Do You Yell At Referees?

Do You Yell At Referees?

A couple of weekends ago, I got a chance to watch my old high school team and the treatment of the referees by the opposing coach boggled my mind. He was constantly on their case even when he was leading by 20 points in the 4th quarter. As the game ended and his team had won by 15 points, he yelled at them and started to follow them out of the gym. This just drove me nuts! I didn't even notice the refs during the game. I was rooting for the losing team and I didn't have a complaint. I also heard that the same varsity coach was screaming at a very timid pair of referees during the Freshmen game. During the game, he started out sitting at the top row and reached the 2nd row by the end of the game. And the funny thing was that his team only had 3 fouls in the first half and 2 fouls in the second half. Yet, my high school team had 12 fouls in each half. He was obviously trying to intimidate the referees.

What kind of example is this setting for kids?

This instantly made me think of a line Don Kelbick said to me a few years ago about coaches who have bad behavior, "99% of the time, those coaches are good people. They just have bad role models." They see the coaches on TV jumping, yelling, and screaming so they think they should be doing the same thing.

I don't condone terrible sideline antics by college and pro coaches, but I can understand the psychological games they have with the referees when their jobs and the lives of their families are at stake.

However, when it comes to a high school coach who barely gets paid or a youth coach who does not get paid, we should be setting the right example!

Mistreating and yelling at referees can hurt your team a number of ways:

  • Poor Coaching - If you concentrate on the referees' calls that means you're not focused on your team which means you will miss teachable moments for your players.

  • Won't get Answers On Calls - When you need to question a call or talk with the referees, they might not listen. This could cost you the game.

  • Get Calls Against You - If you constantly badger referees, some will purposely start making calls against you. This is especially true at the youth and high school levels of basketball.

  • Bad Team Play - Players often copy their coach's actions. If you are mistreating the referees, your players probably will too. This will lead to your players getting on the bad side of the referees which will never help in getting a fair game called. Also, when they blame the officials rather than taking responsibility for poor play, this can lead to a negative mind state for the whole team.
And we can pretend that you do get some calls by yelling at the referees, this is still setting a bad example for your players...

What kind of example are you setting by yelling at the refs?

By setting this example, you are showing your kids that it's ok to yell at people. In fact, you make it seem like a good thing. You are demonstrating that the proper method to get your way and change a person's behavior is to yell and scream at them. Don't you think that the very successful and happy people in this world use different methods to persuade and change behavior? There are much better tactics to persuade people. And frankly yelling, throwing fits, and screaming is VERY childish behavior. I know you see BIG TIME coaches doing this on TV. But let's face it and be real about this. It's very childish and immature behavior.

What you need to realize is that you have a very strong effect on these kids. 20 years from now these kids will remember certain things you tell them word for word. These kids WANT to play basketball. Teachers would do anything to have the type of power, influence, and control that you have over these kids. Like it or not. You are shaping the beliefs of some of these kids and you are making an impact on their future. Many of them look up to you. You have incredible influence over them.

With this influence and power comes a large responsibility that you need to accept and embrace. I urge you to think very hard about the example you set for your players. It's the right thing to do.

6 Tips For Treating Referees

  1. Treat them with respect. Our players see the way we treat the referees and we should teach them to respect others and learn to communicate without yelling uncontrollably. Referees are humans and they like to be treated with respect. Talk to them. Ask questions in a non-aggressive tone.

    Not to mention, it's very important to teach today's young people how to respect authority. It also teaches players not to blame others and to be held accountable.

  2. Create a dialogue and learn their names. Referees will respect you and like the fact that you're talking to them like they are a human being. It's also a good idea to learn their first names, so you can effectively address them during the games. The chances of them responding or listening increase if they hear their name.

  3. Chat with them in the pregame. One thing I always like to do is talk to the referees in the pregame warm-ups. I might even give them a heads up that I like to ask questions on calls, so I can teach my players and I would appreciate it if they took a few seconds to explain the calls to me when I ask them about a call. Morgan Wootten also says this is a great time to get a point across about the rules of the game.

  4. Apply the golden rule. If you treat the referees like you would want to be treated, you'll develop a quality relationship with them. Most often, this will lead to more calls in your favor.

  5. Question their call in an assertive, but non-aggressive manner. If you question a call in a reasonable tone, the refs will be more likely to listen to criticism. If you're yelling and screaming the whole time, they'll probably tune you out.

  6. Create a great environment for them at your home games. When you host a game, you should greet them and make them feel as comfortable as possible. It's important to make sure beverages and food are provided to the refs as well. This great treatment can go a long ways. It's also beneficial for you and your administration to make sure that your fans create a great atmosphere, but in a positive manner. No heckling and berating the referees.

What do you think about about yelling at referees? Please share your thoughts.


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John says:
2/10/2010 at 4:52:20 AM

Interesting post. Planning something similiar soon and you've inspired me to get writing. I am a coach and a referee and as such have a respect for both positions. So here are my opinions with different hats on.

As a coach:
There are only 2 things which really make me go for the referees. The first is when my guys have been genuinely wronged. When you're teaching guys to play basketball and when get it and they're doing everything right they are knocked down by a bad call. At lower levels, this is primarily because the refs don't know the rules! I've questioned some calls before and given the most outrageous answers which are completely contradictory to the rule book in my bag. Not a questionable interpretation, just the wrong answer! The other thing is when I feel like the players are getting frustrated, sometimes the coach can 'take some heat' off of them. I (and many coaches I've observed) tell their players 'forget the refs, let me deal with them'. Sometimes this works, and your players focus on the game, sometimes it backfires. It depends largely on your group of players.

As a referee:
I don't mind being shouted at. I think a good referee should be able to block out sideline activity (as even if you get a quiet coach, the crowd might be twice as rowdy, and there's nothig you can do to control them). Referees should maintain a friendly but professional relationship with players and coaches. Referees are ultimately responsible for controlling the game and should be able to deal with every situation without it impairing or introducing bias into their decisions. If a coach is excessively shouting or yelling, or swearing, or being personally abusive, that's a technical. However if he just wants to bawl about foul calls then he's welcome to. That's a legitimate coaching style (not saying it's right or wrong) but if he's chosen that, so be it.

  1 reply  

Rob Thomas says:
12/23/2015 at 9:54:39 AM

I officiate at both the HS and Collegiate level. Unfortunately, I have seen both poor coaching and poor officiating. In my many years of experience and the numerous games that I have officiated at the youth, HS, AAU and collegiate level, Coaches that tend to concentrate their efforts at the officials and not coach their teams, ultimately loose, whether it is in getting a call, loosing a ballgame or ultimately, loosing respect from their team/players. They get too consumed in trying to get an edge on one or two calls, that really have no bearing on that ballgame. There are many factors that have taken place during that ballgame that may have cost a team a victory, turnovers, missed shots, missed assignments, not blocking out, I can go on. That one call that did not go your way, ultimately did not cost you the ballgame. In regards to officials, there is no shortage of blame here either. We sometimes think that we are bigger than the game itself. We must realize that we are not here for ourselves or to obtain a bigger schedules, we are here for the players, coaches, parents and fans. We must know rules and be able to apply them fairly and accurately.In fact, we are game managers and must be able to communicate with players and coaches effectively. It takes years of practice and experience to get to this level. I have not had these types of problems in my games because I can communicate with all parties involved and I know the rules. The biggest problems that I see from an officiating standpoint is either lack of rules knowledge, poor communication skills and unfortunately, lack of common sense. I don't want to provide a clinic here, but there are ways to control a coach whether he is on the floor or in the stands trying to gain an advantage that do not require issuing technicals or yelling. IN my 25 years of officiating, I have given maybe 10 technical fouls in my career. Just my thoughts. Good Luck! Great Article

  1 reply  

Debbie says:
2/25/2016 at 10:50:53 PM

And what is it that u do when u have absolutely awful refs that do determine the outcome of a game...example 1 gives the ball to one team then the other gives it to the other...I have seen some TERRIBLE refs this year and this goes for both teams I'm watching. And just tonight at an ECC game...can they not at least get good refs for these games??? If they are that bad and don't know the rules or what the heck their doing out there they shouldn't get paid or be aloud to ref...send them back to ref school!!

  1 reply  

Debbie says:
2/25/2016 at 10:56:41 PM

And where do u go to complain about refs?

  2 replies  

Jeff says:
2/26/2016 at 10:46:45 AM

If there are refs that do a really poor job and don't know the rules, report this to the League Director, Tournament Director, and/or Athletic Director. They want good officials too. So be sure to let them know in a specific and professional way. Then if the coach also voices concerns to the directors, that will carry some weight too.


Mistah Mynah says:
9/2/2018 at 8:46:20 PM

Debbie, do you know the rules. I do. My colleagues and I know the rules and we give 100% effort out there. We put up with abuse in different forms. If you feel you can out perform the officials in your area, sign up and show 'em what you can do. We welcome you, we need good officials, we will encourage and help you all we can.

  1 person liked this.  

Matewing says:
2/11/2010 at 5:37:10 PM

I like to consider that there's 3 teams on a game.
players (yours and the opponents)
and refs must be all good to have a good game.
Matewing (Fr)


Sean says:
2/13/2010 at 1:24:09 PM

I hardly ever speak to the ref or ask questions because i''ve found it to be counterproductive.

Your article provides new insight and I''ll use these tips.



Joe Haefner says:
2/13/2010 at 4:48:12 PM

Interesting thoughts, John. It's good to hear from the referee perspective as well. However, I'm not sure that all refs would react the same way as you.

I completely agree with this "Referees are ultimately responsible for controlling the game" Unfortunately, I've had a ref that almost caused a fight when I coached at the JV Level. I had to walk a fan of the opposing team out of the gym with the referee yelling at him. Then, the referee was threatening me about my coaching job, because I couldn't control the fans, even the opposing team's fans. I still don't understand how that is my job. There is alot more to the story and it's actually quite funny, but that's for another time.

I was 22 and I had no idea how to react. I still wonder what the other referee was doing during this whole fiasco.

Sean, I've experienced the same thing. To me, there are too many other things to worry about, unless somebody is getting hurt.

  1 reply  

Debbie says:
2/25/2016 at 10:54:39 PM

Refs that don't know what their doing should stay home! They can cause a riot on the floor with the kids because they are so bad!!!


Ruben says:
2/13/2010 at 6:27:22 PM

What an inspiring article.It makes me recall my college days when I was playing for inter-collegiate competitions. My coach was exactly the same as of what you were referring to this subject.He always react for any referees' call he thinks it was a bad call and it's true he can no longer concentrate on his job in the team, and sometimes even teaches us to do harm to the role player on the opposite team.

This was the reason some members of our team developed that bad attitude of always hurting somebody from the other side resulting to a fight between the players everytime our team compete also to other teams.

I hope for those coaches who have the same attitudes and read this article,please find another job because you not suited and not welcome to this world of sports.

Lastly, I compare a coach to a head of a family. If you are setting a bad example to your players, I'm very sure this is also the same as how you are raising your children.


Steve says:
2/15/2010 at 5:18:54 PM

About five years ago, I was coaching my oldest son in an 8th grade travel game against a rival school (which had just split from our middle school that year). So most of the kids knew each other very well, as did their coach and I. So it was a VERY competitive game. Both coaches were working (not necessarily yelling at) the refs a little to get the calls to go their way.

At one point, I calmly asked for a clarification on a call made against my team. One of the referees came to explain, and proceeded to get right in my face. He seemed very worked up...caught up in the competitive feel of the game maybe. He was bouncing up and down on his toes with the pent-up energy as he talked to me. I felt he was ready to come after me! I tried to get him to calm down...I just wanted an explanation, not a fight.

So this shows both sides can get caught up in the heat of the game. I guess the bottom line is that the most important thing is how you handle the heat! Let it get out of control, and you (and your team) have to deal with the consequences.

The thing that usually bugs me the most as a coach is when the referees don't have control of the game. Whether their calls are right or not, they have to take control. At the middle school level, they are not going to get everything right (I know I don't as a coach)! But at least seize control of the game.


asi says:
2/16/2010 at 4:08:05 AM

so simple and so is life and the way we act in basketall is the same we act at life.

  1 reply  

Bob Green says:
7/12/2016 at 5:26:48 PM

Played and coached at college level, high school, Jr. High, AAU and refereed at all levels. Officials are the cause of much of the duress for players and coaches. Lack of knowledge and the let's get this over with attitude is apparent in most games. Coaching 3 hours a day, teaching kids the finer points of the game and some knucklehead that doesn't care about the game or the kids controls the game.

In my career, I can honestly say 20% of the officials do a good job, know the rules and converse with the coaches on a professional level. Refereeing is not for control freaks.


Wim says:
2/16/2010 at 4:48:45 AM

Right on the head of the nail.

I want to translate your article and publish it in our coaches magazine. (free for the members of the belgian coaches association); Do you allow this when we mention your name and website?
Thank you.


Joe Haefner says:
2/16/2010 at 9:06:06 AM

Yeah, Steve. It can be frustrating if the referees don't have control of the game.

Thanks for the kind words, Asi and Wim.


mr loser says:
2/16/2010 at 10:28:49 AM

Great article, should be required reading for every youth coach. One of our team rules is r-e-s-p-e-c-t (our 5th graders enjoy yelling it like the song). At practice huddles, we discuss what it means to respect the other team, the refs, parents and each other.


mr loser says:
2/16/2010 at 10:28:49 AM

Great article, should be required reading for every youth coach. One of our team rules is r-e-s-p-e-c-t (our 5th graders enjoy yelling it like the song). At practice huddles, we discuss what it means to respect the other team, the refs, parents and each other.


Mary Barnes says:
2/16/2010 at 11:24:46 AM

Hi Joe, How are you. I heard you were home the other night and going to try and get some meat on my grandsons bones.

This is a very good article. And the coaches as well as the fans should read it.



marquion hudson says:
2/16/2010 at 11:57:44 AM

What happens when you get the refs who ae on a power trip. I can't believe I got a tech called for simply saying" look in the rule book". When I asked him why did I get a tech his response was he has the power to do it! I think we need to remind refs there is a difference between a youth basketball game and a varsity game.


Coach Lee says:
2/16/2010 at 12:27:37 PM

I have had refs tell me that the coach is not allowed to talk to them during the game. This on the first question asked of them. By the rulebook only the captain that is on the floor is allowed to talk to the referee.
I believe this is an answer that promotes an absence of control. As a referee they need to take control of the situation and answer the question (as stated above by John). This is the same as referee's that call a foul and do not tell everyone involved the number and team the foul was on.
The point is that the referees are an important part of the learning experience for the players, the parents and the coaches. They need to take this responsibility to heart.


ross says:
2/16/2010 at 12:42:08 PM

I quess I have a question, more than a comment. How do you deal with a referee whose son is playing on the opposing team and who is making unsubstantited calls? This in itself can be very upsetting to 5th and 6th grade kids.

  2 replies  

Rob Thomas says:
12/23/2015 at 9:37:34 AM

He shouldn't be officiating that game period. Serious conflict of interest. Is probably daddy ball here.


Janet Moore's says:
2/24/2016 at 6:57:21 AM

Refs take the joy out of games (for players and fans) when they don't show fairness. Referees should also be held accountable for their behavior. The seem to think they can be as unfair as they want to.

  1 reply  

Areanna says:
4/26/2016 at 10:14:21 PM

Everyone has a complaint about sports officials as if they have been in their shoes. I agree, refs need to understand the game more than anyone, but no one is perfect. The MAJORITY of us have the intentions of officiating a fair, clean game. It's easy to complain about everything he's doing wrong, while you're sitting on the couch eating potato chips, when you have never picked up the rule book in your life. 😂give em a break, some bad calls are made, but people make mistakes and it is not easy to manage every aspect of a game


Coach Jeff says:
2/16/2010 at 3:06:20 PM

I can agree with the article for the most part. I do however believe that a game should be called fairly. I've been coaching for about 6-7 years now and I've gotten so few technicals that I am apt to remember them. In one instance, the opposing team was in the double bonus before the first half was over and they had a total of 2 team fouls and we were losing by nearly double digits. Something is not right and I'll let them know. As I received my technical for letting them know their job needed work I was happy I was able to point that out.

The second half was much more even and while we still lost, perhaps as a result of the way the first half was called, perhaps not, but I thought they did a much better job at officiating. Once the game was over I told them the stats of the 2 halves and that I appreciated the effort in calling things fairly in the second half.

One of them said that he appreciated me not going further than pointing out my dissatisfaction and moving on versus keeping on them throughout the game. The key here is that you make your point and move on.

  1 reply  

Matthew Sjerven says:
2/11/2018 at 1:12:14 AM

I feel that the first technical you got was completely justified. Teams that play black in a zone, as well as team that don't reach, will usually have quite low fouls totals compared to teams that try to run a man to man press all game, and teams that reach. I have seen many a game where a team leading by 20 has a third the fouls of the other team, and when you see them play, it makes sense.


Don says:
2/16/2010 at 6:13:33 PM

I've been coaching youth basketball for 31 years. When I started all the coaches were very vocal with the refs and players, including me. The league probably averaged one technical a game. Today, I'm much less vocal with the refs (I still have my moments) but still very vocal with the players - I believe they need constant reinforcement at a young age. At times I have taken the fun out of the game for me and the kids by yelling at the refs - not very proud of my actions. This year I notice my 12 year old getting angry with the refs when a call didn't go his way. Where did he get that from? Yeah, the kids follow our lead. We have talked about this and it's motivated me to not complain to the refs - shouldn't have had to learn it this way. I'd rather he just play hard and accept whatever the refs call - they're not going to change the call anyway. Finally, while I could have behaved better over the years I always made one thing very clear to my team - a ref does not win or lose a game. Look at yourselves - missed layups, poor foul shooting, defensive breakdowns before you blame a ref for a loss.


John says:
2/17/2010 at 4:31:08 AM

Ross, don't play the game!!!!


Rich says:
2/17/2010 at 2:07:06 PM

I'm not a coach, neither a ref, just a simple Player, but our coach tends to scream a lot during games and I've found it really upsetting that the team has to calm him down, when he's throwing his bottle around and jumping up and down.
So whenever he takes a time-out and we expect some new game strategies he's often still upset about a bad call. He's also a ref so he thinks he's always right. This has already cost us a game cause the refs were very stubborn too and in the end 4 players of our starting five (excluding me) were benched with 5 fouls.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a very emotional player but past experiences showed that you just have to keep calm and rather ask the refs nicely why they called it, so you can learn to stop doing whatever you did wrong. And even if you didn't do anything... just breathe and try to get past it as fast as possible.


Igor says:
2/18/2010 at 10:48:38 AM

I read your article,and I think that this is fantastic.As a coach I want to find more books
about this article!!Help me?
I''''''''''''''''m coaching the youth basketball players,in Belgrade.Sometimes I have a problem with the ref.
We are playing in Serbian League!
In the first three games I was very angry at the ref,because I think that they have not control the game.
But after that I realized that the problem is in my team.
The coach must to realize the game and to be ave are about the opponent strength.
As the time is passing by,my team starting to win the next games,because I starting to get maximum concentrate in the game,not to have any discussion with the ref.
My opinion is that,the coaches must to be concentrate in the game,not in the ref,and your children will play better and without any stress situation.
Nice job Jef!!


Bill says:
2/20/2010 at 12:58:50 PM

A very good article that makes good points. I am a coach and a certified ref. I do not "work" refs because it so often backfires. A ref should control the game, know the rules, and be as fair as possible. As a coach, I expect a ref to work hard, call them both ways and make a minimal amount of mistakes- he or she will make mistakes. I have never seen a perfect game- by a player, a ref or for that matter a coach. No ref will be able to see everything or call everything (I wouldn't want that). I don't want to see a game where one team shoots 6 foul shots and the other shoots 38... unless it is the result of the level of skill of the players. A ref should work hard to get into position and call it fairly- the same on both sides of the court. A coach who "loses it" or screams at a ref is not only setting a bad example for his players and fans, he is not doing his job of working with his players so that they can perform at their best. As one of the commenters said, it often upsets the players on the team. Sorry this is long, but I really appreciated the article and its thoughts.


Cross says:
2/22/2010 at 10:39:36 AM

I coach at the HS level and recently began helping with my daughter's CYO team. I admit I have a history of yelling at refs but I feel that I have been justified in doing so. My reasons are similiar to some other responses posted such as refs who make bad calls for lack of knowing better or just because they are biased. I have spoken to the other refs of games and was confirmed that my gripe was legitimate. Additionally, I have had refs tell me the most ridiculous reasons for their bad calls or lack of calls. Actually, I have had refs tell me that the won't make the right call because they don't won't to. Just as coaches are expected to set examples for the children, I would expect a referee to be professional about his duty and responsibility in conducting the game officiating with respect for his position, influence on the participants and the integrity of the game. I am not a certified referee but have taken the time to work with new trainees so that I am also aware of what is expected of them, how rules/infractions are interpreted and exactly how to teach my players the correct way to play the game (understanding how it would be officiated). I agree that they are people too and should be treated with respect but I also understand that as people they have opinions, feelings, prejudices, may lack training, may lack control, may lack integrity. There is no psychological testing to be a referee, so the person handling your game may make calls against your team because of a prior experience that he/she is reminded of. The ref could have had a horrible day and when you question them about a call (in the most respectful manner) they blow their top. I once had a ref try to forfeit a game in progress for my team because the school safety officers cheered when we went on a 8-0 run to extend the lead. He tried to have them removed and said we would have to forfeit it they didn't. The other ref had to step in and tell him how out of line he was.

Worse situation was a ref who came at one of my players after an away game with fists flailing. He taunted my players during the game, commented throughout how he wasn't going to give them any calls and refused to stop play (would not even give me a timeout)when a player was injured. That game was for 1st place in our division and the other ref didn't show up, so he was free to do what ever he liked. Adding insult to the mix was the governing body refused my protest of the game, even though they were infromed by security of the other school of the ref's behavior. I have always believed that respect is earned when it is given.

I would like to end with a question- Why are referees at lower levels (HS on down) too afraid to challenge/correct/intervene on their partners calls, even if they have it differently or the better angle???

  1 reply  

Matthew Sjerven says:
2/11/2018 at 1:19:45 AM

This post reeks of ignorance. Your anecdote belongs in the 'things that never happened' section of every story-based subreddit. I can say that having know hundred of sports officials across all youth sports, nobody has any bias towards a team of ten year-olds playing in a local tournament with no money on the line. Many of the events you described may have happened, but in a vaguely similar way that could be easily perverted in its vagueness, while leaving out pertinent details. You seem like the kind of coach who is way to wrapped-up in meaningless winning, without realizing that it does not matter until high school. Youth sports are about developing skill, character, and relationships while having some fun. The referees are just trying to do their best, and people like you are the reason why most officiating organizations are short-staffed.


Jeff Haefner says:
2/24/2010 at 7:03:45 AM

This is because lower level refs are volunteers with limited experience and training. Would you feel comfortable calling out one of your peers in a public setting and pointing out they are wrong?

In todays game, this is just a FACT. If you play basketball you are going be in games with terrible officiating and bad calls. There is no way around it. It will happen.

This is something that's needs to be accepted and then you have choices on how you handle these situations with the utmost dignity and professionalism. I once heard "life is all about your attitude -- life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." I think that's pretty accurate.

It's all about how you react to the situation and make the best of it. Getting pissed at a ref will not improve the situation for anyone involved. There are better ways to handle things and better ways to improve the situation.

  1 reply  

George says:
2/12/2015 at 11:47:53 AM

Sorry Jeff, but I disagree with your premise. Your statement assumes that there is nothing we can do about poor officiating and I think that is dead wrong. If we accept that premise then we should also accept that our players can't improve or that we as coaches can't improve.
I agree with everyone who says we shouldn't be expressing our emotions about any particular call during a game - refs are human and make mistakes as much as anyone else. We do need to set the proper example to our players and help them to learn to accept that nobody is perfect.
However, my experience with referees at all levels - CYO, travel, AAU, and high school - is that there is an attitude amongst the majority of them that they do not need to improve and that nobody is allowed to question them. There does not appear to be a method for upgrading the skills of officials, and the normal way for providing any negative feedback about a particular official to the league office typically results in payback by the official the next time he or she works your game. Coaches and players are constantly evaluated, but there is no adequate feedback system for referees - who are PAID professionals! If I coached my players with the same expertise as a lot of officials use on the court, I would not be coaching.
Finally, there was a question on this forum about how poor officiating negatively affects our players, and I would like to offer an example: We teach our players to play correctly - no traveling, no blocking, no charging. Then they get into a game and see that the officials do not always call the skill offenses as they are taught. Some refs "let them play", some refs say that the game would take too long if they called everything, some refs just want to collect their money and go home. But the players learn that they can get away with some things and therefore do not concentrate on learning the skills as they should. Especially at the younger ages, the referees should be focusing on making sure that the players will get penalized for not learning their skills correctly. That will ensure that as the players get older and more experienced they can concentrate on advanced skills and getting faster instead of learning how to pivot correctly in the eighth grade. It will also help our coaches to help the players learn how to play the game - the mechanics - correctly. Learning how to play correctly is just as important as learning how to play with good sportsmanship. Can you imagine how we as parents would feel if our children's teachers graded their tests with the same standards as the basketball officials use for their jobs?

  2 replies  

Albert says:
4/4/2016 at 2:07:03 AM

Alright I see where you are coming from I am a official for basketball. Every single play there is a foul. You have to let the kids play or the game will never end. I call the most obvious calls. There are some that I will see and if there is not enough to call then why call it. A travel happened practically every time a middle schooler or high schooler goes up for a layup. There is a lot of hand checks that you need to brush off because then the teams will be in the double bonus 5 minutes in. We are there to control the game not influence the outcome. I got told this year I was calling unfairly but the teams had the same amount of calls me and my partner halfed um and I called on both sides and so did she. Coaches need to understand we may be professionals but all professionals are human just like them. Treat us how you guys would want to be treated we work our butts off to try and make the game go as smoothly as we can an as save as we can for the student athletes

  1 reply  

Randy says:
3/16/2019 at 10:07:57 PM

I have seen this " you cant call everything" comment expressed by a many referees. When a call is made in one instance and then not made when the same thing happens later, it appears to onlookers as if the refs are trying to control the outcome of the game or just don't know what they're doing. It is the inconsistency of officiating that sets me off as a parent and coach. How about if refs just made the calls according to the rules and stopped worrying about the length of the game or if too many players would foul out. The players would then learn to play within the rules instead of guessing what is and isn't going to be called this time down the floor.


Matthew Sjerven says:
2/11/2018 at 1:23:09 AM

Well, no one is saying that refs do not need to improve their craft. However, how many times has a ref started screaming, "What the hell kind of defensive scheme is that?" or, "What are you teaching these kids? You don't know how to coach." Think about that. They don't harass you about your coaching, don't harass them about their reffing.


Tanya says:
2/28/2010 at 12:17:59 PM

Great article! I alway remind my players (grade 4 to 6) that respecting everyone around them is one of the most important things to me as a coach.
The referees are a HUGE part of a basket game. They are the law for the whole time a game is going on.
I love the tips you''''ve given us at the end of the article.
Thank you for taking the time!


Sarah says:
5/17/2010 at 3:41:46 PM

First of all, I want to thank you for all your excellent basketball advice. I am a young coach and I have benefitted greatly from your website.

I am an assistant coach for a 5th grade girls' AAU team. The head coach is also a young female. We are very respectful to the referees and we focus on our players rather than any bad calls we encounter. We absolutely do not yell at them, and if we have a question it is usually more about what the call was or who it was on than complaining about it, and we address them respectfully. We don't tolerate our kids complaining to the refs and so they don't complain.

I have exactly two problems with referees (especially AAU refs): the first is when they can't be bothered to hustle and get in position to make a call. A lot of times in AAU they do several games in a row, and I understand that that requires a lot of running. But if they aren't up for it then they shouldn't be reffing. We just played a tournament where each game had two refs, which isn't always the case at youth level AAU, and even with a partner on the baseline, the one ref couldn't be bothered to get over half court. She stood literally 5 feet behind half court and in general missed a great game. The second problem I have is when they don't call a foul just to keep the game moving. This happens all the time in AAU. I understand that they are under time restraints, and I don't expect them to call every little touch foul - in fact, I'm glad they don't. But one of the things we've focused on during practice is going hard to the rim and not being afraid to draw contact. Our kids are 10 and at the beginning of the season would shy away from any sort of contact on a fast break or any other drive to the hoop. We did a full court 1 on 1 fast break drill literally every single practice for the first several weeks to get them to go right to the rim and draw contact. It took some of them longer than others but they now have the confidence to go in strong to the hoop even with a defender in their face. Nothing makes me more upset during a game than when the ref fails to call even the most blatant foul in this situation - not because we don't get those two foul shots, but because it undermines what we've taught them is the correct way to play the game.

I explain all of this to show that I have a respect for referees and only become frustrated when they are doing a disservice to the work that the kids have put into the game. I understand that every ref - even the great ones - will miss a call every once in a while. I never get upset about that. We deal with it as part of the game, because that's what it is, and we teach our kids to do the same.

I want to ask your opinion on the best way to handle speaking to them. We were in a close game against an older team and both teams were playing very hard. I really didn't have a complaint about the refs except that we had several, and I mean probably 5 or 6, fast break situations where our kids took it strong to the hoop and got fouled HARD, but there was no call made. We hadn't complained about any of the calls. But after about the 5th such situation, my player who took the layup and got hit hard missed the shot. The other team grabbed the rebound. My player proceeded to try to defend the outlet pass and got called for reaching in when I'm not even sure she had touched the girl. This happened to be our team's 10th foul, so the other team got 2 shots. During the foul shot, I simply stood next to the ref who made the call and said, "Can you please watch the fouling on the fast break layups? We are getting hit pretty hard." He was so indignant and kept asking me what I meant. I did not raise my voice, I just repeated that I wanted him to watch the fouling on our end. He said, "That's what I've been doing all game." I specifically did not do anything to embarrass him; I did not yell across the floor that he made a bad call or anything of the sort. I simply had a conversation with him on the sideline during a foul shot. No one else could hear us. He proceeded to call a phantom foul on one of my kids on the very next possession (which happened to be her 4th foul and earned her a spot on the bench). I am just wondering if there is a more effective way for me to express what I was trying to express. Was there a better way I could have phrased my complaint? Like I said, I am a young coach and I do not have much experience in dealing with referees. I hope that this situation was unique as far as his response, but I would love to get anyone else's take on it. I know that my complaint was legitimate, but not sure that I handled it properly. Any thoughts?

  1 reply  

David says:
8/4/2015 at 1:26:46 AM

"Hard to the basket" usually means contact somewhere. In 5 or 6 events, I can easily see defensive foul most often, but possibly 1 or 2 player control fouls depending on the play and even a no call. Your perspective on the bench may not equal an official's perspective near the paint.


Coach Sar says:
5/17/2010 at 10:39:30 PM

Sarah (and all coaches)
The longer you are in this game the more you will realize that the lower level refs are not very good... IF they are, they move up quickly. So, at the 5th grade level you probably have volunteer refs, high school kids etc. ? (and not very good)

I learned the hard way, got my share of Ts until I reached the Varsity HS level. Got a T in one of my first games and got myself under control very quickly after that. I learned that HUMOR is a much better way of talking to refs.... they will listen a lot better.
I don't think your comment was bad the first time... but he was trying to bait you, next time make your comment quitely and then sit down IF your player was getting knocked down I would say, protect the players please.

Once a ref decides he isn't going to give you a break, there isn't a lot you can do about it.
All you can do is to encourage your players to play harder - this is a great learning experience... how to handle adversity - they will take their cues from you and act accordingly.

Have fun with the refs, joke around and they will look forward to doing your games. Make sure you know the rules, nothing turns refs off more that a coach that challenges them and doesn't have the rule right.

I hope this helps you.


Joe Haefner says:
5/18/2010 at 9:08:53 AM

Hi Sarah,

I don't think there is nothing that I could add to Coach Sar's comment. It sounds like you handled it pretty well.


Sarah says:
5/18/2010 at 1:02:48 PM

Thank you both for your responses. I like the phrase "protect the players" so I'll keep that in mind. Definitely great advice - thank you so much!


Don says:
9/15/2010 at 2:54:19 AM


I have been a HS Official for 8yrs and after reading your article, you did not do anything wrong in making a statement to the refs that you would like for them to watch the hard contacts on the fast breaks. Good officials would provide an explanation as to why a foul was not called. If a player is going hard to the basket and hard contact is made, in most cases this should have been a foul. However, the rule book states that opponents making hard contact does not necessarily constitute a foul. It is the judgement of the official to decide whether or not it was a foul. If the defender tries to make a play on the ball and caused some hard contact, an official can''t take anything away from this defensive play just because contact was made. We all can agree that there will be contact throughout the game. I have noticed from other officials that a foul is automatically called only because of the contact. So what I am trying to say, is that its all about the judgement of an official which determines the call. If you would have made that statement to me, I would have responded with either, "ok I will watch next time", or provide you with an explanation. Of course, keep in mind there are different officials with different personalities. And yes I agree with Coach Sar, the better officials are officiating in the upper levels so as tough as it is to swallow, expect this to happen with the subpar officials. I do believe that displaying respect from both positions (coach/refs) though would significantly help the morale. Good luck!!!


frustrated fan says:
12/18/2010 at 1:34:45 AM

Overall, I find that youth officiating is spotty at best. I''ve watched many youth games over the years (3 boys will keep you busy) and usually it''s just a little irritating, but tolerable.

Last year my son''s 6 grade traveling team was playing a game out of state. The other team was playing overly aggressive. They were jumping over our team''s backs for rebounds, hacking arms on defense and generally playing out of control. Unfortunately our "coach" isn''t very vocal. (Actually he seems a bit more concerned with his own reputation than protecting his team, so of course he didn''t say anything to the officials.) Our team travels well, so we had quite a few fans there. Over the course of the game, many of our parents were noticing that the officials were letting almost all of this stuff go, and began pointing out blatant no-calls. I must say that I was part of that as well. One time in the third quarter I even noticed an opposing player take a full on kick at my son''s backside because he was doing a good job of boxing him out. The referees completely missed it! With about 5 minutes to go in the game, a couple of the other parents and I even considered a walkout, but decided to let it finish out. With about a minute to go in the game one of our players got fouled so badly that he went down in a pool of blood on the floor. (He got his lip split open so badly that he ended up needing a handful of stitches to fix him up.) They ended up calling the game at that point.

As we made our way to the door, we passed the injured player from our team. He was still on the floor and he was being tended to. The referee was standing about 5 feet from him and in the path towards the exit. As I passed by the referee, I looked down at the hurt player and stated to the referee, "That''s what happens when you let the players play out of control". I continued walking. The coach from the other team ran over from the other sideline and started screaming at me to get out of his gym. The ironic part is that I had to literally stop leaving his gym in order to listen to his tirade. I was actually at the doorway at that point and on my way out. It was also odd since I''m quite sure that he couldn''t even hear what I had said to the referee, as I stated it in a normal speaking tone and he was about 200 feet away.

Obviously this was very embarrassing for my family and me. My question is; why is it always the parents fault? Can''t there ever be terrible officials? I don''t advocate yelling at referees, but if they are being paid to do a job, they need to do it somewhat competently; especially when their calls (or non-calls) endanger our kids...right?


Harvey says:
12/21/2010 at 4:16:31 AM

@ Frustrated fan. I feel your pain. Since I have been a ref I understand both points of view. A Ref's job isnt easy (by any means), but we still should do our jobs correctly. I dont mind when a parent or fan critics my work. Sometimes I even have to wear "tough skin", because in some gyms I can literally hear every taunt. Ive ran across refs that only wanted their paycheck. They kept that whistle silent so that the game would continue and end quickly. This is the worst kind of Ref, and I think that this is the kind that u witnessed. Im sorry, but in every job there will be people that only care about themselves.
To be a Ref you should care about the safety and security of ALL the youth involved in the event.
Now as a parent/ coach 2 years ago a pair of refs came to my High School. They were missing calls left and right. Now I will never curse a ref out, or try to call him by name, but I will let u and everybody in the gym know when I disapprove of the calls that r being made. This was the case this night. Our HS Varsity team pulled out a close victory, and I thought that I had seen the last of that awful crew.
Fast forward 3 months later and my Little Dribblers Team (All-Stars) are playing for the right to go to the national tournament. We actually were able to secure the regional tourney at our home gym so Im feeling pretty good about our chances.
We win the first game of the tourney by 35 pts and really just stall-balled the whole second half. Then we faced the next team, and guess who shows up to ref the game????? Thats right horrible crew from the HS game!!!! My jaw dropped! To make the rest of the story short I had a starter foul out the first Qtr!!! Due to the rules of our league they had to play 1 full qtr to qualify. Whats funny is his 5th foul was actually on someone else! The ref went to the scorers table and called out that particular players number! Parents went ballistic! Everyone saw that this player was on the opposite side of the court when the foul took place! We lost by 3. we still made it to nationals and took 4th place but I guess the morale of this story is......????? I guess to get "U reap what u sow!" LOL


Debi Howell says:
2/5/2011 at 2:36:14 AM

We need to find a way to make high school basketball referees accountable for their calls. I live in a community where one of the coaches takes all the district referees out to dinner. Is this acceptable, should this be allowed. Isn't there somewhere in the referee handbook that says this could be considered a bribe? Is there a code of ethics book for basketball referees?


Tim says:
3/28/2011 at 8:23:51 PM

High school referees are held accountable. By their state Association and by the AD's who hire them. The home team generally hires the officials. If your home officials are bad..go talk to your AD. I have never seen a game be determined by which coach yelled the loudest at the referees. It's a thankless job that very few people will do anymore. There are bad referees and there are also bad coaches.


SGC says:
4/27/2011 at 2:25:46 PM

I agree that this article is a thought provoking article and one that hits home with a lot of coaches, fans, family, etc... I think if your recommendations are followed it will have a positive result.
I do also agree though that referees need to be held accountable during and after the game(s). I agreed with previous comments regarding this, such as not seeing 38 foul shots for one team and 6 for another. That just isn't realistic, especially in the younger ages, you could probably call a foul on almost each possesion either way. Lopsided refereeing hurts the kids, they see an unfair situation and feel demoralized by it. You can say that this doesn't effect the game, but it does. Foul calls matter, they affect momentum and possesions which affect scores. In a close game a call one way or another can definitely change the game.
And just the fact that someone is paying the ref's doesn't hold them accountable, evaluations by coaches should hold weight in their ability to ref and be hired. Kids are held accountable for their performance with time on the court, so should referees. I have seen referees not calling anything, or failing to make calls at the end of a game so it ends, or one ref calling everything while the other calling little, causing the lopsided fouls, bonus situations and foul shots.
No one is perfect, but consistent incosistency needs some kind of accountability, and we shouldn't just tell our players they just have to endure it cause that's life. Well if that's the case then ref's just have to endure it, cause that's life... right?


Coach Pat says:
7/3/2011 at 2:50:03 PM

I think sometimes there is a need to do so. Of course you don't want to use profanity but sometimes you have to show your players you are willing to fight for them. Just my feelings.

  1 reply  

Matthew Sjerven says:
2/11/2018 at 1:26:55 AM

You're not fighting for them, you're only hurting them. You wanna fight for them? Respect the ref.


Harriet DeMint says:
12/31/2011 at 1:09:01 PM

When the officiating is consistently lacking (bad) and the officials favor one team or the other ,especially in elementary or high school ball it is very hard to adhere to the "respect " rule. Much closer monitoring of the quality of officials and their attitude should be going on instead of always focusing on the fans and the coaches and players. Those in charge of licensing officials are really dropping the ball. We live in Ohio and the officiating is probably at the lowest level of quality in the nation.


Ken says:
12/31/2011 at 8:08:07 PM

This is a great article Joe...

You make a lot of good points.... I know that it took me some time before I realized how to deal with officials..... trust me, yelling isn't going to get you anywhere... I found that using humor when I was "suggesting" that they blew a call got me a lot further than blowing my stack.

There are some good officials and there are some bad ones... the lower levels either get the ones breaking in or on the way out.... they work their way up the ladder just like in any other line of work.

You can bet their are fans in the stands that don't like the refs... ( depending on which team is winning ) and those same fans are saying how bad a coach one of them are.

There is usually only one assignment chairperson for each group of refs.. and I know that I have seen them come out and evaluate how the crew is doing. My only suggestion is to try and take care of what you can control and don't worry about what you cant. Believe me, I talk to a lot of coaches and they will tell me how bad some of the officials are... this is all over the country.

Try to be a good role model for your kids and help them as much as you can.... and again... use some humor when you question a call.... they will laugh and it will diffuse the situations.


Ken says:
12/31/2011 at 8:09:42 PM

By the way, I wish I knew this when I started coaching....


Dorian says:
1/9/2012 at 6:04:06 AM

This is an excellent article. One point that I also should be emphasized is that NFHS rules explicitly say that "expressing disapproval" with a decision of an official is unsportsmanlike conduct-- for which the consequence is a technical foul. So, not only is it disrespectful and sets a poor example (as you explained well) but it also is simply against the rules of the game. The rulebook doesn't say that the expression of disapproval has to be excessive or loud or repetitive. Most officials just choose to extend that courtesy and let us get away with arguing and blurting out. If we want officials to enforce the rules of the game then we need to lead by example and comply with the unsportsmanlike conduct rule.


Ken says:
1/9/2012 at 7:38:05 AM


IF the officials called every infraction during a game, it would take several hours to finish, that included play on the floor and coaches talking to them.

I am a firm believer that refs make their calls from the angles they see the play from... as coaches, we see it from a different angle and maybe rose colored glasses too.

After you are in the game for awhile, you get to know the refs and they are willing to listen to your complaints as long as you don't make them look bad... IF you do that, you will get a T. But, IF they handed out Ts for every time you didn't like their calls and showed that.... coaches wouldn't be at many games. Sometimes I just offered them my glasses which usually got a laugh but they knew what I meant...... Again, get to know the officials and things will go a lot better.

A lot of refs will call the game with a "advantage / disadvantage" philosophy, just for the sake of keeping some sort of flow to the game.


me says:
1/28/2012 at 7:15:36 PM

I am a youth basketball player and I still yell at the refferees but my coach does too and I don't blame him because at my most recent game the ref wouldn't call any fouls in our favor but coach didn't do anything to get on his bad side yet he just hates coach I even have an uncalled foul on my hand ( which is a scratch) but how do you get off a referees bad side??


Ken says:
1/28/2012 at 8:06:23 PM

Me -

Let me ask you a question..... how would you react to the ref yelling at you? What level do you- play at?

Now don't get me wrong - there were times I wasn't a saint myself. Just because your coach yells does not give you the right, or should you yell, that could hurt your team in the long run. I'm surprised that you didn't get a T.

Do refs make bad calls, yes, do coaches make mistakes, yes, do players make mistakes, yes. We all do, so try and relax when you are playing and have some FUN.

So, to your question, how do you get on the good side of the refs? Be polite and treat them the way you want to be treated. Hand them every loose ball and say yes sir and no sir and smile.

We had one ref in our league who was very quick with the Ts and I told them exactly what I just told you, trust me, it will work.

You're young and we all make mistakes, don't worry about it too much, just act appropriately from now on and enjoy the game.


me says:
1/30/2012 at 4:32:02 PM


i do beileve that everyone should treat them nice but you didn't hear the whole story. yes I do treat them nicely but he treated me like i do everything wrong and one of my friends fouled out by gaurding them from a foot away. He doesn't like my coach or our team and we don't like him when i wrote that comment i was mad and i just got out of a game so sorry for being so mad but you get it b now don't you?


Ken says:
1/30/2012 at 4:59:25 PM


You mad? Nahh LOL I''m still laughing now.... I know what thats like, believe me. :-)
What level do you play at?

You are going to run into a lot of refs like that... but trust me, its counter productive to get mad at the refs ( you will never get a call ) or yourself... because it will effect your game.

Before I was the varsity coach, I coached the sophomores for 8 years.... and I did something regularly to my teams when we scrimmaged... it was called "Character Building" !!

I would make some ridiculous call, like travelling when it obviously wasn''t... at first they wanted to challenge me, I started to give the kid a T and one of his players figured it out quickly... and dragged him away... the kids on the sideline were laughing becuase they knew what I was doing.

It taught them to keep their cool and just play harder.... you will get a lot more bad calls as you play this game. I hope you have fun and learned something from what I am telling you here.... good luck and I hope the rest of the season is a good one.


Karen says:
2/5/2012 at 5:15:17 PM

It is understandable for yelling at sporting events when players/coaches/refs/spectators are going to die from a fire in the building.

Clueless as to how we got our priorities upside down in our sport's culture.


Chris says:
2/12/2012 at 7:24:58 PM

I have been a referee for 8 years at all levels from youth league to collegiate level. I have run a large youth league for 8 years and coached my five kids through youth league. As a referee I am so disappointed with what the referee chapters are putting on the floor, today you just show up to a chapter meeting buy a whistle and a shirt and you are considered a certified referee. Somewhere along the line todays referees have forgotten that they are a part of the game not the focal point. Time and time again I here a referee say how a coach disrespected him so he gave the coach a tech, never mind that the referee was not making calls, walking up the floor, out of position, calling out of his primary area ie ball watching. Todays referees need to check there attitudes at the door if they cant handle criticism get a new job. Over the years I have given only one tech, I always give 100 percent in every game, I never have the attitude well its only a junior high game, I accepted the assignment I should give them my full effort what ever level I am refereeing. I was taught to talk with the coaches and respect them and in return they would respect me. What really upsets me is when a referee goes head to head with a coach then when he starts losing the argument or has made a bad call that he cant defend gives out a tech. I short I think the state organizations such as the uil here in Texas need to step up and monitor what they are allowing on the floor, they do no oversite whatsoever.


Ken says:
2/13/2012 at 10:03:36 AM

Chris -

At the high school level here... every official is evaluated by the coach.... and that is sent to the assignment chairman. I would hope that IF that ref got several negative evals that he would go out and watch him.

Like I have said before.... I believe the refs are calling the game by advantage/disadvantage.

I have seen kids get knocked down and his team regained possession and no foul. The game has become more physical and the more aggressive team will win this battle. Saw one kid drop a monster dunk, came away yelling and pounding his chest. NO T? I thought that was taunting? I asked the ref if they had changed the rule. ( I was sitting in the stands but close enough for him to hear me... I suppose I should have kept my mouth shut.... but thats a tough deal ) :-)

I have seen a lot more hooking, running THROUGH screens and holding... no calls.
It makes me wonder IF I could coach in todays game.

There are good and bad officials, just like in every other walk of life. I can understand the lower levels... these are young guys breaking in and need some experience, but for officials on the varsity games, there is NO excuse for not working hard and doing your job. YES, there are some good and bad ones there also... so as coaches, they have to put up with them and try to deal with them as best they can.

And YES, the Associations should monitor the product they are putting on the floor. JMO


Fred the youth coach says:
2/25/2012 at 10:18:11 PM

I have watched a good youth league fall to pieces the last couple of years due to bad should be noted that most youth coaches are volunteers, youth leagues that put refs out there tend to blame any bad scene on a volunteer coach...I have had kids look at me after getting mugged on the floor and ask why is the ref only calling fouls on us and not them..I don''t expect the $7 an hour ref to be perfect...but the leagues allow them too much control over coaches with T''s...and thats the leagues fault cause they want cheap officiating and don''t really comprehend how parents, and players get upset when one team is allowed to foul and tackle....but the other team is not.....Youth Leagues should be much more closely monitorred cause they are putting refs in the presence of kids


Ken says:
2/26/2012 at 8:48:13 AM

Fred -

Why don't you suggest that the coaches have a meeting with the administrator of the league and whoever assigns the refs.

Talk about all the problems and what direction you would like to see this go. Be proactive - don't come in with a bunch of complaints... come in with some suggestions as to how it can be fixed.

How about those young youth refs having to attend a referring clinic for one?


Ryan says:
3/5/2012 at 12:45:11 PM

As a third-year official, I see a lot of things, and this article I think should be required reading for all coaches.

I do a lot of Rec. league and travel team games and some of the behaviors by coaches and spectators is unacceptable. I've had coaches and fans follow me out of buildings questioning calls in a not-so-respectful manner.

Most officials are more than okay with dialogue surrounding calls and opinions by coaches, so long as it is a dialogue, not a angry rant.

There are three areas that I think officials need to meet every single time out on the floor - Hustle, professionalism, and conduct. If you see a referee not hustling, in-courteous, or indifferent towards the players on the floor, that is absolutely grounds for re-evaluation of that official.

However, some things require further interpretation. There are a lot of variables in play that most coaches don't necessarily think about.

1. Timing/understanding of calls between officials - Different referees call games differently, some call it really tight, some not so much. Either way, it's part of the game. The hard part is if your partner has a really quick whistle and yours is a little more patient, you can have disparity between calls.

2. Referee's not working well together - I think this is another thing coaches don't understand. Most of the time, you end up with partners that you don't know/don't have an established communication with. This can make switches, signals, and other things that officials have to do throughout the game to communicate with each other very difficult. I worked a game this week who had no interest in listening what I was trying to communicate with him on the floor and it led to problems throughout the game.

3. Young/inexperienced officials - The ultimate catch 22. Typically, young officials do make more mistakes than veteran officials, because they haven't been in as many game situations as older ones. But in officiating, experience/ability to run comes at a premium. Those who can do this very well demand much higher fees/higher profile games than the county girls rec league. As a general rule, if you don't expect your players to be NBA talents on the floor, don't expect NBA officiating.

But, if you stick by young officials over time and they improve and get better, as they get better, they may turn down better assignments that will come their way, and stick with your league out of loyalty. Also, if you become familiar with the officials that do your games, you can also get to know the tendencies of the officials doing your games and adjust your game plans accordingly.


Joe Haefner says:
3/5/2012 at 4:24:17 PM

Thanks for the great input, Ryan. That stuff is good to know!

Whenever I'm coaching a youth team, I tell our parents that just like we have inexperienced players, we'll probably have inexperienced refs.


SteveO says:
5/15/2012 at 3:24:52 PM

Anything you say and do will be held against you in a court of law. They already have enough technology that we don''t even need umpires. All baseball games could be called without an ump. Lets get rid of humans behind the plate calling balls and strikes.Then we can use instant replay for any questionable calls in the field. I will install these at all baseball fields for a nominal and cost effective charge.


Jamie says:
9/5/2012 at 7:28:31 PM

Thanks for posting this article Joe. I am both a coach and a referee as well as the President of our local travel club.

As a coach: You are absolutley right. Continuous yelling at an official gets you no where. If a coach is constantly yelling about calls or trying to coach me as an official, I figure this out within the 1st quarter or 2 and now whatever that coach says in the future is just noise. If it gets to be too much, then it's time for a technical. As a referee I expect to have a coach question 2 or 3 calls a game. I will make a point that when I know a coach wants to question a call, to go over and stand close to the coach so that I can listen and give him my explaination. A coach that asks a question every now and then definitley has my attention. If a coach yells and makes a point of letting everyone in the gym know that he or she is not happy, then I'm going to let him or her go for a bit, but I'm definitley not going to give them time to make more of a show.

As a coach: I agree with you totally. When we go out of our area we get officials at different levels. In youth basketball we get youth officials. As a coach we have to recognize what level of officials we have each game. Also what the officials are and are not calling. I teach our kids to feel the game out early, pay attention to what the officials are calling or letting go and play the way the game dictates. If the officials are letting everything go, this is when the game gets out of control and by not yelling at them all game, I find that I can talk to them and get a better response. If they continue to not call anything, then I may yell at them with my displeasure. However if this happens I am not surprised if a technical is called. In the past 8 years of coaching I have received 2 technicals for this. So I agree that by not yelling and talking with officials you as a coach are far better off and will have more fun and a better experience for yourself and your kids.

As the President of our travel club: We have our first club meeting in a few weeks and I'm going project this link to all our coaches.

Chatham Kent Wildcats
Chatham Kent Association of Basketball Officials.


Joe Haefner says:
9/6/2012 at 2:10:17 PM

Thank you for the kind words, Jamie. Good luck with the upcoming season and meetings!


unbound says:
2/18/2013 at 1:07:05 PM

As a spectator of a different sport, I think there are a few things that do need to be separated out.

Most coaches I've observed tend to be better than most spectators, and generally only call out the refs for truly bad calls (obviously the ones affecting their team). You do run into those coaches that will bemoan any call against their team, but those appear to be in the minority (I watch high school and travel games year-round for my sport). As a ref, you should at least think about what the responsible coach is telling you.

Most spectators are rooting for their kids / their team, so there is a lot of noise about any call against them. However, there are a significant number of spectators that are coaches themselves and actually understand the game and rules quite well. It is probably too hard to filter out, but the ref should consider some comments here and there.

High school level referees (including travel) are really a highly mixed bag. I've seen everything from a ref that could probably be in college or professional to a number of refs that clearly don't understand 1/2 of the rules. The ref really needs to work hard understanding where they realistically stand. There is nothing more frustrating than watching the players learning the rules incorrectly because of bad refereeing and nothing scarier as a parent when the bad calls result in increased aggression on the floor / field because the players understand that the refs are bad / not calling certain fouls, so they'll push that much harder.

I'm happy to treat the referee with respect when they get on the floor / field. And I absolutely agree with the rules you put together. But they absolutely need to earn the right to keep that respect...and a good ref will do that easily. Most coaches and more spectators than you might imagine know the difference between a questionable call and a ref that doesn't know what they are doing. Regardless of the noise of the coaches and spectators, a bad ref is a bad ref and absolutely should be called out for the both the integrity of the game as well as the safety of the players.


Ken Sartini says:
2/18/2013 at 2:00:34 PM

unbound -

You make some great points here...... as a coach the one thing I learned was to treat them all with respect and you will be treated the same way.

Many times its all about the angles... we see a play one way and they see it another.

Today's game is a whole nother story..... they push, shove, hold and whatever. The refs don't want to make it a trip to the free throw line so they let a lot of things go.

As a coach, I could live with no harm no foul.... as long as it doesn't effect the play, contact is ok, as long as its not dirty. Todays game is tough to call.


Tamara Anne says:
2/21/2013 at 1:16:41 AM

I am a parent who has a child that first played for one school and then played for another school. The first school was the star playing team in the league, the next year he played for the underdog for the league. I am fairly neutral and wish my kid cared more for art than sports so I wasn't loyal to any one school. I was appalled and frankly embarrassed by the tactics and blatent attitude of the refs towards the underdog school. I saw how the attitude affected the school kids already down by the plight of economics in their area. I found a solution because I have worked on countless boards. I read up on the code of conduct, then, on my own, started filming all the games and kept my camera on the referee that was often the most verbally abusive to our teammates. It was amazing how quickly the calls became more civil and how quickly our kids started playing better and talking back less. When the kids felt the refs were being fair they didn't take the calls so personally any more. Respect goes both ways but I find it starts by the tone the refs set at the beginning of a game.


Ken Sartini says:
2/21/2013 at 8:47:19 AM

Tamara -

More than one way to skin a cat huh! Refs have no business being verbally abusive, to players or coaches. Fortunately, in all the years I coached, I never ran into one like that.

I agree, RESPECT goes both ways. My players knew better than to disrespect an official. One year, that happened.... the ref told me that he was going to have to report this to the IHSA.... I asked him to let me handle it. The next day those kids were gone.

That word got around and our program gained a lot of respect. The refs talk amongst each, we have to remembe that.

Again, you handled that well.... amazing, you didn't even have to say a word. I love it!


Greg says:
10/9/2013 at 5:06:17 AM

I have read a lot of the above answers to try and gauge the experiences of different levels on this issue.

I coach men's basketball in England, and because I ref also, I am sensitive to the pressures that officials face. The biggest problem I have with officials - whether I'm playing, coaching or just watching - is arrogance. A lot of referees I have come across in this country are prone to shutting themselves off and making themselves unapproachable by the competing parties. I feel this is firstly rude and secondly unhealthy for a competitive environment. It leads to frustration when a player of coach simply seeks clarification on a call and is then ignored or even dismissed. Referees and coaches are known as "guardians of the game" by FIBA, and as such should be able to have polite open dialogue. Removing this facet of communication creates a sense of separation and adversity between competitors and referees.

One example I have is very recent. Our team runs a lot of hand offs, and the decision to keep the ball or release is completely up to the player making the hand off, thus at times he will hold on to it. In this particular game, as defenders went by with thair man who was trying to take the hand off, our big man would keep the ball and get hit on the arm by the defender. As this kept happening, I asked why this was not being called. I was ignored. It continued to happen and my big man was getting visibly frustrated, so I advised him to remain strong on the ball, it will eventually be called because it isn't honest defense. I received a tech for this comment. When I asked why, I was told that I was undermining the referees and trying to show them up by saying the other team was getting away with dishonest defense. I pointed out that it was his responsibility to protect the players and manage the game, and if a player is being constantly hit with no acknowledgement from refs, they get frustrated. The reply was "he's a big guy, they get hit"

This is what I have to put up with.


Ken Sartini says:
10/12/2013 at 11:33:47 AM

Maybe he felt like you were trying to make him look bad? Usually if you make a comment to the refs quitely they wont have a problem with it. IF you are loud and making a scene... you will get a T. I learned that early at the HS level. If you would have left this part out... " because it isn't honest defense." you probably wouldn't have gotten the T.

Once a ref decides he isn't going to give you a break, there isn't a lot you can do about it.

All you can do is to encourage your players to play harder - this is a great learning experience... how to handle adversity - they will take their cues from you and act accordingly.

Have fun with the refs, joke around and they will look forward to doing your games. Make sure you know the rules, nothing turns refs off more that a coach that challenges them and doesn't have the rule right.

I hope this helps you.


bballmomlel says:
12/29/2013 at 7:18:03 PM

As a basketball mom for the last 8 years. I am very frustrated at the poor quality of a lot of the referees at the games and there seems to be absolutely no accountability. The players are required to continually improve to stay on the AAU, travel and school teams and are accountable to coaches, referees, and their parents. The coaches are accountable to their board, the school and parents (when we choose what team our girls play for). Other than not hiring a ref for your home game who are the referees accountable to? In most cases, the answer I have been given is no one. That's just the way it is and just deal with it, My response is why? What other job can you make blatant errors and not be held accountable. Even if you are making minimum
wage at McDonald's or anywhere else your performance is evaluated. Coaches are given technical fouls if a call is questioned. Directors of gyms will not give out referees names so even if there was anyone to talk to you don't have the name of the person to address it to. The players can't question a call and I completely agree that they should not be able to question the ref, but how are they supposed to learn unless they understand the call?


Ken Sartini says:
12/29/2013 at 8:03:15 PM

Ball mom....

The ability of the ref depends upon the level of play most of the time. The younger the kids, the less you are going to see from the referees ability wise. If they are very young player some of those referees might just be volunteers.

The further up the ladder you go the better the referees get. I coached at the high school level and the referees at handling the freshman game were either very young or old and on their way out. Our varsity officials were usually very good, we evaluated them and there was an assignment chairman for most conferences.

So as you can see there is some accountability. The captains are allowed to talk to the officials is is the head coach as long as we talk to them like gentlemen.

Players aren't sure about what is happened They should bring it up with their coach and at times refs will explain things.... But that is not going to happen very often because it would become an argument.... Which will get you a technical.

I don't think that giving out referees names is a very good idea either, that will also lead to disagreements. It is a thankless job and the game is very fast, is not something I would want to do even though I disagreed with them plenty lol.

One of the things that is hard to understand is all about angles, they see something from one angle and we see it from another angle.

Scroll back and look at some of the other posts that have been made and you might get another idea about this.

Be patient, they are doing the best that they can do just like the players and the coaches. I hope this helps.


Jumane says:
1/7/2014 at 11:52:54 PM

As a sixth year official... I gotta say I am really disappointed by some of these responses. There seems to be a severe lack of big picture perspective.

I have officiated 1,219 basketball games over the past six years. That's more than many coaches and fans will attend in their lifetimes. That is just six years in. many of the high school and rec/travel officials I work with have been at this for 15-20 years. Not exactly spring chicken. So, with that said, MAYBE if we make a call that you don't particularly like/understand, MAYBE we have a reason for making a call that we have likely made a thousand times before.

In terms of what makes a "good" official....In a two-person officiated basketball, you are considered an elite official if you get 65-70% of your calls correct. For a three-person crew, its about 80%. Think about that. That means you miss one out of every 3-4 calls that could possibly be made. If you are ELITE. You are almost always working with someone who you don't have any established re-pore, you often are driving an hour or two to work a doubleheader which barely covers the cost of gas, You often are working a set of eight games in a row just to make the cost of working feasible.

I think one of the misconception from some of these "basketball mom's and dad's" is this pie in the sky idea that there is this enormous population of experienced and sharp referees who are willing to turn down college games and can't possibly wait to officiate their sons and daughter's rec league game for the paltry the 15-20 dollar payout. Officials who, you know, clearly don't have a family, don't have kid/family obligations of their own, or have demanding jobs/careers, but are constantly eat, sleeping and drinking girls/boys rec. basketball.

Is it really that big of a lack of clue? Most rec. and travel organizations have an extremely difficult time getting referees assigned to all of their games. There is a severe lack of officials in many parts of the county.

Why do you think that is?

Many officials are just getting tired from the BS coming from the sideline. Many consistently ask, What is the value? You can make more money delivering pizzas, so it sure as heck isn't the money. What is the purpose of staying in with it?

I have questioned many times over the past few years why I stay in this. More and more officials are.

As for basketball mom, Where to begin? Loved the McDonalds comment. See, there's a lot of differences between McDonald's and officiating. You don't get cursed at McDonalds. You don't have people following you to the parking lot wanting to fight you because you made their Big Mac wrong. You don't have to break up fights between customers at McDonald's.

If you did get an officials address or information, what in the world could you possibly hope to accomplish? You going to show up at his or her home in front of his or her little kids and tell them that you didn't like the way they worked at your kid's game? Are you serious? Door-to-door harassment? I bet other officials would be lining up to do your league games. Not.

Also, most boards and their assignors have through evaluation processes, and those evaluations are the basis of the level of assignment they get. So much for unaccountable. Also, if you decide those refs should be fired, and there aren't enough officials for you game, are you okay with just not playing?

" I completely agree that they should not be able to question the ref, but how are they supposed to learn unless they understand the call?"
It's called a coach who explains it to them.

Some truths:

1) We aren't biased. Really. When it comes to kids sports, believe it or not, we don't have a rooting interest in two youth sports leagues with random teams from the other side of the city. It just doesn't have any resonance in our lives.
2) Most of us are determined and serious individuals. I have yet to meet another referee who didn't care about getting the game right or keeping people safe. Not to say that there aren't those who don't care. But if your referee is a sadist, that's one you might want to report.
3) We have to get the rules right on the floor so we usually know them pretty well. Yes, we aren't right all the time. But we are usually right more often than not.
4) We will talk to you if you talk to us like a human and respect. Goes for coaches and parents alike. If you are hostile towards us, don't expect for us to listen.

If this sounds like a rant, well, it kind of is one. Levity, folks. Show some sportsmanship. It's a game.


coachkirk says:
1/28/2014 at 8:46:19 PM

Very good read. As a long time coach and official of youth, and high school basketball my belief is that whether you are a coach (at any level) or official, we are not only professionals, but we are in a position of leadership. This means we are being the example, we are in these positions whether you like it or not to build up future leaders and professionals. Our conduct in front of them is "THE EXAMPLE" they have to follow in their lives. When coaching youth sports winning should not be the ultimate goal, but teaching sportsmanship, commitment, respect, discipline, hard work, and how to win with humility and lose with dignity. Coaching at the high school level you tend to place more emphasis on winning yet still teaching the life lessons previously mentioned.
As an official I always have a great pre-game talk with my fellow officials and I make it a point to remind them that we are all professionals providing a service to the coaches and players, and that we need to maintain a high level of "INTEGRITY". We are not in a position of authority, however a position of control to ensure the game doesn''''''''t get out of control. NOW; with this being said, we (officials) are (like the article stated) human, and prone to mistakes just like everyone else. There is no justice in sitting 5-10 rows up in the bleachers yelling at the officials because they missed a call. Imagine someone coming to your place of employment with no clue on how to do your job but constantly yelling at you to do this, and do that....hmmmm not fun huh. In ending, I would like to leave the readers with some food for thought. I am a family man with four children of my own. I do this because I have a "PASSION" for our youth and nurturing them into positive members of society, I also have a "PASSION" for basketball. What other way is there besides coaching and Officiating to fulfill my passions. For those fans sitting in the stands attempting to correct officials or just yelling at them. We DO NOT do it for the money. So if you would like to offer help to your local officials may I suggest you ask them how you can sign up to be an official instead of yelling negatively from the stands.

Thank you.


Neal Valens says:
2/18/2014 at 11:52:51 PM

I have been watching high school basketball for over 30 years. I do not believe that refs are held accountable. I do not believe that they are underpaid. I see the same terrible refs still working after many years on the job. Girls allowed to camp in the lane 5-10 seconds without a whistle, multiple times in one game. 10 second calls after 7-8 seconds (game changing call in the last 30 seconds). I saw an aggressive physical team press an entire game without receiving a foul until under a minute remaining, while the other team had 18 fouls called against them. There are many good refs out there, but if the bad ones are held accountable, I would love to see the proof.


Ken Sartini says:
2/19/2014 at 7:38:30 AM

Neal -

Take the time to read Coach Kirk's post and Jumane's......they are really telling you how it is.

I coached for well over 40 years and 29 at the high school level, 16 of those, I was the boys Varsity coach. Trust me, I never liked a call they made. haha - Serioulsy, there will be some calls you don't like and some you do. NO ONE is perfect, the refs will make mistakes just like the coaches and players.

People in the stands never make one. I've been retired 14 years now and haven't lost a game since then.

As for the refs NOT being held accountable .. we had to rate our officials after every game, not always fun, but its the best way of letting the refs know what kind of job they are doing and what areas they need to improve upon.

That is about as much proof as I can give you.
IF you have a good relationship with the head coach at your high school, or the AD you can ask them about this. At least that is the way its done around here.

The game is more difficult to officiate today, more pressure defenses, a lot more of affacking the basket....... and the refs are instructed to call the game a lot closer.... those games are not fun to watch. Reffereing has to be the one of the toughest - least thankful jobs there are... they couldn't pay me enough to do that.

The best thing I ever did was to get to know the refs better and have some fun with them. I enjoyed having them on my games and I think they liked working our games too.

You could volunteer to ref a youth league game and you will see just how difficult it is.


Frustrated Coach says:
3/11/2014 at 6:54:04 PM

Great article! I strongly believe that coaches are the examples of what his players will become. I've coached basketball over 30 years and I make it a point that I don't yell at the officials. I will ask questions in a gentlemanly way but throwing fits,, waving arms, etc...isn't my style. However, there are officials who take advantage of nice coaches and give the calls to the intimidaters, yellers, fit throwers, and so forth. They always get the calls going in their way. Let me give you several examples. 1) In rival game, their best player got her third foul in the beginning of the second quarter and their coach threw a temper tantrum. The ref felt bad and took the foul out of the score book in the half time without telling me. 2)In a play off game, there were 79 free throws, and 52 was for the other team. Touch fouls were called, and body slams weren't. we lost 3) In other playoff game, we were ahead by 3 with 15 seconds left, and there were FOUR blown calls to enable the other team to win. And yet, I kept my composure to set the example to my players.

Yes, it is very very difficult to maintain my composure. Yes, I do think it's very unfair not to get call, especially when a coach who doesn't yell, scream, throw temper tantrums. But the life long lessons are valuable to my players.


Garrett Murphy says:
4/28/2014 at 3:35:09 PM

My past weekend had a perfect example of when (in my eyes) a ref needs to be yelled at.

Completely biased game with my players getting shoved around, tackled, knocked to the floor, etc, with repeated no fouls. The only time the ref would call the physical play was when it resulted in a turnover, which I could understand if not for the fact that 1) he called EVERY foul on our team, and 2) he wouldn't call things like a player getting shoved out of bounds (yes, he called an out-of-bounds on a player for that). I reached the end of my rope when a player on the opposing team fouled out and the ref refused to make him leave the floor. He ended up getting a 6th and 7th foul called on him by the end of the game but never sat on the bench.

This is both a bad example of a referee and a bad example of the opposing coach who should have done the right thing and pulled his player after fouling out.


Ken Sartini says:
4/28/2014 at 5:20:33 PM

Garrett -

I must say that I would have had a hard time keeping my cool if that were happening to my time.

There must be a scorers table and they are supposed to notify the refs when someone fouls out. Next time you might question them on the number of fouls that player has.

As for the physical play... I think we all run into that situation.... I used to say 2 different things...... 1- It is your job to protect the players,,,, 2- He would get 15-20 years on the street for doing that.

It is very hard NOT to yell at times but usually it wont do you any good. You cant control what that coach does or his players ... but you certainly can teach your kids that right way to play the game.


Shawn says:
5/19/2014 at 4:55:37 PM

For many decades my family has been involved with organized amateur sports. With a family of four 2 boys 2 girls my parents kept us moving all the time. My father's moto was "Into Sports our of Courts". I think achieved his goal because from the four of us kids we have a total of 130 regional 10 national 3 world and 1 Olympic medal between the four of us. These achievements were in 6 different sports. Plus my father was a NCAA Basketball referee and baseball coach

Within the last four years I was lucky enough to be able to adopt two wonderful boys from our Foster Care system in my State. The first thing we decided to do was get them into sports. Our youngest does basketball, soccer and lacross and our oldest is all basketball. At 5'11" and only 11 with a size 15 shoe this was a good sport to go into.

Recently our youth travel team decided to go AAU. After several championships and a pretty good performace in the year we all decided to go to our state AAU championships. I was totally shocked at the level of unprofessionalism the referees showed. Where is the Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct. Google AAU Referee Code of Conduct... won't be easy to find. While our team was playing I was hearing f bomb after f bomb coming from the other coach. Then when the tournament official came over the Ref finally gave the coach a Technical.

After 6 games our team was undefeted going into the semi final. They were going up against a team they already beat once with a 61-23 win. This time the Refs decided not to call a foul, traveling, double dribble or even a flagrant foul after three of the players grabbed a hold of our players jersey and pulled him down then stepped on his ankle as he walked away. After several bad calls, the official changing their mind on a foul when they heard it was that players 5th foul our team lost 60 to 61. The players jumped off the bench and hugged the female ref.

And then as we all left we saw that referee out in the parking lot with that team.

Total Bias and nothing was done about it even after it was reported.

  1 reply  

Matthew Sjerven says:
2/11/2018 at 1:32:39 AM

This doesn't sound very true.


From my experience says:
7/17/2014 at 11:46:11 PM

I agree that this is a great article. I like that is has many many perspectives and experiences from both sides. From my experience both playing, coaching and officaiting, everyone is right. Their are good officials and their are inexperienced officials. Their are fair officials and their are biased officials.

From a coach of AAU high school team perspective, I am mostly concerned about kids not getting hurt. I have had plenty of 5 fouls against them, 30 fouls against us games when the other team fouled constantly. I have on more than one occasion found that officials were related or a friend of a player or coach of the team we played. Do I want a fair game, sure I do but, I am more concerned about kids getting better than winning and they can't do that when they are hurt. What I can't tolerate is when the opposing team knows the official won't call it against them and starts hurting players on my team. This has happened at least 10 times over the last 7 years. One game, the other team hadn't had any calls against them yet. One my players stole the ball in the open court and drove for a layup. A player on the other team caught my player, pushed my player in the back and landed on top of them. No foul. My player had to be carried off the court and in crutches for 3 weeks. Another time, different game, I had a player go up for a layup and slammed against the wall, no foul.

My plead to any official reading this, you make a huge difference in the game of basketball. Make the calls against both teams. It helps our youth to learn the game right, protects them and helps them improve as players. Ignore all coaches, fans, co-officials, friendships, etc and officiate with integrity. You do what you know is right and that is all we can ask for. After all, you have a great game to protect.



Jen giolando says:
8/1/2014 at 6:03:27 PM

I think the people on tv should start treating referees with respect, and it'll get better!!! Either that, or the refs should hand out techs more often!!!!!!!!


Billy Bob says:
1/8/2015 at 3:06:37 PM

I see what you're saying, but sometimes it's easier said than done. The refs in our town have it out for our school. They see us as the "rich kids." For example, we've had refs tell us they'd "see us next time" as if to say they would be calling the game against us the next chance they got. We have one ref that, out of 23 years of coaching and 4 Ts called against our coach in all that time, 3 of them were by that one ref. Last night fouls were being called against us at the rate of 3 to 1, and fouls were not being called against the best player on the other team, but instead on which ever of his teammates happened to be standing next to him in an effort to keep him in the game.

This is a nice article, but not really realistic. I think we understand refs need to be treated with respect, but the truth is that this is not a "play nice" world, and the truth is there are more referees than I'd like to admit who have it out for coaches and teams, and they enjoy steering games and hurting them. No amount of "respect" will appease these guys and make them call a game fairly. It's just a fact of life.

  2 replies  

jeff says:
1/22/2015 at 9:09:19 AM

Please don't take offense to my comment. I am just being honest to hopefully bring a little clarity to this perspective.

I used to think refs were out to GET my team and were biased!!!

Now after being on the sideline over 500 games, I realize I was wrong... with maybe one exception.

The one exception was when a ref seemed to be biased against his own home team. It's like he was subconsciously trying not to be favorable for his own home team.

Beyond that, in 500 some games ranging from 3rd grade to varsity high school, I have never seen a ref out to get anyone. I have seen thousands of BAD calls. But never seen a ref "trying" to be biased.

No refs want to make bad calls. It's maybe one in a thousand that you actually have a ref that is being malicious. I realize it seems like they are. I get it. I have thought the same thing.

But experience has changed my viewpoint on this.

Referees are human... they WANT to call a good game. But they are going to make mistakes.

Also, have you ever tried to referee a game? I think before complaining you should ref for a season yourself. You will see how difficult it is.

Maybe it's different in some areas. But where I live and the 100 mile radius around us, refs just are not biased.

If the refs truly don't like your team, that is all the more reason to develop a good relationship with this ref and change that viewpoint. Yelling at this ref will only make things worse and make them dislike your team more. The coach, players, and parents need to regain their respect. Being nice to them is the only way that will happen. This will take time and perseverance. You have to at least try. That's your only option. And I believe with persistence, you will earn respect.

Yelling at them (being rude) to them in games will only make it worse. It will also give your team a bad reputation that could last years. That's just how the world works.


RJ says:
2/2/2015 at 12:11:28 AM

"I think we understand refs need to be treated with respect, but the truth is that this is not a "play nice" world, and the truth is there are more referees than I'd like to admit who have it out for coaches and teams, and they enjoy steering games and hurting them. No amount of "respect" will appease these guys and make them call a game fairly. It's just a fact of life."

This is unequivocally, absolutely, completely false. You're trying to rationalize your bad behavior by likening the officials to the big bad wolf. Stop it.


Tiffany says:
1/21/2015 at 9:42:36 PM

I think our kids live in the same school district Billy Bob!

I also wanted to say I think it's terrible for refs to take out the frustration of dealing with a difficult coach out on the kids. Concentrate on teaching kids the game and respect for the rules. Don't call fouls on the kids because the coach pissed you off and you want to teach them a lesson or get even. I see way too many coaches and refs go along with bad calls to help their team win. What are kids suppose to think about sports and how they are to conduct themselves in life if adults act this way? Does anyone care about letting the best team win and enjoying the competition?

  1 reply  

jeff says:
1/22/2015 at 9:22:41 AM

It starts with the coach. They need to show respect and handle things in a professional way, no matter what.

Refs will make bad calls. Period. Refs at the NBA level make bad calls.

If you have ever tried to ref for a season, you will realize how difficult it is. You will make numerous bad calls. That is part of the game... players, parents, and coaches will be better off by accepting that. You can't control the ref. So you are better off focusing on things that you can control.

99.99% of the refs out there WANT to call a good game. They are trying. It is unfortunate when coaches get the ref emotional by screaming at them and the ref makes more bad calls.

After being on the sideline for over 500 games, I am convinced that every ref I have seen wants to call a good game and truly wants it to be a fair game so the best team can win.


kelly says:
1/31/2015 at 12:37:52 AM

The authority over the players is the coach.
The authority over the court / game are the refs.
I wonder if the disrespect for the refs (authorities) by coaches gets implanted into the hearts of the players that they then feel freedom to conduct themselves in like manner, showing lack of respect for coaches, teachers, parents, administration, community leadership....... and the list goes on.
A sad direction our kids are being led into.

Would the coach accept the same attitudes and actions from his players towards him?


ron says:
2/12/2015 at 5:04:14 PM

As a coach I take pride in not getting many T's no matter how bad the officiating. I've even taken a team to the state finals. Then, last year, I got thrown out of two games (my first ever). In retrospect the issues were the same --the refs refused to protect players and the games turned into rugby matches with numerous collisions and too few called fouls

I've been a player and a coach for 30+ years I will condense my frustration with refs to the following:

1 The best compensated people at the game are the refs. Take pride in how you call a game.
The players are volunteers,
The coaches on most levels are either volunteers or very poorly compensated for their hours,
The parents pay to have their kids practice and play and then pay extra to attend the games.

Earn your pay and enjoy the sport! You're part of the best competitive team sport on the planet.

2 Know the rules! Too many refs call what "looks like a travel" or "looks like a foul" rather than making an accurate call. One ref recently called a travel on my pg while he was still dribbling. My skill players know how to make multiple fakes while keeping their pivot--numerous refs wrongly call them for traveling-- they penalize better players for being better. I have a pg who won't use his ball fake, eurostep because he is too often called for travel. We've even tried politely asking the refs before the game to look at the move to be sure it's ok. It only makes the situation worse.

3 Protect the players! The most vulnerable player on the court is the shooter and he is often defenseless when taking a shot. Refs encourage thuggery when they refuse to call contact on shooting fouls. The majority of my player injuries come as a result of over aggressive defenders "gooning" my ball handlers, my rebounders and my shooters. Call the foul when the defender's feet end up in shooter's landing space--you'll probably end up preventing more than a few rolled ankles.

4 Call what affects the game! Don't call all the minor travels when a ball handler is not engaged with a defender or the minor bumps or the light hand contact or the post players jockeying for position. Let go what doesn't affect the rhythm of the game. Begin to assertively call fouls and/or immediately issue warnings when it starts to escalate.

5 Keep the game safe! Be able to tell the difference between the skill players and the thugs-- give each player the calls they deserve-- good or bad..


Bb player says:
2/28/2015 at 3:49:10 PM

Basketball is definately a hard sport to officiate in. You can never satisfied everyone on the court so the best plan is to keep it under control. We players should not be yelling at the referee just because our coaches are. while there is definitely a time for discussion with the referee, coaches need to do it wisely. For example:
- the worst thing you could do is yell at the ref from across the court ( this embarases the ref and simply makes matters worse)
- if you want to get the refs attention, wait until they are near to your bench ( they are more likely to listen to a calm toned coach then a rowdy one)
- when your players are complaining about the ref, don't say, " I'll take care of the ref." ( while some players will heed this advise, others will play more aggressively to the point where someone could get hurt because they realize you are angry with the ref as well)
- if you know your players are angry with the ref, give them encouragement ( most of the time they are angry because you are, and they are searching to please you in any way possible)
- finally, show the ref that you are not a threat to him. ( give him space to work and don't pressure him to the point where he turns on you. Instead let the ref feel comfortable in the environment. Be cooperative.)
I've found that the better you are as a coach the better your team is. Your a big influence on them.
-bb player

  1 person liked this.  

lee says:
3/9/2015 at 2:01:12 AM

Agree with article but what happens when you talk to refs, in this case other team was yelling and stomping feet every time one of my 8th grade players shot ball. One ref said we didn't hear them other one said nothin just shrugged shoulders. Later in game my player gets shoved out of bounds no foul called says to ref "no foul?" ref then calls foul and then my player gets called for tech for yelling. I say "now you're calling fouls for yelling against my team and get tech. What do you do? Same ref calls foul on no.11 twice, no number 11s in game.

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
3/9/2015 at 9:07:48 AM

Sometimes there just isn't much you can do. It depends on the experience level of the ref.

Some refs don't realize which coach/bench is hollering annoying stuff on the sideline. Sometimes if the opposing coach is yelling, the coach just knows a coach is yelling and is pissed at both of you. He's more focused on the game and trying not to pay attention to who is yelling. He/she just knows a coach is yelling. Sometimes the assistants yell and then the tech gets called on the head coach.

The more experienced refs usually have a pretty good idea who is talking. As you get more experience coaching in the games, you can tell which refs are experienced and which are not. So then you know what to expect.

Experienced coaches learn when you can just "talk to a ref". Often you need to get a rapport going with the ref early on. If you try to "talk" to the ref for the first time when things get heated, they are rarely receptive because they are so used to getting complaints in this situation so their guard is up.

When talking to a ref, timing is key. And calmly approaching so they think you are not complaining. Sometimes just waiting for the right time and calmly asking... "can I ask you a quick question?".

Also, this is so simple, just SMILE. Be their friend. Joke with them. Have fun. This makes it much easier to talk with the ref. When I coach games, the refs have learned I am not going to yell at them or get angry (99.9% of the time -- I have been angry a few times).

I might ask a question. Or make fun of myself. Or joke about a play. And then occasionally after I ask a question. I might say something about a moving screen I have been seeing. But the majority of talk is just relationship building and/or showing that I am not going to be one of "those coaches" yapping at them the whole game.

Also, back to your situation. I believe that what you're player did was unacceptable in my opinion. That kid deserves a technical and should sit on the bench. The refs know I have their back and if a kid talks back or says something, they are on the bench!

This is partly why the refs see me as more of a friend. And I don't really feel like we get bad calls. I would totally support a ref calling a technical on my players for saying something like that to the ref.

What they other team does not matter. You can't control them. But you can control your team and how they handle things.

That is just my opinion on the situation.


David says:
8/4/2015 at 12:51:51 AM

Sorry George.
Jeff was right.
I am a Healthcare IT professional by trade. But I referee as a community service. I don''t need the money. But these athletes need referees. When you berate new referees, it isn''t good.
I nearly abandoned a game last year because of an 8th grade coach bitched at every frickin'' call I made against his team.
I know one thing for certain. 100% of the calls I make will be to someone''s dissatisfaction.
Instead of abandoning the game, I should have tossed him. What did he say? He only said that "he didn''t think I was very good". But he said that after I called his guy for a clear and blatant arm grab under the basket that he didn''t think was was a pivotal part of the play.

I was pissed and reminded him that I didn''t give a shit who won the game, where he did.

Perhaps the prior play wasn''t a pivotal play. But I have to control the game, as many have alluded to earlier. There is a shortage of referees. Now you know why. If you wan''t to erode the influx of up and coming referees in the their first year or two, keep bitching at em before they become proficient. Many of us just don''t need the headache. Good luck with that strategy.


Shu Hangsheng says:
8/24/2015 at 4:15:48 PM

Yes, good points


Jeremy says:
9/24/2015 at 4:17:30 PM

You don''''t know what you''''re talking me about at all when it comes to the evaluation process for officials. Maybe you''''re right for little kid games but at least in high school there is an evaluation process and officials are constantly ranked and pushed to be better or get a worse schedule. The coaches simply don''''t, nor should they have any say in this process.


Shane says:
11/12/2015 at 4:58:34 PM

I've just run across this post and for the most part everybody makes great observations. I was never a player or a coach. I started refereeing because I'm a lawyer and am good with knowing the rules.

From my military training I think "situational awareness" is a good analogy. A referee should always be aware of the dynamics of the game and call it accordingly. I'm the first to admit to coaches when I blew a call...fair enough. Simple communication can solve so many of these problems. But as many have pointed out when the coach or players "go off" then how can they possibly expect to have a reasonable discussion with the official?

I don't referee HS games..most of my games have been at the NCAA DII level. But I started in the HS leagues. Coaches for the most part don't change...same either reasonable or unreasonable coaches. Players by in large part create their own problems...sorry but "you f***ing didn't see that" is a flagrant regardless of the coach. But I think the point made is that coaches can influence some players at the lower levels.

Finally I'd like to add that like my day job as a lawyer...the prosecutor, defence attorney and Judge may disagree, and quite heated at times...but at the end of the day we all respect each other. And that is the key. Respect the others in the game and things tend to move smoothly. Just my two cents (or two pence now that I'm in the UK).


Bobby dob says:
12/3/2015 at 11:27:19 PM

You don''''t know what your doing if your not speaking to the ref. The UCLA vs. UK game had the worst ref I have ever seen. 20 pushed off every time he touched the ball. You can go ahead and fire them.


Keith says:
12/6/2015 at 6:54:33 PM


I completely agree with your assessment. I have refereed hundreds of basketball games and have not called a perfect game yet. It''s not that I don''t want to, it''s because I miss things, have a bad angle, etc. or just plain boot the call. I strive to call a perfect game. After games I agonize over calls I missed & on occasion have even told the coaches that they deserved better than the product I put on the floor that night.


Rich says:
1/10/2016 at 11:42:28 AM

I would agree with most of your post except for referring to the official by their first name. The only time that should be done is when you are discussing a call or some other aspect of the game with the official at the sideline. If a coach starts yelling out the officials first name it generally goes downhill from there. Fans pick up on that and the chanting will get louder.

It is our job as officials to ignore the obligatory comments from the crowd but if something is not going one team's way then it will be the official who gets the brunt of criticism and abuse, regardless what the team is doing on the floor. Missing shots, he must have been fouled...traveling, he was pushed and the list goes on and on.

Yes parents are the main source for the questionable behavior but I have found that it being allowed at sporting events is because the schools will not enforce their own sportsmanship rules. You see a fan get out of control, then the school needs to make them behave or leave. At no time should the official have to go to game management because of a fan, the school officials should be aware and watching for these situations at all times and react accordingly.


Willie Bowers says:
1/27/2016 at 9:00:39 AM

How the official feels about a coach should never decide the outcome of a basketball game and in my opinion that is childish. His job of to call a unbiased game and allow the kids on the court to decide the outcome of the game. . I have never and will never curse or do anything that will be seen as misconduct towards an official. But when a official does not know the rules of the game which causes the individual to get frustrated, and the first thing they do is throw "T's" out. Why should this person be a deciding figure in the future of my coaching? In the state of Texas if you receive 2 T's you must go to Austin in front of a board that will decide if they will put you on probation for a year or suspend you from coaching for whatever period of time. All communications with an official have to do with the game at hand, its never personal and all officials who are their for the love of the sport and willing to listen know that because they took the time to listen to what was being said. I yell only to get their attention not because of a bad call Ive coached for over 35 years and have received less than 10 technicals total and of those 10 maybe 3-4 where justified the others were not. .


Willie Bowers says:
1/27/2016 at 1:07:30 PM

If we allow poor officials the opportunity to officiate it confuses the kids because they are taught one way by the Coach and during the game they are showed something totally different


Mike says:
2/7/2016 at 12:48:57 PM


Thank you for your response, the statistics about an elite referee are interesting and I''m glad it is a higher percentage than our local weatherman! Good luck in your refereeing career, but, please keep the following in mind. You are not the most important person on the floor. In fact, a good referee will recognize that they are in fact the least important person on the floor. You are there to manage the game, keep it fair and keep the players safe. Let the players play and the coaches coach. If you are doing 8 games in a day to "cover the cost of gas" you are doing it for the wrong reasons. If you cannot provide a reasonable explanation for a call you just made, you shouldn''t blow your whistle. A good referee will recognize that they are there to help younger players learn the game, your calls have an affect on a young player. Finally, you are likely the only person in the gym who is paid to be there that day, please act like a professional. On my team, we talk about Perfect Practice makes Perfect. I''m glad that you have 1,200 games under your belt, I played as a kid - 450 games, my younger brother played, who I coached, 700 games, my brother in law played - watched him play in two state championships and in college 200 games, have coached two of my daughters in youth basketball 300 games each, and have watched and played in an uncountable number of pickup games, organized games and tournaments. My point is I just added up over 2,000 games just in basketball, that doesn''t even count football, baseball, tennis and soccer! Man, I''m old! My point is my experience is not unique and I''m on the low end of the average parent in the stands or volunteer coach of a youth team. Jumane, take a step back and be a little humble, your 1,200 games is barely a drop in the ocean.


Janet moore says:
2/24/2016 at 6:46:30 AM

What recourse do fans have when refs are calling fouls against one team? Refs have a tough job, but I have seen refs (who graduated from one of the schools) so obviously throw the game to their school. How does this teach kids sportsmanship, when the adults (refs) are so unfair? Is there a formal way to protest a referee? Is there any ruling body that holds refs accountable for deliberately favoring one team over another?? The


Jumane says:
2/28/2016 at 8:58:29 AM

Mike, your response is well-intentioned but misguided.

First, I won''t defend myself against ridiculous assertions I did not make. I''ve never met an official who claimed to be the most important person on the floor. I''ve never claimed to not make a reasonable explanation.

The problem here, Mike, is you''re projecting. You are projecting all of your past frustrations and interactions with those wearing the stripes to a condensed down version of an individual. I understand that, believe me, however I also understand that it colors your perspective in a way that is unhealthy. It''s unhealthy to transpose the behaviors of one person to another person. It would be the same to say that if you had a bad experience with receiving a traffic ticket, taking the position that you cannot stand police officers. If you violate a rule, there is always an associated penalty.

It''s a similar idea with officials. Contrary to your belief that officials are there to help kids learn the game, that is a false assertion. Officials are there to enforce the rules of the game. Officials are not there to protect the players, they are there to enforce the rules designed to protect the players. "Managing" the game is what gets officials into trouble, because the very idea of "managing" often leans to uneven application of the rules.

The referees are the only ones there who are paid (not true in high school, almost every HS coach in this area makes more than a ref will in a season) because the referee doesn''t have a vested interest in being there. They are not a parent, kid or coach. You are asking them to take time away from their family to officiate your kids game. So yes, they are paid. As you would expect to be if you were asked to do the same.

It''s important to make the distinction about games worked. I made the previous post a few years ago, I have worked another 600 or so games since that time.The point of emphasizing that is not about being arrogant, its about repetition. As officials, we apply the rules, and only apply the rules, hundreds of times per season. The process of doing so is not new to us, because you don''t understand the application of a rule does not mean it''s incorrectly applied. Situations will warrant a explanation, but an explanation is not always warranted, and explanations must be asked for in a manner that is respectful.

Please read the comments by the Haefner''s and others. They have coached successfully for a long time and have extensive wisdom about this.


HR Singh says:
11/14/2017 at 10:55:39 PM

Dear Sir,
Why should coaches and players should yell at the Referees. It is a disrespect to the game played and looks funny when you yell at the coach in full view of thousand of spectators watching the game. We should have a couple of qualified persons of the said game who should be approached by the coach of the team in case of any dispute. In no case a player and never should have the authority to yell at the coach.




Coach says:
5/19/2018 at 3:39:39 PM

Seems every year the refs get worse and worse. It is so rediculous the kids cannot even have fun playing when your getting beat by the refs. I am really disappointed at the AAU league in general. Very poor and disrespectful refs. Last week they did not even run the full court, heck they did not even run half the court. This week kuds are thrown all over the floor and no whistle. First play of the game and a kid gets laid out on the floor. No whistle. Nothing. Let the kid lay on the floor and the teams told to keep playing. The hurt kid finally gets out of the game and has to leave for concussion. If the refs don''t control the game it gets worse as the game goes and kids get hurt. The refs are getting paid to be out there, do the job right or go sit down!


George says:
5/31/2018 at 8:33:30 AM

I guess my response to everyone as a parent, former coach, referee, athletic administrator and school educator is that this forum shows exactly what is happening at games everywhere and is the answer to "why can't we get good officials" question. Yes there are good officials and bad, just like there are good coaches and bad, good players and bad and YES good fans and bad. Which of the following categories do you THINK you fall in and then let's ask others what category they think you fall in: Fan that knows the rules but doesn't say anything, Fan that doesn't know the rules and doesn't say anything, Fan that knows the rules and wants everyone around them to know that they know the rules or fan that doesn't know the rules and still wants others around them to think that they do? Where are you because oftentimes we think we know everything and we want everyone else around us to know it when in fact, the yelling from the stands is not at all what was SEEN or how it was INTERPRETED on the floor. Both of those things are very specific to officiating and come from years of experience and even the best officials will admit that they get some of them wrong. One posters idea of going back to REF school, we should send parents/fans to REF school before they're allowed to say anything at all. As for why the quality of officials is lacking, it's because nobody really WANTS to do it with the constant berating you take, especially in off-season games where you're getting paid 1/4 of what you normally make if you're lucky and why most top officials don't work those games and you're getting rookie officials who want to learn. Some do learn, get better and stop working those games and others just quit and leave. If we want the quality of officiating and playing (a whole other topic when we look at the consistent decline of overall quality in sport) then we need to close the doors to fans when referees are learning their craft. There's a reason we let most professions do soft openings or trainings before we allow the public in. The same should be true of officials.

Back to the main point of the article, there's never a good reason to "work the officials" because it doesn't work. No official wants to see a player get hurt but it happens sometimes. No official cares about the outcome of a game and if they do it become blatantly obvious. In most situations where the integrity of officiating has been questioned throughout sport history it has had to do more with point shaving/spread than it did with the outcome because the outcome of those contests was never really in question. Just coach your kids. If calls are missed, they're probably missed on both sides and balance out in the end. If you ever have a question then respectfully ask it but make sure that it's a genuine attempt to get information because most times it's to question the call and get a conversation started about how you saw it differently which in the course of a game, most officials don't care about.

As an avid youth sport fan and someone who has devoted much of my work life to interscholastic athletics, we are headed down a dangerous path. Too many people think they can coach better than the coach, too many think that they can officiate better than the officials and everyone has difficulty getting along because not only do you think it, you find a reason to say it. We're losing good coaches and good officials every day because people can't just show up and offer positive support to their kids. Can't figure out why we're losing good people in sport, have someone take video of you at the next game you go to, watch it and honestly ask yourself if you would want to referee or coach with someone who acted like you sitting across the gym from you?


Jeff says:
6/6/2018 at 1:26:11 PM

I liked the article until the end. I am a college and high school officials and you talking to me before the game does not get you calls. It does not get you anything but me walking around after the game and saying that you might be a nice person. But if we are doing our job right, we are not talking to you anyway. I expect you to be nice, it does not give you an advantage. I often have complaints about calls from coaches that know me very well. I am still not changing my call because a coach or player was nice.

The article should have stuck to their mission and that is coaching. No problem with a question every now and then, but constant complaining gets old. And then I tune you out.


Rafael says:
7/9/2018 at 12:56:26 AM

I agree with most of the comments. However, the real problem are the refs. I''ve never seen a parent not admit when their team or their kid makes a mistake. Most of the aggrevation I''ve experience and seen are because of refs that are at the games to collect their pay check. The excuse that "I didn''t see it" while everyone else on the stand did. Should be of concern for these parents and athletes. I understand that referees have a lot to observe. But the most important one, safety of the children, should not be overlooked or put off by saying "I didn''t see it".


steve says:
12/30/2018 at 12:17:34 PM

If you want kids to respect and understand the perspective of the referees, have them rotate through being a ref for your practice scrimmages. There is so much to be taught in life through perspective.

Reffing basketball is extremely difficult and you're never going to ref a perfect game.


Anonymous says:
1/17/2019 at 6:22:41 PM

You say refs can’t control the outcome of a game?? What if the ref goes to the score table and erases a foul on a kid he obviously know so she can stay in the game instead of fouling out. And that team wins by 1 point due to that specific gir being the tallest on the court and being able to rebound and score at will.

Meanwhile the other red is calling the call out bounds on the wrong team and bogus foul call after foul calls to put that girls team on the foul line to come back from 14 points down to win.

That set of refs did control the outcome of the game.

During every time out said red was having a friendly and laughing conversation with the girl that should have been fouled out of the game.

What made it worse is that girls AD sitting at the table tells the loosing coach that his team won that game and he was cheated by the refs and she witnessed the ref changing the books to keep the girl in the game.

Not saying all refs are bad but that particular group was either paid on the side or were indeed related to the girl they kept in the game.


Dave says:
5/20/2019 at 6:50:34 AM

People just don’t get sports. After all the things that have come out about refs fixing games and missing calls all the time, that’s why people yell at refs. If a ref doesn’t call something 5 times in a row, that’s when someone says stuff. And they yell cause they aren’t standing beside them. How can you hear someone if you don’t yell? Smh this article is dumb. They yell cause they didn’t have good role models? What is it teaching kids?! Standing up for what you believe in and not taking being treated unfairly is what I want my kid to do. People that sit back and say nothing while things continue to be bad are the problem. This person just wants things done a certain way. Well the world is filled with terrible people and to get what you want you have to speak up. People that say nothing are the problem, not the yellers.


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