Volleyball – Mind Your Business

This Is Your Brain on Officiating

By Gloria Cox

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a match feeling like the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, singing, “If I Only Had a Brain?” Hopefully not, but have you ever wondered if you have the correct brain for officiating?

Do you find it easy to make a quick decision based on a minimum amount of information or do you need time to gather all of the details, process and ponder, and then render a decision? Does your brain retain information better when it is received visually or do you need to hear the facts? Do you dwell on mistakes and rethink your decisions or do you accept that, even with your best effort, you will make mistakes and move forward? The good news is that we can help our brain improve in the areas that are important for officiating.

When training to become an official, we read the rulebook, go to clinics, watch matches, discuss volleyball, etc. I discovered long ago that I need to write down information in order to remember it better. It is not sufficient for me to hear the instructor at a training session or even see the information on a screen, even though I know that I am primarily a visual learner, but the act of writing it down seems to imbed the information into my brain. I have a friend who says that most of the things he has learned over the years have been from discussions, where he can review and analyze situations with other officials. Another friend watches matches, studies the calls of the referees, watches their methods and that helps her decipher what she has read. We all have brains that can benefit from a variety of learning methods, but knowing what works best for your brain can help you optimize that process. 

Do you have difficulty clearing your mind of the day’s events and focusing at the beginning of a match? Experiments have been conducted where people had greatly improved results if they began thinking about an activity before actually performing it. Watching the warmup and talking about the upcoming match, rather than your post-match dinner plans, can be more beneficial than we might realize. Think of it as priming your brain for the match. Of course, it goes without saying that preconceived ideas about the outcome of the match can prove to be detrimental to the process. 

Do you have difficulty falling asleep at night because your mind will not let you stop thinking of the day’s events? It is important for an official to be able to let the previous point go in order to completely focus on the upcoming point. People who tend to be perfectionists may have the most difficulty with that, but a referee needs to have full brain power for the current point without sharing some of that power with past points.

Officials need to learn to look forward during a match with the understanding that, despite best efforts, all decisions may not be perfect, but nothing can be achieved by looking back during the match. 

Do you study a menu at a restaurant as if a test will be given later? Or do you look at it, decide fairly quickly what you want and wait for the waiter to return to take your order? Probably the most difficult aspect of officiating is gathering information quickly and making a snap decision. Malcolm Gladwell, in his bestselling book, Blink, says, “Snap judgments and rapid cognition take place behind a locked door.” In other words, we do not always understand the process of seeing a situation, recognizing a fault and reacting appropriately, but officials do it all the time. Gladwell says further, “It’s one thing to acknowledge the enormous power of snap judgments … but quite another to place our trust in something so seemingly mysterious.” We have all been challenged about a decision and questioned ourselves about what we saw, but our whistle “just went off” because we recognized a fault and acted accordingly.

Since we have filled our brain with training and knowledge, we need to trust our brain to help us make the right decisions and not question that process. When an entirely new situation arises, your brain will automatically draw on the experiences of past matches and apply that knowledge to the current situation.

A young referee, who was complimented after a match on a job well done, commented that he would feel much better about each match when he had “more matches under his belt,” so that he would not be surprised when a new situation arose. He was wise beyond his years. 

To answer the question posed at the beginning of this article, we all have the correct brain for officiating, but we need to:

1. Discover our own best method of getting information into our brains.

2. Prepare our brains before the match by discarding thoughts of the day and focusing on volleyball.

3. Train our brains to make one snap decision after another without dwelling on past decisions.

4. Train ourselves to trust our brains to make the correct decisions even though we may not always understand the process.

Basketball – No Substitute for Awareness


By Albert J. Battista

There is more to know than just foul or violation. Commonly astute officials might have heard once to have an awareness to what type of offense and defense each team is using. All of which is good, but officials can go deeper with more knowledge about the game and how it changes every few minutes. Two of those deeper understandings are picking up on the personality of each game and the substitution patterns. Knowing each separates the good from the great.

Game personality. We know that individual games have their own personalities. There are conference rivalries, non-conference rivalries, blowout games, games where every possession matters, games that are very chippy, etc. Going into the game, it is helpful to have a sense of what personality the game may take beforehand. If not, you have to identify the game’s personality right away.

For example, Xavier and Cincinnati is an intense rivalry. The crosstown teams know each other, given the universities are within a few miles of each other. Often in these types of match-ups, the game will have started before it actually starts — social media can be used beforehand to stew emotions. In these games, officials need to be aware of dead-ball situations and  an increased likelihood for unsporting behavior.

Conversely, you may be involved in game that is going really well with everyone behaving very sportingly. Then out of the blue someone gets a little excitable on the bench. In those cases it may not be beneficial to immediately issue a technical foul.

In either situation, officials need to know the personality of the game and be aware of the context of the game so they understand when something is out of character for the game. Lacking an understanding of the context of a game and adding fuel to a fire with a technical foul will not help the game. It wakes everyone up and can make the game more challenging for the crew.

Substitutions. As the game goes on, dig deeper to figure out why a substitute is coming in the game. Some reasons a substitute may be coming into the game include: to shoot threes, block shots, play defense, disrupt, give or take a foul, playing time, etc.

Every time a substitution occurs, ask yourself why. Sometimes it may be that the player is in foul trouble. Or it may be the team’s normal substitution pattern for that player to get a rest.

However, be aware of abnormal situations. When a starter leaves the game three minutes into the first quarter (or half) with no fouls, a red flag should go up in your mind.

Throughout the game, be aware of the normal substitution patterns of the teams. Awareness of patterns can allow a better understanding of what may be required of you and your coverage. Know each team’s first player off the bench. Who is the team’s spark plug? Who is the team’s post presence?

Some substitutions to look for:

  • First substitute into the game.
  • Player goes out for foul trouble.
  • Impact substitutions.
  • First substitute of second half.
  • Post player gets substituted with no foul trouble.

The team’s stats help to provide likely scenarios for who and what those players may be. Past experience with a team can also be helpful. In a pregame, discuss who has had the teams before and what they picked up from that previous experience. Who is the key scorer, the key defender, the key substitute, etc. Additionally, know the makeup of the players’ personalities. Is a certain player going to be someone who has a calm head and can be used as an ally or is a player going to be someone who has a hot head and may need more awareness?

Take a situation where a team quickly gets behind, 14-0, and the coach substitutes all five players. Be aware of the psychological makeup of the entire team following that type of substitution. The team may be upset and become increasingly frustrated. No player enjoys being taken out of a game, especially after falling quickly behind. Further, the coach may take the team’s struggles out on the crew. Those are all important context situations for the crew to be aware of and to aid them in carrying out their duties.

A significant substitution situation that crews must pick up on is when a team substitutes out a post player who is not in foul trouble. The team may be trying to pick up the pace of the game, to start running or to start pressing.

Another possibility is the player is a team’s sixth player who is good enough to start but is used as a spark plug off the bench. That can be picked up when you have had a team before.

Others, like former North Carolina coach Dean Smith, played their entire bench in the first half. Coach Smith was believed to have done that to get meaningful experience out of players and to wear the other team down.

Be sure to monitor the beginning and end of the substitution process. Not having the appropriate number of players on the court after a substitution can rear its ugly head for officials. Each crewmember is wise to count the players before resuming play, whether that is a substitution, timeout, quarter break or halftime intermission.

Further, you must know the substitution rules. When a player is replaced, he or she cannot re-enter until the clock has legally started and time has gone off the clock. In order to correctly officiate, know who was subbing in and who the substitutes are.

There is more to awareness than properly judging fouls and violations.

Albert J. Battista, Washington D.C., is a longtime high school and college basketball official, an IAABO rules interpreter and an NBA observer

Football – Referees Can Prevent Abuse of Timing Rules

Timing rules are precise. They give us specific directions when to start or stop the clock. They also tell us whether or not the clock is to start on the snap. Timing considerations are based on how the previous play ended or the results of penalty enforcement. However, it is possible for a team to exploit timing rules to place the opponent at a disadvantage.

To counter a team gaining an unfair timing benefit, the referee has the authority to alter normal timing rules. That is done by starting or stopping the clock when a team illegally conserves or consumes time (NFHS 3-4-6; NCAA 3-4-3).

Play 1: Team A leads, 7-6, and the game clock is running when A1 false starts with 30 seconds remaining in the game. Ruling 1: A five-yard dead ball penalty is assessed against team A. Normal timing rules call for the clock to start on the ready, but if the referee believed the foul was committed to consume time, the clock should start on the snap. Team A would benefit from the clock starting on the ready. Without altering standard timing rules, team A could continue to commit dead-ball fouls until time runs out.

Play 2: Team A leads, 7-6, and the game clock is running when team A stays in the huddle and intentionally takes a delay penalty. Ruling 2: In NFHS, the clock starts on the snap after any accepted delay of game penalty (3-4-3i). There is no need to alter timing rules to compensate for team A deliberately stalling. In NCAA, the clock starts on the ready after a delay foul if the clock was running (3-2-5a-4). However, the referee would have the discretion in that situation to have the clock start on the snap.

Play 3: Team B leads, 7-6, and the game clock is running. Before the snap, B1 crosses the neutral zone and contacts the snapper. Ruling 3: That is encroachment (NFHS) or offside (NCAA). After the five-yard penalty is enforced, the referee should not restart the clock. To do so would put team A at a timing disadvantage because team B’s illegal act caused more time to be consumed.

A related rule (NFHS 3-5-7k; NCAA 3-4-3) can be invoked if there is any unusual delay in getting the ball ready for play. There is no penalty if neither team is to blame for the holdup.

Play 4: A1’s fumble is followed by a scramble to recover the ball. The officials cannot immediately tell who has the football. Ruling 4: Any official close to the pile should signal the clock to stop. If a team A player has the ball and a first down was not made, officials should wind the clock immediately. If a first down was made, the clock remains stopped until the next ready signal. If a team B player has the ball, the clock remains stopped due to a change of team possession.

Play 5: Team A is in a hurry-up offense near the end of the first half. A1 is tackled inbounds short of the lineto gain near the sideline. When relaying the ball to the umpire, the linesman throws an errant pass that lands several yards from the inbounds spot. Ruling 5: The referee can stop the clock until the ball is spotted and then signal the clock to start. No team is at fault for the delay.

Consuming time by failing to unpile in a timely manner after a down ends can cause officials to alter normal timing rules. You typically see that tactic used by the team ahead in the score.

Play 6: Team A is trying to catch up late in the fourth quarter. After a running play, B1 intentionally lays on the runner to prevent him from getting up. Ruling 6: In NFHS, the officials should stop the clock when B1 fails to unpile. That is a five-yard penalty for delay of game (3-6-2b) and the clock next starts on the snap. In NCAA, the referee may order the clock to stop when B1 fails to unpile. There is no foul, but the clock next starts on the snap (3-4-3).

After a penalty is enforced for an illegal forward pass to conserve time, the clock next starts on the ready, even if the pass is incomplete (NFHS 3-4-6; NCAA 3-2-5a-8). That keeps team A from getting the benefit of stopping the clock after committing an illegal act.

In NCAA, the clock starts on the snap when team A is penalized for delay and it is in scrimmage-kick formation (3-2-5a-4). Referee’s judgment is not involved. For NFHS, the clock always starts on the snap after a delay of game penalty is accepted (3-4-3i). In the rare case a delay penalty is declined, the clock starts on the ready if the clock was running when the delay occurred.

When a fumble goes out of bounds in advance of the spot of the fumble, the clock is stopped when the ball  touches out of bounds. In NCAA, the game clock next starts on the referee’s signal (3-2-5a-11). The rule applies only to team A fumbles. In NFHS, the clock next starts on the snap regardless of which team fumbled the ball forward and out of bounds (3-4-3a).

Written by Judson Howard, a retired official from Los Angeles. He officiated more than 20 years, many at the NCAA Division I level.

Football: The Right (Tri)angle


By George Demetriou

Safe, fair and fun.

That phrase — that triangle, if you will — contains the ingredients to the best game you’ll ever have. And there is no reason why almost all your games cannot be like that. You have complete control over the first two items. Only you can allow an unsafe or biased game to be played. The third item is by no means a certainty, but is also well within your control. Unfortunately, there will be days when, despite your best efforts, joy will evaporate due to factors outside your control.

Safety. That is clearly the number-one priority for any game at any level, professional or amateur. The protection and welfare of players are paramount; there can be no compromise on that point. Never let an unsafe act take place.

What we can debate is what constitutes an unsafe act. A local official once caused a game to be cancelled because many of the players of the visiting team had wrestling pads on their knees. The oversized cushions were securely fastened, but partially exposed outside the pants. The rules require knee pads to be covered by the pants. In other situations, missing goalpost pads can be worked around; missing mouthpieces cannot.

“Err on the side of safety.” No one would dare attack that vaunted cliché. Well, I at least propose another viewpoint. While that certainly is sound advice, it sometimes becomes an excuse for justifying poor decision-making. Safety is embodied in many of the “when in doubt” principles. Those include: The contact is below the waist for blocking below the waist and blocks in the back; the contact is at the knees or below for chop blocks; and it is twisting, turning or pulling the facemask rather than merely a grasp.

For illustrative purposes, let’s focus on the last item. The defender starts an arm tackle; the runner spins and turns as he lowers his head, surprising his opponent. The defender suddenly finds his hand on the runner’s facemask and immediately recognizes he cannot tackle with that hand. He slides his hand to the runner’s arm and is able to complete the tackle. Out comes the flag. The explanation, “He may not have twisted the facemask, but I erred on the side of safety.”

Twisted? Get serious; he didn’t even grab the facemask; the hand and the facemask weren’t in contact long enough for a grab to occur, but the official who anticipated a foul had an impulsive reaction and went for his flag. He probably recognized his mistake before the flag hit the ground, but now he is going to defend his inexcusable mistake by presenting himself as an avid protector of players.

Fairness. Officials are hired to assure equity in games. Arbiters disinterested in who wins and who loses are necessary to ensure the game is played fairly according to the rules and that neither team gains an unfair advantage.

The average high school game has about 11 accepted penalties. There will be games with triple that number of fouls. Either the players don’t want to follow the rules or their physical limitations prevent them from doing so. When that happens, all the officials can do is call what they see. When the fouls are excessively high, it won’t be a perfect game; it’s virtually impossible to catch everything when the transgressions are rampant. The accusation that the officials are one-sided is likely to follow. There might even be accusations of cheating.

One of the traps coaches try to draw officials into is an imbalanced foul count. “You’ve flagged us 10 times and them only once.” So what? More important is: Were the fouls legitimate? The losing team might foul more because it is outmanned, but perhaps the winning team is fouling more because it is playing aggressively and succeeding. Coaches often view the foul count in the latter case as an effort by the officials to keep the game competitive.

Fun. Working prep games is both a business endeavor and a social club. Those who do it only for “beer” money, or those who use game income as a second job to support their livelihood, are bound to cause problems because their goals as well as their needs will conflict with the core model of high school officiating. Officiating prep games is purposefully designed as an avocation.

Part of having fun is the knowledge the job is being done right and doing it right means being properly prepared; that requires an effort. The camaraderie needs to take place mostly after the game. Perhaps the true enjoyment of officiating is making a significant contribution to a large group. Simply being on the field should be an enjoyable experience, but there are many detractors such as lopsided scores, bickering players and whining coaches. Those must be managed; officials must be aware of brooding confrontations and act to deter them.

Many associations have officials with a misplaced sense of humor. Any acts or commentary that detract from officiating the game should not be tolerated. Here’s an example: A referee threw his flag and while he was announcing the penalty, the umpire picked up the flag and put it in his pocket. The referee held up the game while checking with both benches to see who had picked up his flag. It was not returned to him until after the game.

George Demetriou has been a football official since 1968. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Getting It Right – Corrente Takes Cancer Fight National

By Jeffrey Stern

There’s an old saying that it’s better to be lucky than good. Tony Corrente is both.

Corrente’s career as an NFL official began in 1995 and he’s emerged as one of the best. That is evidenced by his many postseason assignments, including Super Bowl XLI. That’s the “good” part.

His luck came into play on Sept. 11, 2011, during a Pittsburgh-Baltimore game. Late in the third quarter, Pittsburgh’s Ike Taylor taunted Ravens tackle Michael Oher. Corrente stepped between the players while throwing his penalty marker. Meanwhile, a few yards away, a fight had broken out. Corrente was in the middle of the action as Oher and teammate Matt Birk tussled with Steeler players. He was knocked to the ground.

After the game, Corrente took ibuprofen due to body aches caused by the tumble. In the following days, he began coughing up blood. A visit to his doctor led to an appointment with a specialist. He then learned he had throat cancer.

Had he not been knocked down, had he not taken ibuprofen — a blood thinner — and had he not followed up with his doctor, Corrente’s outcome likely would not have been so positive.

The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA) took advantage of Corrente’s story and his celebrity by naming him the national spokesman for the annual Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week April 10-16.

During that week, the HNCA offered free oral, head and neck cancer screenings at more than 400 sites across the country.

“My experience shows the importance of both screening for and early detection of oral, head and neck cancers,” Corrente said. “I had no symptoms until the incident on the football field, and if it had taken much longer to detect the cancer, it might have spread and forced me to undergo massive surgery. Because I was diagnosed at an earlier stage, I was able to undergo treatment without serious complications and have a successful outcome.”

An estimated 120,000 new cases of oral, head and neck cancer will be diagnosed each year, making it one of the top five cancers worldwide. Many individuals will not be aware of their cancer until it has reached an advanced stage. Tobacco and alcohol use increase the chances of being stricken by that type of cancer, but many cases have been found in non-drinkers and non-smokers.

Corrente was happy to spread the word about the benefits of preventive action.

“I am living proof that early diagnosis and treatment can improve the outcome and chances of survival for people with these cancers,” he said.

Jeffrey Stern is Referee’s senior editor.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 12/16 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Feature – Military Intelligence


By Dave Simon

NBA Supervisor on the Value of Military Service

Bob Delaney, vice president of referee operations and director of officials for the NBA, sees something special in officials with military backgrounds.

Teamwork and trust are two qualities he believes stand out in veterans — and they are fundamental to success in sports officiating, Delaney said.

“There is no better group to mimic than the military,” said Delaney, who did not serve in the military, but worked in law enforcement before joining the NBA officiating staff.

“We can’t equate basketball to the battlefield, but we can learn from them in terms of how they operate,” Delaney said.

One of the biggest takeaways from the military experience is learning the “why” of a mission. The concept of knowing “why” something must be done helps officials with execution and understanding of what they do on the court, Delaney said.

“The concept of who will benefit by knowing replaces need to know,” Delaney said. “We learn from our experiences. The military learns from theirs, and grows as a result.”

He said veterans and referees share another quality: “They see things that are bigger than themselves. It’s service before self and that is implicit to effectively defending our freedoms and serving a high-quality-officiated game.”


The ranks of sports officials are peppered with many former members of the U.S. military. They officiate kids’ games, all the way up through the pros. Does military experience provide unique training and lessons that translate well to sports officiating? Are there things other officials can learn from their fellow officials with military backgrounds?

Referee magazine went looking for answers by interviewing a number of officials who made the transition, learned some things along the way and shared tips on why and how a military background gives sports officials a special edge.

Here are a few of the stories of sports officials who served their country:


matt-boland-bio“Without a doubt there are parallels between what it takes to be in the military and what it takes to become and work as an NBA referee,” said NBA referee Matt Boland. “There is no doubt in my mind that my time in the Army helped to shape me as a person and gave me the foresight and self belief to pursue such a lofty goal as refereeing in the NBA.”

Both the military and officiating are in Boland’s blood: His father Dave was a retired brigadier general and a longtime high school soccer and basketball official in Connecticut. His older brother, Tom, was a full colonel and helicopter pilot in the Connecticut Army National Guard. 

After attending a small prep school in northeast Connecticut, Boland’s next stop was the University of Connecticut.

“Even though I came from a military family, I had no real plans at that time to join the service,” Boland said.

After a self-admittedly unfocused and overwhelming year and a half at UConn, Boland found himself at a crossroads.

“I was going nowhere fast and I knew something had to change,” Boland said. “In January 1987, with some family guidance, I decided to become the third member of the family to join the service.” Two months later, he was on his way to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. 

The 13 weeks in basic training challenged him physically and mentally.

“I found out I was capable of things I never could have imagined,” Boland said. “Basic training opened up my eyes to see that I could do anything I put my mind to and that I wasn’t going to be satisfied leading a mundane life.”

Upon his return to Connecticut after basic training, Boland entered his third year on local IAABO Board 8 with a new focus and big goals.

Officer candidate school (OCS) provided another unique set of challenges that further helped to shape his character and leadership skills. Boland recalled one particularly memorable day: “After about two weeks of training, we each were placed in various leadership roles. They had our entire group together in a large classroom (approximately 75 candidates in the class). We had become accustomed to expect the unexpected as we were constantly being pushed out of our comfort zones. We were told that one by one we each were to get up in front of the class and tell the group who we felt were the top three candidates in the class and who the bottom three were and why. Suffice to say that made for an interesting afternoon,” Boland said.

Based on how the exercise proceeded, he learned it was more important to be respected than liked. “That is a direct parallel to being an NBA referee,” he said. “If you are looking to be liked, you are in the wrong profession. You want to be respected.”

In the summer of 1989, Boland was commissioned as a second lieutenant, moving into serving as a platoon leader.

“Being 23 years old and standing in front of a platoon with some of the soldiers being twice my age was further evidence for me that I needed to earn their respect,” he said. “I would do that over time by showing competence, consistency and fairness. As referees, that is exactly the same goal. It takes time. You earn respect through consistent work in many highly emotional situations.

“In many cases, my soldiers had more expertise and experience in the areas that we were tasked to do, such as working with explosives. One of our refereeing mottos is to referee to our level of experience. I learned that concept early on as a platoon leader. If I tried to act like I knew it all and had all the answers, I would lose the respect of my soldiers. The same mindset applies to being an NBA referee. We work hard to have all the answers to all the challenges we are presented with every game, but we also have to be able to admit a mistake or acknowledge we need help from our partners,” Boland said.

When it comes to teamwork, Boland saw his platoon was only as strong as the weakest link.

“It was up to the platoon to train and bring every soldier up to speed,” he said. “Each one of us had to carry our weight. We had to count on each other to perform our assigned role consistently in high pressure situations. As NBA referees, we walk on the floor each night as a team. We may be a mix of levels of experience, but we fail and succeed together. We talk about putting our priorities in the order of game, crew, self. Any variation from that order and we will not be successful and we will not do justice to the game or our profession.

“The military provided me with the boost, direction and confidence to believe I could one day work in the NBA. The NBA is a lofty goal. It’s tough to get there. You must have a plan, and even then there are no guarantees. But with no plan, you have no shot. The military gave me the structure on how to do it,” Boland said.

Because there is criticism in both the military and officiating in the NBA, mental toughness is very important.

“In the NBA environment, you are hearing a lot of people disagreeing with your work, so you must have confidence and a belief in yourself,” Boland said.

Boland referenced an obstacle course during training that required tougher and tighter steps as the trainee neared the top, along with a leap at the last rung of a ladder. “Somehow you do it. You have to believe in yourself. You see yourself in a different light,” he observed.

The military trains, trains and trains some more. “Everything we did was to practice and prepare for the real thing. We would stress the importance of detailed work. Lack of focus on detail could cost lives one day. As referees, we spend tremendous amounts of time preparing to work at our best. We are constantly preparing and maintaining ourselves physically to be able to keep up with the greatest athletes in the world. We have to be in position on every play to get the calls right. We are preparing by studying our game tapes looking for things we do right for reinforcement and for things we need to do better,” Boland said.

The military has an after-action review (AAR), which is similar to a postgame report.

“Every time we completed a training exercise, we did an AAR,” Boland said. “We would take a comprehensive look at all the things we did well and all the things we need to focus more on. This was a critical part of the overall training process. We would be our own worst critic and we weren’t afraid to be open and honest with each other. This is exactly what NBA referees do after each game they work. We drill down deep and we do so with an open mind among the crew to improve.”


bob-mcelwee-bioBob McElwee loves football. He played through his years at the U.S. Naval Academy, and as he transitioned to flight school as the new Air Force Academy was being built outside Denver in 1955. He kept playing for three years after that. He hadn’t thought of officiating football up to that point. But once he hung up the spikes, he found there was a void on Saturday afternoons.

“I started off officiating midget kids, and loved the games. I was bored to tears on Saturdays,” he said. His love for football helped him start down the officiating path, but the NFL veteran’s (27 years) military background laid the foundation for success. There are certain skills that are paramount in officiating success, according to McElwee, including discipline, integrity and judgment under pressure.

“Some can be taught and some you just have,” he said. The military helps on the teaching side.

“Officials must be disciplined to prepare for games, similar to the military,” he said. The military also teaches leadership, which applies to officiating: “As the referee, you are in charge of all the guys on the field, and you have to make sure the game is officiated fairly and kept under control,” McElwee said.

He related a unique situation that brought all his military preparedness into play during a game in Washington, D.C., following the anthrax scares post-9/11.

“There had been the anthrax scares in D.C. Something was being sprayed on the sidelines. You train to handle these types of situations, both in the military and as an NFL official. First, I stopped the game. I asked for a chemical engineer to figure out what was burning the players’ eyes,” McElwee said. “We weren’t going to continue the game until I knew what the stuff was.”

Behind the team benches, there had been a fight in the stands. Security had used pepper spray to subdue the combatants, and the mist had blown onto the field by large field fans.

“That’s why the players couldn’t see,” McElwee said.

Once he got the information he needed, he proceeded with the game.

Later, McElwee got a call from a friend and colleague who was an admiral in the Navy. “He called me and said, ‘Bob, this is what we trained for. I’m proud of you,’” McElwee said.


luis-martinez-bioLuis Martinez is a retired major from the U.S. Army, having served 23 years (14 as an officer and nine years enlisted). He’s officiated volleyball for 20 years, 10 at the collegiate level, and worked both the 2013 and 2014 Women’s Volleyball National Championships as a line judge. It was an incident while playing volleyball in the military that prompted Martinez to get into officiating. While stationed in Germany, he mouthed off to one of the officials and immediately received a red card, which cost his team a point. He thought to himself, “I can do this,” and started officiating military intramurals. When he returned to Oklahoma, he began officiating high school volleyball and basketball.

Martinez said he believes his military background helps in volleyball officiating, particularly at the higher levels, because it adds presence to his demeanor.

“If you look good and are fit, when you walk on the court, you exude confidence and the coach feels good about your presence,” he said. “You’ve won 60-70 percent of the fight right there. It’s about the appearance. You should look the part.

“At higher level games, you face situations where you must remain calm under intense pressure. You may think to yourself, ‘Why did I blow that call?’ So you have to take a deep breath and move on from there,” Martinez said. The military gives you the background to handle those situations more effectively.

Trust and teamwork are important in the military and officiating. “You must trust your partner. Each official has their area. Trust that he or she will make the right call,” Martinez said.

Martinez also spoke about the concept of situational awareness. In a basketball game, for example, a player may react after being slighted by an opponent and you must be aware of those nuances. If you didn’t get the first foul, there might be retaliation. This is similar to military incidents in the field.

“I pay attention to those little things,” Martinez said.

Character is another defining characteristic for both military and officiating endeavors, Martinez said. That includes showing empathy and discipline, and being approachable.

“On the stand, for example, sometimes you need to make eye contact with the coaches and communicate that way without the coach having to yell at you,” he said, noting those non-verbal cues.

Martinez sees the extra need for preparation in the military and officiating. In the military, routes are analyzed before expeditions. In officiating, to be successful, a strong knowledge of the rules is required.

Martinez said that both fields mandate that you “give 100 percent all the time at every level and continue to educate yourself on the latest techniques, rules and regulations.”


leroy-richardson-bioLeroy Richardson found himself walking through shopping malls with his wife after he exited the Navy, doing basketball traveling signals.

“Really? I mean, really, do you have to do traveling calls in the mall?” she would ask him. Of course he did. Previously, while in the Navy, it was practicing his salute. He had it down with his hand and cap just right, getting the signal perfect. From the Navy to the NBA, Leroy was just taking his professional mechanics to the next level.

Richardson served 12 years in the Navy, officiated D-I college basketball while on active duty, and was hired into the NBA a year after leaving the military, in 1995. He sees a lot of parallels between his military and officiating careers: concepts he outlines as 1A and 1B.

One-A, he terms the team concept. As a sailor out of Virginia Beach, Va., Richardson received accolades, something that wouldn’t have been possible without his team.

“You need to buy into the bigger team message, whether you are in the military or you are a referee. Even if you give maximum effort while thinking as an individual in a team environment, no accolades may come. You must put the team goals ahead of the individual. The mission is the biggest thing — focus on the organization/team concept, and then individual awards come,” he said.

One-B, is standard-setting. Richardson said that to a fault, the military sets tough standards.

“It’s almost unrelenting,” Richardson said. “It can spill over to your personal life because you can’t let things go and not everyone adheres to the same standards you do. You check, recheck, dot the i’s and cross the t’s. If you don’t, your mission can be compromised because lives are at stake. That never leaves you, whether it’s in your personal or refereeing life. Setting high standards is important to success in the military and officiating basketball.”

Ironically, Richardson said frustration can set in due to the high level of standards. With high expectations for your officiating partners and the fact that referees, like the military, come from different backgrounds and different parts of the country, it’s important to get crews on the same page.

“In the military, step A is followed by B, then C. With referees it could jump from A to C to E. To minimize that at our level, good leaders know how to give a clear vision and solid direction. When you trust leadership, you get buy-in,” he said.

Team-first and mission priority are critical to success in both fields, and you must “recognize the people who run through walls for you,” he said. The structure/discipline/standards necessary for success can lead to frustrations for people who haven’t mastered those qualities, particularly if accountability is lacking, according to Richardson.

Richardson said many of his best friends developed during his time in the military. “You can count on them,” he said. “It’s not just a job. It affects your life.” Similarly, you want to be a good partner on the court — trustworthy and accountable. “That translates from the military to the basketball floor, particularly when things get hot and heavy and during those cool-down moments after the game,” Richardson said.

odney Mott can relate to Richardson walking through the mall practicing mechanics. He’s been there, too. He found himself using mirrors, though.

“My friends would (say), ‘Dude, those are gang signs, we can’t be walking around with you,’” Mott said, laughing. The practice and repetition were ingrained from his military experience — three years active duty in the Navy and three years in the reserves.

He took that attention to detail learned in the Navy with him to officiating.

“I didn’t start officiating until after I left the Navy, and paid a lot of attention to detail,” Mott said. “I would watch others and pick up a lot of little things. The military teaches you that attention to detail. It helped me learn the profession of refereeing better.”

Mott played basketball while in the Navy, then went to San Diego State before moving to Los Angeles, where he saw Magic Johnson playing in a summer league.

Mott went on to approach Darell Garretson, Joe Crawford and Dick Bavetta about how to get into the business. One area of his military background that Mott said helps him today is understanding how to respectfully pose questions to an authority figure. Also, advancement is similar in the military and NBA officiating — it’s a slow process, and the best person isn’t always the one who gets the opportunity, he said.

“In both areas, it’s very competitive and moving up can depend a lot on what people are looking for,” Mott said. “You can’t just jump to a higher rank. You have to take the right steps.”


david-coleman-bio“Taking care of the troops” applies in the military and in officiating. David Coleman applied that principle during his 22 years of active duty in the U.S. Army, and in officiating management positions (five seasons at the NFL as director of officiating and one season as vice president of football officiating at the Pac-12 Conference).

His leadership training in the military, along with the experience he gained organizing teams, helped immensely as he has built crews. The military also helped Coleman establish standards of accountability, develop and implement programs to train, develop, evaluate and manage groups of officials. In Army jargon: “We’re taking care of the troops.”

“My military background provided me with opportunities to become comfortable with and proficient in all aspects of leadership and responsibility. The Army is unique in that it prepares young soldiers — officers and non-commissioned officers — to lead and be responsible for the lives of others,” Coleman explained.

Coleman had a successful onfield career officiating football in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Mid-American Conference (MAC). He was a referee-in-training with the MEAC. While still on active duty at the time as the G1/Adjutant General of the 101st Airborne Division/Air Assault (top HR officer in the division), he received a call from the conference supervisor, Paul Glenn, on a Thursday. He asked Coleman if he had his white hat ready.

“Of course I did,” Coleman said. “He gave me the assignment to lead a split crew (MEAC/SWAC) at a Southern vs. Florida A&M game in Tallahassee, Fla., that Saturday night. It was my first game as a referee in a college game. My military experience gave me the mental edge to step up and successfully carry out the duties and responsibilities of leading a crew in a nationally televised game on ESPN. From that day forward, I was a referee in the MEAC.”

Coleman was first exposed to football officiating in the intramural program at West Point. After graduating, he continued to play sports in the Army (volleyball, baseball, softball, flag football) and did some coaching (basketball and flag football). After several years on active duty, he decided to again try officiating. He officiated softball and football, and became comfortable with the responsibility of officiating games.

After completing a staff assignment at West Point, Coleman was transferred to the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany. There he officiated softball, flag football and youth football for the Army’s recreation programs. He also officiated Department of Defense high school football (NCAA rules) and German-American football (NFL rules) throughout the country. German-American Football was a forerunner of NFL Europe.

“My leadership skill was tested when I was elected president of the area football officiating organization with responsibility for a staff of more than 50 officials,” he said.

While assigned to the Pentagon, Coleman met and became affiliated with distinguished officials in the Washington D.C. area (Tom Beard, Johnny Grier, Larry Upson, Larry Hill, Scott Green, Ben Montgomery, Jim Duke and R. Melvin Jackson of the Eastern Board of Officials in Washington, D.C.). 

“In that capacity, I contributed to the development of up-and-coming officials, including future NFL officials Boris Cheek, Greg Steed and Scott Edwards,” he said.

Those connections, beginning with the military, helped Coleman’s career take off. After leaving the field due to health reasons, he was hired by the NFL as an instant replay assistant. That experience led to his opportunity to work for the NFL as director of officiating.

Coleman’s work with the NFL helped prepare him to lead the officiating program at the Pac-12 Conference. “Here, I am developing best-in-class officiating programs across football, basketball and our other sports,” he observed.

Coleman developed leadership and connections, got the right training that he could then share with others, and built management skills from serving in the military. Bit by bit, those skills served him well over his football officiating career, as it has many other sports officials who have served their country in the military.

Dave Simon, Hartland, Wis., is a former basketball official. His newest book, “Whistle in a Haystack,” with D-I college basketball official Rick Hartzell, can be ordered by contacting him directly at davidsimon15@hotmail.com.

Volleyball – Under Control


By Joan Powell

The referees’ game management style is noticed by all participants, as well as the spectators. The way the referees conduct themselves in those first minutes after arrival serves as a glimpse into the tone of the match.

All prematch communication with the coaches should be cordial yet business-like. The referees should greet each coach together and introductions should be brief. The first referee should provide information, such as the ground rules, the team’s serve/receive status and answer any questions concisely and courteously. It is important to spend an equal amount of time with each coach to avoid any misperceptions.

The referees establish their credibility early by being approachable. There may be situations in which you are familiar with a team member, but refrain from engaging in any non-match  conversation. Never sit at the scorer’s table or on either team bench.

Prematch communication extends to the coin toss. That is not a time to show the coaches and captains how much you know about the rules. Simply state the necessary information — ground rules, jewelry and equipment, special pre-match ceremonies, etc. Early in the season, it may be necessary to explain a new rule, but be brief. Make that meeting as succinct as possible. Once again, the first referee sets the tone for the match in that meeting.

Time management is crucial because there are established protocols that must be adhered to in a timely fashion. A simple reminder to a coach regarding lineup submission is much better than penalizing a team for a delay.

Preventive officiating outweighs a punitive attitude. The warmup period is a good time to check for illegal equipment like unpadded braces, music devices or jewelry. The neoprene bracelets or hair ties on players’ wrists continue to be popular. The best way to handle those situations is to address the player or the player’s coach with, “This is my least favorite rule, but I have to enforce it.” You will be surprised how positively the coach and player will respond. The dividends are much better than with comments like, “That’s illegal, take it off.”

During the match. In order to maintain good court management, the referees ultimately need to make decisive, consistent decisions and use proper signals in order to increase confidence and reduce controversy. After all, the whistle and signals are your means of communication; those non-verbal communication skills are important. Constant communication between partners is vital.

“Centering” is the best means to encourage and maintain contact with one another. After every fault, both referees should lock onto each other with eye contact, unless the first referee needs to gather information from a line judge. Centering allows the second referee to communicate additional information when needed, and it will allow both referees to observe any taunting that may take place through the net. Referees should practice centering until it becomes second nature. Remember there is a difference between eye contact and eye communication.

Sometimes your signals are not enough to explain a call. If verbal communication is necessary, the first referee needs to be professional and use concise answers when conversing with the captains. The second referee uses similar language when addressing the coaches. Coaches should not be allowed to yell across the court to the first referee. A good partner will preempt that behavior by stepping toward the coach to redirect the coach’s attention — it may be necessary to step between the coach and the first referee. Both referees need to be aware of their words and body language. The referee who uses the “talk to the hand” gesture will be perceived as rude. Know and use the language of the rules or simply respond with the facts.

It is inappropriate when a referee simply replies that the call was made because that’s what he or she saw. Coaches have the right to ask questions as long as they do not delay or continually interrupt the flow of the match.

If a coach enters the substitution zone to question a call, the second referee should simply and politely walk the coach out of the area. The referee may have to remind the coach that his or her question can be addressed, but the coach cannot come into the substitution zone. That restrictive boundary also pertains to the scorer’s table. Intervene immediately when a coach approaches the table for information. Requests for the next server, number of timeouts used or substitutions remaining need to be directed through the second referee.

Remember, coaches may stand to coach, but not to officiate. If questions or comments pertain to judgment calls, especially ballhandling, simply respond, “Coach, I will not entertain discussions about judgment.” And then don’t allow any further interruptions from a coach regarding judgment issues.

Never discuss one of the crew’s calls with a coach or captain. No coach has the right to question or talk to any of the other officials. Both referees need to protect their crew. There should be zero tolerance for any participant who questions any line judges or the score table crew.

When dealing with unsporting conduct, some things need to be ignored (an opinion, a coach talking to his/her assistant coach). Some things need to be addressed (judgment calls) and some things need to be sanctioned. When misconduct needs attention but has not risen to the point of needing a card, referees may need to use alternative methods to deal with the behavior. Sometimes a simple “look” will do, other times a discreet headshake or a light whistle will suffice. If a card is necessary, it is displayed like any other call — without any added body language. Once the card is administered and recorded, let it go and move on. And remember, under all rules codes, a yellow card is simply a warning.

One group that cannot be penalized is the crowd. An official should never address any fan, even though sometimes tempted. The rulebook is specific with the way to handle an unruly spectator. It states that the referee suspends the set until the host management resolves the situation.

In the absence of a designated school administrator/supervisor, the head coach from the home team shall serve as the host management. When working USAV club events, the tournament director may need to be involved.

After the match. Each rules code addresses the verification of the final point and what transpires after the match is complete. The referee(s) should immediately leave the court together, unless assigned to work back-to-back matches. Do not engage in any conversation with participants or spectators following a match.

If at all possible, the referees who are assigned to junior high, high school or collegiate matches should meet for a post-match debriefing and share honestly about their performance. Much can be gained by discussing calls and no-calls, as well as game and court management skills.

The good officials understand our mission: Keep volleyball fair and safe by employing sound match control techniques. Those referees know the black and white of the rules, but they also know how to administer the gray areas. And best of all, they know how to communicate with their partner, their entire crew, as well as all participants, without being a controlling referee.    

Joan Powell is NCAA national coordinator of volleyball officials, former president of the Professional Association of Volleyball Officials, and a former longtime USAV and NCAA referee.

Baseball – From Pitcher to Just Another Fielder

By George Demetriou

Under the NCAA DH rule, the pitcher is not considered to be a defensive position for substitution purposes (7-2b Note). But regardless of the level of play, a pitcher with fielding skills can be a very important asset to a team.

Certain rules treat the pitcher as a unique player — the pitcher. Others treat the pitcher as a fielder. Except where noted, the material applies equally to NFHS, NCAA and pro rules.

Pickoffs. Perhaps the most elementary distinction between the two roles of the pitcher is the pickoff attempt. A throw by the pitcher from a pitching position, while on the rubber, that passes over a fence or into the stands or other dead-ball area results in a one-base award. It does not matter if the ball goes directly out of play or is deflected by a fielder (NFHS 8-3-3d; NCAA 8-3k; pro 7.05h). The award also applies if the ball is pitched.

However, if the pitcher disengages the rubber before attempting to pick off a runner, he has acted as an infielder. If his throw goes into dead-ball territory, the runner is awarded two bases — the same as if the throw was made by any other infielder (NFHS 8-3-5b; NCAA 8-3o AR 1; pro 7.05g).

Interference by a runner with a batted ball. Under that rule, the pitcher is treated both as a pitcher and as an infielder. If a runner is hit by a fair batted ball that has touched an infielder (pitcher included) before it touches the runner, there is no interference. The ball remains live and the subsequent play stands.

However, if the runner is hit by a fair batted ball before having passed an infielder other than the pitcher, interference is called. The runner is out and the batter is awarded first base (NFHS 8-4-2k; NCAA 6-1i, 6-2f AR, 8-2f, 8-2g; pro 7.09m).

Play 1: With R1 on first, B5 hits a sharp grounder that deflects off F1’s leg and hits R1 between first and second. Ruling 1: The ball remains live and in play. Unless R1 intentionally interferes, he is not out for being hit by a deflected ball.

Play 2: R1 and R2 are moving on the pitch when B7 dribbles one slowly past the pitcher. As R1 begins his slide into second, the batted ball hits him. At the time R1 is hit, R2 has already touched third. Ruling 2: Since R1 was hit by a batted ball, he is out for interference. The ball passed F1 but did not touch him. B1 remains on first and is credited with a base hit. In NFHS, R2 keeps third; runners are returned to the base occupied at the time of interference (8-2-9). In NCAA and pro, R2 is returned to second; no runner can advance (NCAA 2-50 AR 2, 6-2e, 8-5k; pro 7.08f).

Obstruction. Although it is rare, a pitcher can commit obstruction. When the pitcher obstructs the batter-runner before reaching first base, the base awards depend on the ball the batter hit. If the batter hits a line drive to the infield or a fly ball anywhere and the ball is caught, the obstruction is ignored and the play stands. If the batter hits a ground ball, the obstruction is relevant and the penalty is a minimum award of first base in all codes.

Intentionally dropped ball. The pitcher is treated as an infielder when he intentionally drops a ball. The rule is designed to prevent an undeserved double play. With less than two out and at least a runner on first (first; first and second; first and third, or bases loaded), the ball is dead when it is intentionally dropped and runners return to the base occupied at the time of the pitch (NFHS 8-4-1c; NCAA 7-11q; pro 6.05L).

Play 3: With runners on first and second and one out, B1 bunts the ball. F1 catches the ball in flight, deliberately drops it and then fires to the shortstop covering third. The throw is wild, and the ball rolls into left field. Before it is returned to the infield, R2 has scored, R1 is on third and B1 has taken second. Ruling 3: The ball is immediately dead when F1 intentionally drops it. B1 is out and the runners return.

Play 4: With a runner on first and one out, B1 bunts the ball in the air. F1 yells, “I got it,” and as the ball is about to fall into his glove, he separates his hands and lets the ball fall to the ground untouched. He immediately retrieves the ball and fires to second to start a double play. Ruling 4: That is a legal play because F1 did not touch the ball until after it hit the ground. Thus he did not “drop” it.

Infield fly. The pitcher is also treated as an infielder for purposes of the infield fly rule. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play are considered infielders for the purpose of the rule.

George Demetriou, a resident of Colorado Springs, is a veteran high school umpire and the current NFHS rule interpreter for the state of Colorado.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 01/13 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Football – Stay Away From the Mechanics Buffet

Stick to the Manuals to Ensure Consistency


By Jon Bible

Over the years I’ve seen and worked with officials who seem to think that mechanics manuals are like buffet lines — chock full of items to be chosen or ignored as the consumer sees fit. The attitude that they know the one “true” way and will follow it regardless of what the prescribed mechanics require afflicts veterans more than younger officials, but some of the latter group are also guilty. And, lest I come across as holierthan- thou, I will own up to some freelancing on occasion.

I submit, however, that approach is wrong for several reasons. While we may disagree with the mechanics that our league or conference has adopted, it is incumbent on all of us to adhere to them. We can go through channels to try to get them changed to reflect our notions of how the field should be covered and how crew members should interact, but if we are unsuccessful we should bite the bulletand go along.

Having been involved in developing mechanics in different sports and levels, I’d first like to make a point. Although sometimes drafters either are empowered to promulgate mechanics that reflect their own views or are in agreement about what they produce, the more likely scenario is that they were faced with conflicting views on particular points and, in the interest of uniformity, had to arrive at a compromise.

The bottom line is that if you believe a mechanic is unworkable or just plain stupid, chances are that some people involved in its drafting felt the same way. Either another group succeeded in securing enough votes to get it adopted, or the mechanic was really favored by virtually no one and instead was the product of a last-ditch effort at compromise. All the same, it is what it is, as they say, and we need to adhere to the mechanic unless it is changed. To do otherwise can produce unfortunate consequences.

One problem with deviating from the mechanics manual is that it can lead to even more inconsistency in onfield calls by the officials who are governed by that manual than would otherwise be the case. If, for example, my crew and I took it upon ourselves to adhere to an old mechanic because we thought a new one was faulty, it would be reasonable to expect that, over the course of the season, our number of calls for related plays would be somewhat, and perhaps significantly, different from other crews’ numbers. Some members of my crew would have different looks at the players’ actions than they would have had if they used the mechanic everyone else was using.

A crew at the BCS level is, of course, not going to deviate from the prescribed mechanic so blatantly because we’d have our rear ends handed to us on a platter if we did. But I know that a high school or lower level crew might do so because I’ve seen it done. It reflects badly on a league or association to have significant differences in the number of fouls called from crew to crew, and to have crews handling the same situation differently from a mechanical standpoint can only exacerbate the problem.

Mechanics mavericks also cause problems for other members of the crew in a game who might be used to doing things the proper way. It is very disconcerting, for example, for me as a referee to be used to my umpire doing things a particular way, and then, on a given Saturday, to have a different umpire who dances to his own tune. Even if a crew stays together all year and perhaps for several years, there may be occasions when a member has to be replaced for one or two games due to illness or work conflicts, and if that crew has decided to go its own way mechanically, chaos can ensue when the replacement joins them. Adjusting can be especially difficult for younger officials who have enough on their hands to master what the prescribed manual says without having to deal with the new twist that the maverick brings to the table. For a crew to function well, it has to be able to cover plays and to have its members interrelate automatically, without having to constantly think about what the other members are going to do in a given situation, and that can’t happen when freelancing occurs.

Then there is the “copycat” syndrome. If one crew or individual deviates from the mechanics manual and word gets around that has been done and has brought on no repercussions, others will infer that they are free to do the same thing. The next thing you know there will be several different crews or officials striking out on their own, thus destroying any semblance of consistency within that group.

I’ve also seen the freelancing approach backfire on a crew because of the expectations of coaches. If their lives depended on it, the average coach could not stand before a group and intelligently discuss where the umpire or back judge is supposed to be, and who he is supposed to watch, in particular play situations.

But on the field, most do have a sense of what the answer should be. If, week to week, every crew but one covers kickoffs or formations with triple receivers the same way, or one member of a crew that otherwise adheres to the mechanics manual does things differently, the deviating crew or member will stand out. If something happens on the play that the coach doesn’t like, the perception that the crew or official is out of position or is simply doing their own thing will only give the coach more fuel to add to his already burning fire.

For obvious reasons, the freelancing approach can also bite us in the backside if there is an observer or officials’ scout in the stands who knows how plays are supposed to be worked and can easily spot a deviation by the crew or by an official in the crew. Having been a supervisor for many years, I can guarantee that the perception that a crew or crew member is “going it alone” is not calculated to result in kudos or in career advancement.

A word about officiating clinics and camps, of which, as the late sportscaster Howard Cosell might say, there are now a veritable plethora. I’ve attended and been an instructor at some of those camps, and I know that many offer a great deal of valuable information. The ones that feature NFL and top college officials can be especially good in many different ways, among them the ability of those officials to enlighten the campers as to philosophy and to the subtle tricks that they’ve learned over the years to increase their chances of getting plays right.

The problem is that sometimes the information about field coverage or position mechanics that is imparted at those clinics is inconsistent with the proscribed mechanics in a particular conference, league, association or state. On more than one occasion I’ve heard of campers who took what they learned at a camp, applied it on the field when they got back home and got reamed by an observer because it was inconsistent with the local mechanics.

At the end of the day, my advice is that it is good to absorb what the top officials tell you at those camps and to file it in your memory bank for possible future use. But when you get home, do what you’re supposed to do. It may well be that what you learned at the camp is better, but the best approach is to try to convince the powers-that-be in your area that is the case. Sometimes those who write mechanics are open to new suggestions and willing to adapt, but there are also those who don’t want any part of what the NFL or major conferences do, or have a vested interest in a mechanic because they wrote it or things have always been done that way. So they will stick with a mechanic come hell or high water for that reason alone. Officials need to understand and recognize that, despite all of the great new stuff that they may have learned at a camp, when they are home they need to go along to get along. Their careers can easily be stalled or even killed if they decide to dance to their own tune.

Most officials have healthy egos, and the longer we work, the greater the tendency is to think that we know best how particular play situations should be handled. However, in the interest of uniformity, among other things, the best approach is for us to check our egos at the locker room door and do things “by the book.” We can cause many problems for ourselves, our crews and the other crews in our league or association if we don’t.

Jon Bible is a veteran football official from Austin, Texas. He is a referee in the Big 12 Conference and worked the 2008 BCS national championship game.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 07/08 issue of Referee Magazine.)

Basketball – Halfway Home: ‘Let’s Talk’

Imagine that the buzzer to end the first half has just sounded. The game is going to be a real barnburner. The teams are tied at halftime and there is no sign of either team gaining an advantage any time soon. The gym is filled with spectators, and the atmosphere is electric. You can’t wait to start the second half. Now imagine another scenario. The buzzer to end the first half has just sounded. The spread is 20 points at halftime, and the score is much closer than the action on the court suggests. Few fans occupy the seats; most of them seem to be more interested in the concession stand than the game. It could be a long second half.

Undoubtedly you have officiated both types of games. While those two games may seem worlds apart, the fact is that they are not. Both games have one thing in common — the success or failure of the officiating crew depends on what happens in the officials’ locker room during the halftime conference and on the court in the second half.

Every official learns the importance of the pregame conference as one of the foundations of successful officiating. There are even laminated cards that organize all of the items to be addressed in the pregame conference. Postgame analysis receives similar emphasis. Videotape and postgame breakdowns have become very valuable tools to officials.

With the emphasis on pregame and postgame in officiating, one critical point is sometimes overlooked — halftime. While it may be brief, halftime is a crucial point for officials. At halftime, officials are given the opportunity to communicate in the privacy of the locker room and take time to discuss the events of the first half. The officials can also use that time to refocus and concentrate on making the second half of the game even better. How many times have you heard before taking the court, “That was the easy half.”

While there are many things a crew may cover at halftime, three topics should always come up:

1. What plays stood out in the first half? Were those plays handled correctly, or could they be improved upon? Perhaps there was a block/charge call that was very close or a three-point attempt that could have been more effectively covered. (Officials in the professional leagues even have the technology to watch a play from the previous half right there in the lockerroom.) Discuss the type of offenses involved and how those might affect crew positioning. Understand the defenses being used and how those might relate to the tempo of the game. Halftime is a great time to discuss plays. It is not, however, a time for argument. Any discussion that isn’t positioned in helping the crew improve should be eliminated. Save it for after the game.

2. Are there any players or coaches that deserve attention in the second half? Perhaps one of the crew members has spoken to a coach or a player about something, but hasn’t had the chance to tell the rest of the crew. Now is the time to do it. If there is a particular match-up between players that is closely contested, the crew should be aware of it for the second half. Talk about the demeanor of the players and coaches, how it may change and how the crew will handle such a situation.

3. What might the second half hold in store? If the game is close, and you expect a barnburner, make sure everyone in the crew stays focused and reviews rules regarding overtime. Games in which the margin is larger require particular focus and attention. The crew should discuss what is expected in the second half and make sure that everyone is focused and prepared.

Don’t let a well-timed cheap shot catch your crew offguard in the waning moments of a blowout.

If a crew can thoroughly cover at least those three topics in their halftime conference, the chance for success in the game increases greatly. Hopefully, the crew held a thorough pregame, and will do the necessary postgame analysis as well. A thorough halftime conference, however, is the best chance a crew has to address issues during the game, when it may matter most.

Written by Daniel Rothamel, Palmyra, Va., who officiates high school and college basketball.

Referee Magazine(This article was published in the 04/07 issue of Referee Magazine.)

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