By Todd Von Sossan

Use the proper signals and mechanics in the Mechanics manual: Most importantly ­ STOP THE CLOCK! You are not only communicating with the players, coaches, and fans, you are communicating with your fellow officials. Don’t create your own signals; officiate as the rule books are written. As an example; late in the fourth quarter of a close ball game A­1 drives to the basket and collides with B­1 who is attempting to take a charge. The lead official blows his whistle and begins to signal a player­control foul (but does not raise a fist to stop the clock), the center official also blows his whistle on the play but correctly raises a fist to stop the clock. Due to large crowd noise the center official cannot hear his partners whistle and since his partner at lead does not raise a fist to stop the clock he assumes his partner does not have a call on the play and immediately calls a blocking foul. At the same time the lead official is giving a player­control signal for the same foul. This is commonly referred to as a “Blarge”. This puts the officiating crew in a bad situation that should never have occurred had we used the proper signals, mechanics and communication skills with our partners.

Here are some key points in regards to mechanics and signals:

  • Always work to get an angle to see between players. Think of taking a photo of the players you are observing. You want that picture to clearly show all the players involved in that play, not the back of one player and part of the other player who is front of him. This is called being straight‐lined and does not allow us the best angle to make the call. Constantly move to avoid being caught in a straight‐lined position.
  • Hustle and move with a purpose to get the best angle (to avoid being straight‐lined). Don’t move just for the sake of moving. If you have a good angle and are able to see through the players, stay where you are.
  • Break the playing court down into portions and referee your portion at that particular time of the game. As the ball moves, your area of responsibility moves with it, anticipate the play of the game ‐ do not anticipate the call.
  • When at the Lead position, as the ballreverses from one side of the court to the other close down to the free‐throw line extended and prepare to rotate. Once the ball is clearly on the centerside, rotate to the new lead position on the otherside of the court. An easy key of when to rotate is to observe the post players. If at lead the post players are on yourside of the floor and as the ballreverses they move to the opposite block, chances are the offense may attempt an entry pass into their post player. Read the play and rotate as the post players change their position on the floor.
  • When at the Center or Trail position and a shot is attempted, close down. Take a step (or two) towards the baseline of the basket the shot is being attempted at. Always be in a position that if the offensive team rebounds the ball you are where you need to be to officiate the next play. Never worry about getting beat down the floor on a fast break because we are all going to get beat down the floor from time to time. When you do get beat on a fast break simply stop short of the baseline and view that play going to the basket. This is the same angle when standing on the baseline viewing that play coming at the basket.
  • When as the Center official and a shot is made, stay where you are. You have no responsibilities deep; the new Lead official is responsible for those players. Always be prepared for a pressing situation. If you bail out down the court and a team applies a full court press you are leaving the Trail official to observe potentially 6 players with you as the Center along with the Lead observing only 4 players.
  • In transition each officialsimply take care of their 1/3 of the court from sideline to sideline. As the players move up the court the Lead official has the front 1/3 of the pack, the Center official has the middle 1/3 of the pack and the Lead official has the back 1/3 of the pack.
  • And finally, the dreaded drive to the basket from the Center officialside going towards the Lead official, who takes the call? A few things to think about: We allstarted officiating in a two‐man game. The rule of thumb in a two‐man game is the official the play is coming at has the first opportunity to call the foul if contact is made. In the three‐man game, as the play goes away from the Center official towards the Lead official and a foul occurs, if I am the Center official I may blow my whistle and stop the clock but I will not signal the type of foul until I identify my partner at the Lead position to see if he has also made a call on this play. This prevents a “blarge”situation. There are very few absolutes in officiating and you always need to be prepared to make a call no matter what position of the floor you are on, but when making a call be aware that your partner may also have a call on the same play. Identify your partner, slow down your whistle and yoursignals and this should eliminate and at least limit these situations from occurring.
  • There is a saying, “You can’t sink one end of a boat”. You and your partners are either going to look good together or bad together. Having a thorough pre‐game and using the proper mechanics, signals and communication skills throughout the game will go along way in eliminating problems and will put your officiating crew in a positive position for that game.