I have been assigning high school regular season and play-off games for nearly 20 years. I have assigned literally thousands of games. Predictably, I have received some feedback from coaches, athletic directors and parents about some of the officials that I have assigned. In these twenty years, however, I have never had anyone complain that the officials called the game too closely. Not one coach, not one athletic director, not one parent. I can tell you though, that I have had lots of feedback about the officials letting the game get too rough, out of control and “someone is going to get hurt out there.”
Not that all these folks were experts in evaluating officiating performance by any means. They were not. I think, however, there may be a simple message here that we as officials may want to file away in the back of our minds, especially as play-offs approach. That message may be that it is better to be a little tight, than to be a little or a lot loose.
The acronym RSBQA is a powerful tool for officials. If the ball handler’s rhythm, balance, speed quickness or agility was impaired then probably a foul call is in order. Yes, we want to have a patient whistle to see if the player can “play through” the bump. We teach at Dave Hall’s camps that you want to officiate the result of the contact, not the contact itself. That’s what the patient whistle does. It allows us to officiate the result of the contact. But, if the dribblers balance or his/her rhythm is impaired he or she did not “play through it.”
When there is a loose ball on the floor the same contact rules apply that are used in the rest of the game. Players probably should not be able to undercut, push or pile on the opposition in an attempt to get the 50-50 balls. Yes, there can be incidental contact when players have equal opportunity to get the ball, but players should not get to “pile on” like there was a quarter back sneak at the goal line.
Cutters should run free. It is basic to the game. Make sure it is assured right from the beginning of the game. Get the post chuck early and be death on the grab of the back cutting player. It is freedom of movement. Ensure it!
Screeners cannot be moving when contact takes place. Don’t let the screening post roll to pick off the defender who decides to go underneath the screen. Don’t let the hedge screener pick off defenders with their out stretched knees. Conversely, if defenders force their way through a legal screen they probably need to be whistled for a foul. Purposely blasting through a screen leads to a rougher game. Penalize it the first time it occurs and players will adjust or they will be sitting.
“Displacement” is the keyword for officiating the post. Once a player, either an offensive player or a defensive player gets to a spot legally they should not be physically displaced by their opponent. Don’t let the defender move the offensive post player off his/her spot with a knee or forearm and don’t let the offensive post “back down” a defender. Not dealing with these situations the first time they occur may lead to a much rougher game and more difficult decisions down the road. Also, remember, once the offensive post gets the ball, he or she is just like a point guard. Hands off! No forearms either.
Apply the laws of verticality to rebounding situations. The key to officiating is the position of the ball when it comes off the rim with respect to the rebounders involved. Draw a straight line down from the ball at its apex and rule on verticality from there. Both defenders are allowed to go straight up and there will be inadvertent contact on almost all rebounds. Make sure verticality is maintained. Often the inside rebounder jumps back into the rebounder behind trying to coral a rebound which is behind him. Remember verticality goes both ways. Also, apply the “possession consequence” philosophy when contact is incidental.
Make sure we protect a shooter whose skill has earned a good shot. Make sure their elbow is not popped and make sure they get to the ground safely. Don’t let them get undercut or bumped after the ball is gone and before they are back to the floor. Respect the defenders right to contest the shot, but remember it must be done within the laws of verticality. Stay with the shooter, especially the 3 point shooter and get them back to the floor safely. Conversely, don’t bail out an offensive player who is “out of control” unless they really get railroaded by the defense. Also beware of offensive players behind the backboard “creating contact” and trying to get a shot the defense has taken away from them.
Finally make sure we have a whistle on “train wrecks” and “run over’s.” Find the defender on block charge plays and make sure they have LGP. Don’t split hairs. If the contact is on the torso it is probably a charge. A good post contact clue is that if both players fall in the same direction it is probably a charge. Know where the defender was when the dribble driver left the floor. Talk about the pass crash and who covers it in your pre-game conference. Draw up several scenarios and decide who looks at what. It is hard to defend a “No call” when two players forcefully collide and go to the floor.
There is a good and right distinction between a well played “physical” game and a “rough” game. Don’t let any of your games get rough. Call it and they will adjust.