Dealing With Referees

I feel like many coaches have a very negative viewpoint of referees. Since I started coaching in 2004, the relationship between coaches and referees has deteriorated quite a bit. If you look at the shortage of referees that we currently have, a lot of it can be traced back to the treatment of referees by coaches.


By no means am I trying to come across as a referee apologist; however, I think that we have a problem that exists in basketball that needs to be addressed. I’ve had games where I felt that referees did a poor job; however, I can look book at some games that I have coached where I didn’t do a very good job either. The point is, we all have off-days and it doesn’t help to have the mistakes magnified and to be publicly embarrassed.

As coaches, we are going to have to work with referees during games and it is much more effective to make this an amicable relationship. Think about human nature when you are talking with a referee. If you scream and berate a referee and you later in the game have a close call, who do you think they will make the call for.

Additionally, I encourage you to have referees help your team out in the pre-season. Invite a referee to come and talk with your team as a way to help players understand what referees are looking for and how to tailor the game in a way to avoid foul calls and violations.

Keep Your Word

Last week I posted about the importance of being honest with your athletes. In my post for today I am going to keep along similar tones and encourage coaches to keep their word. This includes keeping your word to school administrators, athletes, opposing coaches, and your own assistant coaches. Sometimes it may be difficult to stand by something that you have promised; however, to keep your integrity and any semblance of trust that you have earned, you need to always keep your word.

honest abe

When it comes to school administrators, they are going to ask your help with things. Examples would be supervising school events, attending school functions, and dealing with administrative issues that might arise. It isĀ  good idea to try to volunteer when possible as it is good for the school and your image. However, if you agree to something, you must follow through on the agreement. On occasions I have found myself frustrated because I agreed to supervise a school event ahead of time and had a lot of other things pop up the day of the event. It would look very poorly upon me if I backed out at the last-minute, especially if it was not for an emergency. Do not agree to something with your administration unless you plan to follow through.

When dealing with your athletes, it is always important to keep your word and this can be both for rewards and punishments. When you want to incentivize something for your team, it can be an excellent idea to offer a reward such as a team dinner in lieu of a conditioning workout. If you promise something, no matter what circumstances might change, you need to follow through on what was promised. On the other hand, if you have a punishment in place for violation of a team rule, you need to follow through on this as well.

A great example of a tough situationĀ for me was when I had a player disrespect the crowd in a game right before Christmas. She was assessed a technical foul and to make matters worse, we lost the game by the two points that the opponent earned on the free throws. My rule that year was that any technical foul earned by an athlete for a behavioral issue would result in a one game suspension. The really tough part was that the technical foul was earned by my top scorer. If I sat her out for the next game, we risked losing the opening game of a tournament. In the end, I valued my integrity and keeping my word over winning a basketball game and sat her out. As a teacher, this was a teachable moment where I wanted to show everyone that actions do have consequences.

With your assistant coaches it is a no-brainer that you must be honest with them and follow through on what you promise them. Even when it comes to opposing coaches, you need to follow through on promises made. I had a year where I got a scout tape from the coach of another school and promised to give them any film they asked for in exchange at any point in the year. Sure enough, we ended up playing this opponent in the first round of the playoffs. The opposing coach called in the favor and asked me for a film of my own team. Even though I knew it would hurt my chances, I felt the importance of keeping my word was far more valuable than winning that ball game. We lost in overtime but I kept my integrity and honor in the process.


Honesty Is The Best Policy

I am a true believer in being honest with the athletes on your team. Other coaches at my school think that I take this a bit far and find my commitment to honesty controversial. The reason that they do not like my stance is because I am very realistic going into games. We have had games where we are playing against teams that are far superior to us in every facet of the game. In these types of games some coaches might be tempted to tell their athletes that they can win if they play well and work hard. I have no problem telling my players that their is a very strong chance that we will lose that game.

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Many might say that I am being pessimistic and showing no trust in my team by telling them that their is a strong likelihood that we will lose. I believe that the opposite is true and players will respect my candor and honesty. By being honest with them and their chances going into a game it gets them to buy in to everything I tell them. When I tell them that harder work in defense in practice will give us a shot to beat a top three team in our league, they know that I am not lying to motivate them.

This is not to say that I don’t set goals for games that seem insurmountable. In these difficult games I lay out goals that I believe are attainable and would show an excellent effort from us. These goals can include the following examples:

  1. Holding opponent to a certain number of points.
  2. Limiting turnovers to a certain number.
  3. Meeting a rebounding goal.
  4. Executing an offensive set successfully a certain number of times.

It may be difficult to tell your teams the truth but in the end it will instill a trust in what you are doing. If you want the trust of your athletes and them to believe what you are teaching, you need to be 100% honest with them.