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Official Relationship

Read any high school sports publication and chances are you will see something about the decreasing amount and availability of referees. And one of the reasons often cited for this decline is the treatment that they receive from players, parents, fans, and even coaches. But without a referee, athletes can’t play. As a coach, you can help turn this issue on its head by paying close attention to the way that you treat officials. 

In an article for Basketball for Coaches, Founder and Coach Trevor McLean describes an experience at a tournament where he witnessed coaches yelling at referees and even receiving technical fouls and ejections. To help coaches learn to positively deal with referees, he offers a few tips to remember during competition. First, is to keep in mind that nobody is perfect, including the officials.

“They’re not going to make the correct call 100% of the time,” writes McLean. “Just like you and I aren’t going to make the correct coaching decision every single time. Just because they make an incorrect call doesn’t mean they need to ‘get their eyes checked’ or ‘learn the rule book.’ Stop expecting perfection and start expecting consistency.”

When you do think that the referee has made an incorrect call, McLean says to remember that you might see some things that the referee misses and vice versa, as you will constantly have different views of the play in question. And even if you disagree, he explains that coaches need to remember that they are a role model for the athletes.

“If they see you being overly angry at the referees, you can bet [the athletes] won’t be far behind you,” writes McLean. “Don’t teach them bad habits. Teach them to stay under control and fight through it mentally when things are going their way.”

Furthermore, McLean recommends setting an expectation that athletes are never to argue with the referees. Sports are a conduit for learning about the real world, and learning how to keep themselves calm in the face of an outcome they do not agree with on the field of play will hopefully help them learn to do this outside of athletics. Coaches can help with this by controlling their own anger and adjusting to the referees style.

“For example, some referees allow the players to play tougher in the paint than other referees do,” write McLean. “Everyone’s heard the phrase ‘take what the defence gives you,’ right? Well in some ways that rule also applies to referees, ‘take what the referees give you.’ Adjust your coaching style to suit the way they’re calling the game.”    

Last, McLean stresses the importance of keeping your players and yourself accountable for the negative outcome of a game, rather than placing the blame for a loss on the officials. When athletes blame referees, chances are they won’t see any issue with their own choices on the field of play and will see not reason to work harder and improve. Instead, McLean recommends telling players that their actions throughout the entire game affect the outcome, not just one or two calls from a referee.

Click here to read the full article.

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