Interacting with Referees

In most games there is little reason for the coach to interact with the referees.

If the coach spends all game complaining to the referees and querying calls, they should not be surprised if their players also focus on referee calls – players (and parents) will mimic the coach. In junior basketball, the coach should have very limited interaction with the referees and instead should concentrate on their own team.

In interacting with referees, coaches should:

  • shake hands with the referees before and after the game;
  • if it is necessary to clarify a rule interpretation or bring something to the referee’s attention, ask a specific question and accept the referee’s answer;
  • instead of yelling at the referee during play, the coach should wait for a break in play and then politely ask the referee their question;
  • coaches must accept and expect that referees will make mistakes in every game (in this regard they are just like players and coaches);
  • coaches must also recognize that court positioning mechanics followed by referees are designed to give them the best possible view of the play. The position where the coach is standing is almost always different to the referee (and is not necessarily as good).

Interacting with Scoretable officials Coaches will have interaction throughout the game with scoretable officials, whether that is asking for a timeout, querying how many fouls a particular player has or seeking to clarify whether or not an error has occurred in the score or with the clock.

In many cases the scoretable officials will be volunteers, however regardless of their level of experience the coach should be courteous whenever speaking to them. In particular, although the coach may be frustrated about what is happening on court, when calling a timeout they should not yell or “bark” at the officials. Nor should the coach yell from their own bench and instead they should walk to the scoretable and request the timeout.

If the coach believes that the scoretable has made a mistake they should wait for a break in play and then ask to clarify what they believe is incorrect. The coach can also approach the referee, again during a break in play, and ask them to investigate. If necessary, the coach should call timeout (to stop play) and then speak to the officials.

Yelling at the scoretable, particularly while the game is continuing is not appropriate, and could lead to another error as the officials are distracted from what they should be doing by the coach’s behaviour.

Coaches should remember the importance of them being a role model. The scoretable may make errors, just as players, coaches and referees may make errors. The coach must always remember that context and their role should remain to work with their team – to control what they can control!