Do yourself a favor, give refs a break

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Three seconds! That's three seconds! Traveling! He traveled! OVER THE BACK! SHE'S OVER THE BACK!

I've heard these phrases shouted in gyms for years. I've shouted them myself a few times. But now, instead of sitting next to the shouters, I hear those shouts being directed at me. Yes, I turned in my coach's whistle for a refereeing whistle (the Fox40 to be exact...the Cadillac of referee whistles).

And let me tell you all something, as someone who has coached, reffed and watched plenty of basketball: Ya'll sound really dumb shouting things at officials. I mean it. Real dumb.

First, no official has changed or made a call because a fan yelled something. Normally we don't even hear you after we've already called it, or, most often, realize how little you know about the game of basketball when you call for three seconds right after a rebound. Then we laugh.

Second, no good official has changed or made a call because a coach yelled something. There's a way to get an official to look for the call you want. Screaming at him across the floor is not it. Asking him nicely during a dead ball or timeout would be a much better option.

Third, shouting at officials makes you look silly. You get all red-faced, veins popping out of your height, blood pressure flying through the roof. For what? A high school basketball game? Here's an idea, let your kid play and you just watch and support. That'll do wonders for your long-term health.

Fourth, and probably more important, when you shout at officials it gives your players an excuse. This is the more damaging of all referee-related blunders.

I've worked games at Clinton, Janesville, and Beloit. I teach at Clinton and taught some of the players in the game I officiated. Guess what? I haven't thought about the winner and loser of those games. All a referee wants to do is call a good, clean game, but fans seems to think they have it out for their team if a call goes awry. Instead, you know what is possible? Your team fouls more than the other team. Your team travels more than the other team. Your team messes up more than the other team. That, as shocking as it sounds, is entirely possible.

Something else I've noticed is both coaches and fans seem to latch onto one call for the entire game. Lots of times it's traveling. Every time an opposing player touches the ball, someone yells traveling. Other common chirps are "Reach!", "Over-the-back!", "Three seconds!!" and just plain, old "FOUL!"

While we are on the subject, over the back is not actually a foul. It's a foul to make contact with someone and go through that person for the ball. But sometimes, a player is blessed with the gift of height, and they can reach over the top of someone else without making contact. Even though they are going "over the back", it's not actually a foul. Sorry.

Couple more important things. First, the easiest game to ref is between two good teams. I did a Craig JV boys game against Burlington where both teams played at a high level. The fouls are more obvious as were the violations. It was a breeze.

The most challenging games to ref are between two teams that are not, ummm, skilled. Players push, grab, hold. They travel, jump through people, reach on defense. I did a freshman game where we called over 40 fouls. No ref wants to call 40 fouls, but we had it. And we could have called more!

In that game, the fouls were almost even (22-21) or something like that, but one team had two players foul out. Their coach said we weren't doing a good job calling it both ways. That was fun.

Also, I had a parent complaining about a traveling violation during a 7th grade game. Hey everyone, here's the deal. Listen close. We could call traveling every possession in a 7th grade game. Every. Single. Possession. So if you want that traveling call you are harping on, we have to call them all. Instead, we call it when it's egregious and leads to a significant advantage for the offensive player. Otherwise, we'd be there all day. I've got Taco Bell to eat. I'm not doing that.

It's not all bad, though. The best part about officiating is the kids. The kids are nice, fun, and seem to still be playing the game because they enjoy it. Oh, and refs notice when you get the ball for us or say "thank you" when we hand the ball in. We like that.

Honestly, refereeing is pretty fun. It helps me stay in shape a little, watch some basketball, and appreciate the game from a different perspective. However, if you really think you can do it so well from the stands, why not go to and sign up to be an official? The pay isn't bad and you get to wear slimming stripes!

Anyway, with the WIAA playoffs right around the corner, please remember that a referee has feelings, too. He or she literally does not care who wins and doesn't care what you think, so just cheer for your team, encourage the fans around you to do the same thing, and for god's sake, please stop yelling three seconds. There was just a shot! It resets after a shot! Ahhh nevermind.

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