The Coaches Box
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Referees, like all people, have their own individual personalities and temperaments. Some are far more approachable than others. Some are very friendly, will answer all of your questions, and engage in small talk. We love having those guys on our staff. That said, not everybody can be like that. In a major tournament, we won't be able to staff 45 courts full of gregarious officials.
Most officials are more stoic, reserved, shy, and may not answer every one of your questions. At halftime, they may wish to be left alone to decompress or enjoy some quiet time. Please respect their wishes. They are encouraged but not required to respond to you. Trust that if they are on our staff, they have other attributes that balance out their sometimes uncharismatic nature.
And then when you get that happy smiling official on your next game, appreciate him all the better.
No matter how well we do our job, unfortunately, kids are going to get hurt. Basketball is a contact sport. We encourage physical play because it is a part of the game that the kids need to learn in order to become successful.
The referee’s job is to penalize and deter reckless and violent play.
For your reference, there are provisions in the rulebook specifically addressing the issue of contact:
“The mere fact that contact occurs does not constitute a foul. When 10 players are moving rapidly in a limited area, some contact is certain to occur.” NFHS Rule 4-27-1.
“Contact which may result when opponents are in equally favorable positions to perform normal defensive or offensive movements, should not be considered illegal, even though the contact may be severe.”
NFHS Rule 4-27-2.
A technical foul is a very normal element of the game. It carries not much greater penalty than a common shooting foul. You won't get fined (like in the NBA), therefore please don't overreact upon receiving one even if you believe if it is unmerited.
The top comment I get from coaches protesting the receipt of a technical foul is "but I didn't curse!"
Vulgarity is just one of the reasons a technical foul may be warranted. You can still get one for disrespectful gestures, demonstrative actions, personal attacks (regardless of how clean your language may be) or for excessive complaining about calls. Please refer to the Respect for the Game guidelines on the Resources page for more details.
All in all, our referees are entrusted to uphold a respectful professional decorum. Be mindful of not just your behavior but likewise how it is perceived.
Our referees are like your players. As the assignor, I am going to rigorously back them up through all their mistakes as long as they give me good faith effort.
If you disrespect them on the court, I encourage them to penalize you with a warning or immediate technical foul (see the Respect of the Game guidelines on the Referee Resources page.)
I welcome constructive dialogue about improving our performance or the overall league/tournament experience. However, if you talk about them disrespectfully, I will not field any of your concerns. You would never want me to speak ill of your players, assistants, parents, or colleagues. Please do not speak ill of our officials.
And like your players, our referees are also amateur. With due respect to our many Division 1 and G-League contributors, the rest of our staff are local small college, varsity, and recreational officials of various backgrounds and training.
Top college games utilize three-man crews. The pros are starting to experiment with a four-man crew. The upper levels have instant replay from dozens of various camera angles. Unless your program is willing to invest in the extra crew members or technological advancements necessary to bring our margin of error down to the 4% that the NBA enjoys, please do not be upset when our refs hover around the 10-15% mark.
Your players work to get better with every game; so do our officials. You can expect excellence but you cannot expect perfection.
Our goal is to work together with coaches to create the best recreational and 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 creates a hostile work environment and makes the truly good officials want to 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 monthly basis — and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.