Photo Credit: Keith Johnson

The officiating culture can be brutal. An easy way out of a tough situation might seem like a good idea sometimes. After all, certain officials are quick to be in other’s business and yet unwilling or too oblivious to take care of their own.

Some officials are waiting for their peers to fail in applying a certain rule so they can correct them in front of others. Yet when it comes to dealing with players and coaches for breaking rules out on the floor … nothing.

Appeasement seems to be the name of the game. If the coaches, players and fans are happy, the game will go nice and smooth. Forget foul calls on the “stars,” lopsided foul counts for lopsided games, “and ones” and technical fouls. Those are “game interrupters” and will ruin the game.

Here are seven plays that offer an easy way out and a counterpoint. Are you one of the officials choosing the path of least resistance?

The Opening Toss

You are the U1. Team A taps the ball before it’s on its way down.

The Path of Least Resistance: Let the violation go. No need to make the coach of team A upset that early in the game. It wasn’t the best toss by your partner and you certainly don’t want to start the game with a re-toss. That would make your partner look bad. No one ever calls back tosses.

Counterpoint: You have successfully given an unfair advantage to team A. The toss cannot be touched until it is on its way down. All types of infractions can occur on the opening toss. Set the tone early that you are going to get the calls right from the start.

Out Of Bounds

You clearly see the ball go off of team B. It’s likely that a foul on team A caused team B to knock the ball out of bounds.

The Path of Least Resistance: Instead of calling a foul on team A, you are just going to give the ball back to team B.

Counterpoint: Absolute trust in your partners is essential on a play like that one. If there was a foul, trust that your partner(s) will have the call. If they don’t make the foul call, you must call what you see.

Coaching Box

The coach is constantly out on the floor coaching his or her players.

The Path of Least Resistance: Since he or she isn’t yelling at you or your partner(s), no need to issue a warning or technical foul.

Counterpoint: Officials spend too much time coddling coaches. What you may see as a favor for a coach early on in the game will quickly turn into a mess if you don’t take care of the problem early. Safety of the players needs to always remain at the forefront of your thinking on the court. Having a coach on the floor is a huge safety risk not only for the players but for you and your partners as well. Treat it as such.

And One

A player from team A is driving to the basket when a player from team B makes illegal contact with her on her way to the rim. The ball goes in the basket.

The Path of Least Resistance: No call. Let it go. Had the basket not gone in, you would have called a foul.

Counterpoint: I will certainly give it to you that at times, there will be contact made on the arm of a player going in for a basket. Basket goes in. No harm. No foul. However, judging a play strictly on the outcome can become a slippery slope. Set your parameters for fouls early in the game. If a foul on a shot stays within those parameters and the bucket falls, call the foul and count the bucket.

Loose Ball

The ball gets knocked around by several players. A player from team A falls to the ground on top of the ball. A player from team B quickly tries to get the ball away by climbing on top of the player from team A.

The Path of Least Resistance: Held ball. Alternating possession.

Counterpoint: During a loose ball, heightened awareness is vital. Players tend to become overly aggressive and that can’t be tolerated. A loose ball situation does not give players a green light to do whatever they want.


Team A runs a very aggressive man-to-man and has five fouls early in the game. Team B is sitting back in a zone defense and has only been called for one foul.

The Path of Least Resistance: You discuss with your partners that maybe you are missing fouls on team B. Anything close, give the benefit of the doubt to team A. Heightened awareness is recommended and before long the fouls are six to five.

Counterpoint: That mentality has to be erased completely. It’s not fair to the game to think that different teams with different plays, offenses, defenses and coaching styles will have the same number of fouls at the end of a game. Don’t go looking for trouble that isn’t there.

Technical Fouls

The game is close. Team B’s captain is constantly complaining about calls even after several warnings, showing blatant disrespect for your judgment and getting more animated by the minute.

The Path of Least Resistance: Continue to talk to the player and give warnings. That is the captain and needs to be kept in the game. You don’t want to have to fill out a report to the state and you certainly don’t want to interrupt the flow of the intense game with a technical foul.

Counterpoint: Emotions are a part of the game. However, when emotions get the best of a player or coach, it’s time for you to take care of business. A sour attitude will make for a sour game.

Game management or manipulation? You be the judge. It is not your place to make your own interpretations and exceptions to rules. It is your job to enforce the rules as written whether the participants of the game like it or not. You are not out there to make people happy. You are out there to make the game better and safer for all involved through your enforcement of the rules.

Challenge yourself so you don’t always choose the path of least resistance.

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