Stop Missing So Many Calls
NCAA Division One Official in Ohio
A camper recently asked what single thing helped me more than any other
in "moving up the ladder." My answer was, "I stopped missing so many
calls." I was serious. Continuing the conversation, I realized I could attribute my
acquired ability to get more calls correct to three basic elements. Each and every
element had been drilled into my head at almost every camp I had ever attended.
Here they are.
Officiate only what you can see
I realized I had to stop trying to officiate every single play in a ballgame. Sounds
ridiculous, huh? In retrospect, I had believed I needed to have a whistle on every
play that just didn’t look right. The fact that I was guessing about 50% of the time
hadn’t occurred to me. The more I watched myself on tape or observed a game
in person, the more I was convinced that this was a major mistake that we make
as basketball officials. This point is summarized in two ideas. First, don’t guess.
Second, trust your partners if you’re not in a good position to make a sound
judgment call on a particular play. Too often, we make a call from a poor position
only to have players, coaches, fans, and co-officials give us the old "What was
Have a patient whistle
The second thing I realized I had done was to develop the ability to have a
"patient whistle". More often than not, we must allow the entire play to finish
before we make a decision on blowing the whistle. This is easier said than done.
However, when officials let the play happen before they put air in the whistle, the
percentage of calls they get right goes up dramatically. Too often we react to a
sound or anticipate illegal contact. Hold your whistle! At least for a second. You’ll
get more plays right.
Officiate the defense
The third element is an oldie, but goodie. We’ve heard the phrase "Officiate the
defense!" for years. I’ve had it explained to me in great detail by a number of
successful basketball officials. Why, then, is it so hard to do this? As we played
or watched the game for most of our pre-officiating lives, we watched the ball.
That is where the action is. As officials, however, we must train ourselves to
watch the defensive player. It’s extremely difficult to do it right. Only by watching
the defender can we be sure who initiates contact. If contact occurs and we are
watching the defender, we can correctly judge if he or she is adhering to legal
defensive principles. Otherwise, we’re guessing. Here’s a drill taught by Bailey
Marshall for developing this skill. When observing a game (camp setting or
otherwise), call out the number of the primary defender. I sometime use it in
actual games to force myself to find the defender and get my eyes off the
dribbler. You’ll be amazed how clearly the block/charge can be officiated if you’re
watching the defensive players.
Simple . . . but, not easy
As I’ve mentioned, almost every camp teaches all of these principles. None of
them are easy to incorporate into your game. It takes work and repetition before
they find their way into our habit patterns. Work at them. I believe they are worth
the effort. They were for me.