Do you have "IT"?

Defining the “It” Factor By Referee -

Rules knowledge, mechanics and making the right calls are important. Missing any of those elements can break your career, but having them won’t make it. Wait. What? It’s true. They won’t set you apart. Because all officials should be studying the rules, getting in the right position to make the calls and making the right calls most of the time. Those skills are what bond most officials and make them the same. To set yourself apart from other good officials you must have something else, something special. You need that It Factor. “It” is what assigners, supervisors and other officials are looking for from you.

A number of It Factors emerged from those professionals. Ask yourself if you have what it takes to reach the next level in your officiating or consistently maintain a high performance at the level you’re at.

Passion Do you have a passion for officiating or is it just another means to a paycheck? Money is important, but passion pays off. It counts. If you’re hooked on officiating, your attitude on and off the court with your fellow officials shows that. You want to go to those weekly association meetings (even the long-winded ones). It never enters your mind not to stick around after the game to discuss things with your partners, because you want to get better.

For many officials, it starts with a passion for the game and develops into a passion for officiating.

That passion can carry you in officiating. You will be able to see that passion in your partners and it will grow in you as well. It’s not about getting to the highest level, but rather soaking up the experience at any level.

You learn how to officiate this game in a car in February driving on an icy road in basketball with a man who probably has been doing basketball for 35 years because he loves it, not because he’s on TV, Not because he’s making a bunch of scratch or he’s got a nice 401K — he loves the game. He knows how to manage people.

You’re a young kid in his car and you don’t even know who you are yet let alone interfacing with, someone who is doing this for their love of the game. So now you’re back to the purity of officiating and the purity of the passions.

Officiating in its purest sense is in that car while you pick his brain about the interface you had with that coach in front of 100 people two hours away from your house. And what he said to you, how you responded back because you were young and stupid and weren’t polished enough — and he taught you about yourself indirectly. If you were really smart and paying attention, you were learning about yourself, which was a life-learning experience.

Competition Instinct

A passion for officiating equals a passion for competition. A competitive instinct counts. It shows you want to improve. You want to be better than the veteran official working next to you. You watch the next level because you want to be good enough to reach that next level. You’re disappointed that you didn’t get that state assignment, but instead of moping, you use that “rejection” for motivation to work on your game. You loved the game and you love to compete, and you think as an official that you go out every day and compete against the game to be the best. And when I say, ‘Compete against the game,’ you go out there to be perfect. And we all know as referees and umpires that’s impossible. But that’s our goal when we start that particular game — to be perfect. You want to work with those other people on your crew out there and you want to be perfect, performing at the highest level you want to get this thing done, and you want to do it right.

When you don’t do as well as you set out to do, you don’t let that bring you down. It happens to the best of the best. The key is to not let it knock you out for good. You need to get up and fight to prevent future mistakes.

Sometimes mistakes can be consuming, and you really start to question yourself a little bit, and you start to say, ‘I don’t know.’ But you’ve got to fight it. You’ve just got to keep battling it, and you hope the powers that be have the confidence in you to keep putting you back there.


There are some officials who make you wonder if they will be able to handle a big game, and then there are other officials at various levels that you know will handle the game. Assigners want them on that big rivalry or championship game. Fellow officials want to work with them. Having that command counts.

Convey that confidence, do it the right way and enunciate it correctly.Show you’re in control, and people will believe you’re in control.

Watch referees at all levels in all sports, the good ones,they have command. That’s what they have. The command on the court or the field — how they’re being respected. Now if you call that ‘It,’ they got 'It'

If you have command, you’re a decision-maker. You don’t wait and let your crew members bail you out on a close play. You step up and make the call every time.

Make the decision — if you’re right, (or) you’re wrong. If you’re wrong, who cares? You’ll learn. But when you do something on the court, be definitive.If you are definitive,observers will recognize and appreciate that.

You can be taught what should be called for fouls and violations, you can be taught what you want to let go — you can be taught that. But some stuff comes naturally — that instinct, that deportment, that comportment, that physical nature of being when you’re looking at somebody.

People Skills

How do you interact with players, coaches and your fellow officials? Your personality counts, but being a people person is important in officiating.

What you really got to do is take a step back, and you’ve got to get a little more of your off-court personality and put it on the court because you turn — you laugh for 22 hours, and then for two hours it’s like somebody put Satan in you. You need to come to realize — that you have to be a people person to referee, I didn’t say, ‘Nice guy.’ I said, ‘A people person.' Situation Management

Along with being a people person, you need to be able to handle situations that arise. You need to rise above pressure situations and not let them consume you.

If you wonder why some officials don’t make it, it’s because … they just didn’t get it. They were good at was it a foul or violation — they could do it. But when it came to game time handling of situations, handling coaches , handling the pressure of the game, they couldn’t do it. Handling arguments and other situations is essential in all sports. So when looking for a young official,we’re looking for that It Factor — it’s how someone handles himself in a stressful situation in an argument. And it could be different circumstances, one where he or she is 100 percent right, and the other one is 100 percent wrong, and they know it in both cases. But how aggressive is this young official who’s trying to find their self?

it's how, when you get in those sh– houses, you know how to get yourself out of them. And when you’re right, you’re right, and when you’re wrong you’ve got to be right. And that’s how you’ve got to handle those things.


Officials know the commitment it takes to officiate, but for the most part, no one else cares. And that’s OK. You know you matter to the game. It feels good to be appreciated, which you don’t really strive for but it overwhelms you when it occurs, because without us guys and ladies the game doesn’t happen.

While most officials will not be elevated by an ovation in their careers, knowing that you are important, that your fellow officials are important and that your industry is important counts. It sets you apart.

So, what is the It Factor? It’s passion, humility, confidence, integrity, presence, respect for game, command, flexibility, dedication, trustworthiness, instinct, situation management, communication, pride, investment, people skills and competition instinct.

Does that match your list? It is all of the above.

Every one of those, each word, is what you have to do to be successful, if you think about it, passion, desire, respect … those are the qualities you need as an official at any level.

It is all about how you handle yourself, that’s what makes an official.

You can count on it.

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