I have been around basketball officiating for over 50 years and the one big complaint I heard in 1960 is the same complaint I hear in 2011.  Ask any coach what they want most from basketball officials and they will reply that they just want us to be consistent.   Just be consistent!  Well I thought in 1960 that that statement was “bull” and I still think it’s “bull” in 2011.  What most coaches want is for us to call the game “consistently” in their favor.

As one of my mentors recently said, coaches see the game through glasses tinted in their school colors.  They cannot help it.  There is no one more emotionally involved in the game than the coaches.  Officials see the game through “grey or neutral” tinted glasses.  We are nowhere near as emotionally involved in the outcome of the game as the coaches are.

None the less, we as officials should be extremely interested in our ability to be as consistent as we can be when officiating a basketball game.  That should be our mantra.  We want to get plays right as consistently as is humanly possible.  That’s should be our bottom line.  Get plays right consistently.

So, what exactly is consistency, and how do we as officials achieve it. I think there are three levels of consistency that basketball officials should be concerned about.

Being consistent with your self is the first level of consistency and the level we have the most control over.  What that means is that during this game tonight and tomorrow’s game and the rest of the games this season I will rule on “like” calls the same way.  In other words I will “match” my calls.  Similar block-charge plays that I have will be called the same way during this game and tomorrow’s game and the rest of the season.  The challenge to this mindset is to determine just what are like “like” or “similar” calls.  Not all block-charge calls are similar.

The second level of consistency is for the officials on my crew tonight to match “like calls.”   Obviously, we have less control over this kind of consistency.  We have another or two other officials involved in this level of consistency.  It is a challenge of several levels.  They may not have as deep of an understanding of the rules as you do.  They may not have as much experience.  They may not get the same great position to see plays that you do.  They may not be as athletic.  They may not be as courageous. There are several challenges involved with being consistent with your crew.

One of the biggest challenges on this level of consistency is seeing the play that your partner called.  Presumably you are focusing on your primary and may not see the hand check or body bump on a cutter.  Verticality plays in the paint, however, may be observed by all officials involved but from different angles.

Here is a “war story.”  Think of “war stories” as data with a “soul.”   In the early 1970’s I was working one of my first small college games with an older “crusty” official named Leo Bahl from Denver.  It was the first time I had ever met him. The first time down the court I was the lead and Leo was the trail in the old two person system.  I was focused on the post players.  Out of the side of my eye I saw something happen to a cutter.  I wasn’t exactly sure what it was.  At that moment I heard Leo’s whistle and then he loudly announced, “Cutters go free men, that’s a foul every time.”  Leo was doing two things with that announcement.  First he was setting parameters for players and secondly he was telling me what he had called so I could “match” it later on.  Leo was helping his crew be consistent.

Here is another issue about “matching” with your crew.  What if a crew mate totally turns around a block-charge play early in the game?   Are you going to “match it.”  Probably not!  Two wrongs don’t make a right.

The third level of consistency is for this crew tonight to be consistent with the crew that had each of these teams last Friday night. And be consistent with the crew for tomorrow night’s game.   Good luck here!  Each of these teams was and will be playing a different team in a different environment.  The teams last week may have been bigger, better or smaller and worse.  Maybe they pressed the whole game last week.  Maybe both teams played zones last week.  Maybe the teams tonight didn’t play nearly as well last week.  Basketball teams have been known to play inconsistently.  This level is a huge challenge.  This is where association meetings are so important to make sure the whole officiating family is on the same page.  This is why we have state and local clinics.  This is why we go to camp.  We want the entire officiating family to get plays right!  Meeting, clinics and camps are a big way of achieving this goal.

So what can we do to try and be more consistent?  The pre-game conference can help a great deal if we talk about specific plays and how we want to call them.  Talk about specific plays and what rule guidelines are involved.  Here is a list of situations where consistency may be vital to our crew’s success tonight.

[unordered_list style=”green-dot”]

  • Travel/palming
  • FOM/ players with the ball/ players without the ball (This is huge)
  • Post play (This is huge)
  • Protecting the shooter
  • Continuous Motion (We are often inconsistent here)
  • Verticality/ including rebounding and blocked shots (This is huge)
  • Beginning of the game/ End of game…If it is a foul early then it should………
  • Three seconds
  • Coaches box
  • Score/time left…Managing lopsided games
  • Add other situations that you think are valuable


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