop the game, warn the crowd, and if necessary start having them removed. The refs were sanctioned for lack of action.

can A a head referee sitting outside watching the game over ruled a call made by the two officials that are oficiating a game

Asked by yaz over 5 years ago

No.  There is no provision for a non-participating official to over rule a referee.  If I was watching a couple officials work a game I would not get involved during live play unless the game was devolving into mayhem.  Normally, I would go to the official's lockerroom at halftime and discuss what they saw, what the rule interpertation should be, and how to administer it, but not during the game unless it was totally out of control.  Except in unusual situations, there is no provision for one referee on the floor to over rule the other.  My preference always is that if one of my partners believe I blew a call I want him to approach me and tell me what he saw, and let me decide to change my call.  I used to cover this style in my pre-game conference with the other refs before the game.

Do you get the sense that teenage players are already focusing more on highlight-reel type stuff as opposed to fundamentals?

Asked by Former coach about 6 years ago

In most high schools (at least around Chicago) the coaches usually will not put up with such selfish play....BUT in AAU ball, where a lot of college recruiters have to go to get talent, the desire for the highlight reel is rampant and lessens the game. At the very elite level AAU players are better developed through rigorous training and coaching, but the street agent and coach-controlled hold on middle to upper players is horrible. Some AAU coaches encourage showboating because it is flashy and might increase the recruiting clout that they show, but it usually does not win games. It is a real dilemma.