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 Westley says:
12/29/2020 at 3:44:55 PM

Some good advice. The two things I would add for head coaches to consider is, 1. Keep your assistant quiet, and 2. Don't argue the obvious call.

Regarding Point 1, any time an assistant starts yelling at an official, I give the head coach my one warning: "Coach, I will be happy to talk to you, but another complaint from your assistant is going to be a T."

Point 2 ... I have no problem with a head coach asking me a question, or even making a statement, such as on a block/charge play. "Ref, my guy was set." "Sorry coach, I thought he got there a bit late." And there is nothing wrong with asking me to keep an eye on something, "Ref, keep an eye on 42 blue ... he's pushing off inside." But don't go into hysterics on a call that everybody in the gym knows was right except you. "Ref, my guy got nothing but ball!" Yes, his hand did ... but the rest of his body knocked the poor shooter into the back wall. Two shots."


SamW says:
11/4/2020 at 2:36:23 PM

Because referees don''t have a vested interest in being there? And, they actually are, but what should happen when they are suspended/removed for missing a call. What if there are not enough officials? Should both teams not play? Should everything be a scrimmage at that point? Should coaches comb the stands for parents willing to wear a striped shirt?

If the rules enforcement mechanism doesn''t have a reliable mechanism to make judgement calls, then it would be best to just have all basketball be scrimmages. Or let the players call their own fouls, like playground ball.


CoachJF says:
5/29/2020 at 9:55:03 PM

Why is everyone else in sports held accountable but officials?


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.


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.


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.


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".


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.


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?


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!

  2 replies  

jp says:
12/17/2019 at 5:22:32 PM

well said coach, i just experience a bad situation on a game last week, we are a hispanic team in los angeles and the opposite team were all blacks my son got head bunted intentionally in front of the ref and no call and game went on while my son was bleeding on the floor. i had warned ref about being to fisical and told me to shut the F up and learn the game, only cause im hispanic he thought i didnt know basketball the asshole.


CoachJF says:
5/29/2020 at 9:53:44 PM

I’m so sick of officials not being held accountable for mistakes and missing calls it’s ridiculous. If kids make mistakes they lose playing time. If I don’t win enough games I don’t keep my job. Officials have no accountability and it’s sad.


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