Some “Official” Insight

Some “Official” Insight

Those of you who regularly follow the Bordas Blogs will remember that in my free time, I work as a basketball official in the OVAC. A few times each year, I try to write a blog entry that gives local hoops fans some insight into the most misunderstood rules of the game. Today, I decided to go a different route.

After 25 years of officiating basketball, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is how little players (and some coaches) understand about how to relate to an official. I mean, think about this for a moment. There are three officials on the floor at each game, and those three officials can have a profound effect on the game. Every game has a handful of what we officials call bang-bang plays, where the call can go either way. If I am a player, I want to do everything in my power to make sure those plays go my way more often than not. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for dealing with the officials in your next game.

  1. Introduce yourself to us.  If you are one of the team captains, we are going to have the chance to chat with you briefly in the captains’ conference that happens a few minutes before the game starts. If you aren’t a captain, approach at least one of us during pre-game warm-ups. Shake our hand, look us in the eye and introduce yourself.  That sort of thing rarely happens, and it’s something we will remember.
  2. Show us that you take sportsmanship seriously.  In today’s game, it seems like players are only interested in showing the other team how tough they are. We have stare downs, we have primal screams after a nice block or dunk, we have look at me stares or gestures at the opposing bench or crowd. All of those say one thing to officials:  troublemaker. A nice change of pace would be to show us that while you are a fierce competitor, you also respect the opposition and the game.  Offer your hand to an opponent who has fallen down. Don’t engage in trash talk. Be the guy who calms down a teammate who is getting out of hand. Officials notice these sorts of things, and they make a big impression.
  3. Get us the ball.  This one seems really simple, but you would be amazed at how rarely it happens. There are many times during a game when play is stopped and the ball is bouncing away from everyone. Someone is going to have to chase after it and get it to the officials so the game can resume. Players should remember that the officials are older than they are (sometimes a LOT older), and we appreciate anything that gives us a chance to conserve some energy. Go get the ball for us. Again, it’s a small gesture, but it’s one we will remember.
  4. Don’t try to show us up.  Basketball officiating is hard, and officials aren’t perfect.  Despite our best efforts, there are calls that are going to be missed. It’s the reality of the game. Don’t make things worse for us by standing there with your arms raised straight up after a foul is called against you, or running away from the play, jumping up and down in a display of I can’t believe you just called that. Even if such actions don’t draw a technical foul, they will leave a lasting impression on the officials, and it won’t be a good one. 
  5. Don’t whine or gripe or complain.  Just talk to us. If you are asking your mother if you can have the car on Friday night, do you approach her with attitude and say something like are you ever going to let me drive the damn car? Or do you approach respectfully and say, Mom, could I please have the car this Friday? One of those approaches is doomed to failure from the start. A player who comes to me and says, sir, could you watch #23 pushing me on rebounds is going to have a much better chance at success than the kid who says are you guys ever going to get 23 off my back?

I could give countless more examples here, but I think you all get the idea. Players need to make a concerted effort to treat officials with courtesy and respect, and to demonstrate class and sportsmanship on the floor. Doing so will go a long way toward establishing a successful relationship with game officials. Now, if we could just talk to the parents in the stands . . .


Those of you who regularly follow the Bordas Blogs will remember that in my free time, I work as a basketball official in the OVAC. A few times each year, I try to write a blog entry that gives local hoops fans some insight into the most misunderstood rules of the game.