The Coaches Box


Ref Union enjoys great relationships with its program clientele through a mutual trust and respect of each other's roles. We respect the hard work they put forth in developing their players and run their events.  They trust us to do what's best for the game when our crews hit the courts.  Of course there will always be some disconnect between the way games are called and the way coaches want games to be called. To bridge that gap, we've created this list of tips that will give coaches and parents some insight as to how we've been trained.  It covers some popular misconceptions and hopefully humanizes us to the point where you may actually feel bad for shouting some of the things you do from the stands.  One can only hope, right?

Most of the time when you accuse us of "missing" a call, we probably didn't.  We simply judged the play differently than you might have.

To be sure, sometimes we do legitimately miss calls — we might get screened or not look in the right place at the right time — but that is a actually a very rare occurrence.  

We know the rules better than you think.  We know that there is no such thing as "over the back" or a "reaching" foul.

We call fouls for holding or pushing, which requires displacement or interference with the offensive player's rhythm, speed, balance, or quickness.  Please do not yell out "over the back" or "he's reaching," because you're only perpetuating a rules fallacy for all other parents to hear and mindlessly repeat from the stands.

And that just makes our job all the more stressful.

If you are coaching in a developmental youth league (such as the YMCA), up until the playoffs, referees will show considerable leniency to brand new players.  They will (for example) let them get away with an extra step here and there.


Conversely, as the kids get better, they will be expected to play through more contact and endure more scrutiny on their fundamentals. It may not be equal, it may not be fair, but it serves the purpose of developing the most talented kids into even better players.

It’s the opposite of “star treatment.” Tell your top pick that he will be expected to live up to his draft status.

On that note, if you are playing at a tournament and are up by 20 points, please don't complain if we exercise the same discretion and show a little mercy to the losing team.  You don't need to win by 30.  If the game is out of reach, enjoy your victory, and leave us alone.

If you are down 20 points, we should likewise be none of your concern.  Don't take your frustration out on us — you may be able to blame our errors for two or three points of the final margin — but not 20+.  Focus on the kids — they can learn a lot about winning, losing, and basketball fundamentals even in a blowout.

Please teach the kids to do the little things right.  We like having a flow at club basketball tournaments.  We prefer not to disrupt it by calling violations on the kids that (for example) don’t bother to inbound the ball correctly. 


We have a conundrum in those situations.  If we call the violation, parents will scorn us for being too picky and "not letting the kids play."  If we pass on those violations, we would be explicitly disregarding black-and-white rules.


Teach your players discipline so that they get their shirts tucked in and jewelry off before each game. These little things will go a long way in having the game go smooth with limited interruptions.

And just FYI:  We hold our refs to the same standard.  If a ref has his shirt untucked and looks like an unmade bed, best be sure that we will talk to him about it.


Our goal is to work together with coaches to create the best recreational or club competitive atmosphere possible.  We understand your hard work towards developing players and the importance of winning to your program.  However, nothing is more important than respect and sportsmanship in developing not just good players, but upstanding citizens, which is what youth sports is all about.

Players and fans feed off their coach's energy — you guys set the tone — so if they see you disrespect officials, they're going to do it too. 
That often makes working club basketball unbearable and makes the truly good officials stay home on the weekend.  Ref Union wants to bring them back but needs your help to create the professional environment they are used to at the varsity, collegiate, and professional level. 


If great refs can enjoy their time working weekend basketball, they'll come do it, and vastly improve the quality on the court.  Work with us, be respectful, treat basketball like a business and us like your partners, not your adversaries.  What better way to start than to browse our training material and resources — more will be added on a regular basis — and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.


Serving all of Southern California and also providing tournaments officials to Northern California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Oregon, and Washington.

Proudly representing officials nationwide.


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Click on the icon above to view our 2019 State of the Ref Union address, highlighting our Union's success from the last year and our goals for the next.

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