How Referees Make A First Impression

1-chuck the refWe always talk about making good first impressions but for referees a good first impression is critical. Referees aren’t just part of a basketball game, they are the part that maintains the tone. Referees don’t set the tone. The tone is set by the coaches, the teams, the fans and what’s on the line. Players decide how hard fought a game is and what they will do to win. The game could be a championship or just a crosstown rivalry but without referee game management, things could spin out of control very quickly. Referees make sure the tone doesn’t become blaring. Ignore an aggressive rebound that includes an elbow and, before you know it, a fight could be moments away. An overly aggressive rebound that constitutes a foul should be penalized without hesitation.

Referees have to make it clear from the very beginning that there are rules and that the rules will be enforced. A foul is always a foul. Make all calls with authority especially fouls that appear to be intentional. All cheap shots must be caught and penalized. Technical fouls can be your friend but don’t use them in lieu of good game management. A fellow referee once told me he had to call 7 technical fouls in a game. A game isn’t under control if you have to call that many technical fouls. Obviously, the players didn’t get the message of the first 2 or 3 technical fouls and were still pushing the envelope.

Crisp mechanics, loud clear whistles and prompt calls help to mark a referee’s territory and establish game boundaries. So too, does energy. Show the players you are on top of every play and be decisive about your calls including preliminary signals and reporting. Work hard in all games and work harder in tough games but never appear frantic. If you are out of control your game will be out of control. Work evenly and consistently. Don’t run the court faster because the last call was controversial. Everyone will see your change in effort and feel that you hadn’t been giving the game your best effort. You should have been working that hard from the opening tip. Work the game from beginning to end and you’ll find the game proceeds at a level that coaches, players and fans appreciate and enjoy. Make your first impression a lasting one.

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