Tricks of the Trade

By Billy Martin


A trick of the trade, is a a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way.  People come up with some really cool ideas to make life easier.  You might have heard of a few of these like …


Putting a wooden spoon across a boiling pot to keep if from boiling over.Use Doritos (Corn Chips) if you don’t have any kindling to start a camp fire.Freeze white grapes to chill down your Chardonnay instead of ice to avoid watering it down.Wrap a wet paper towel around your soda (or beer) and place it in the freezer and it will get icy cold in about 15 minutes.

And yes, there are thousands of life tricks like that.

When it comes to basketball officiating, a referee trick could be considered a great tip or technique to manage your game more efficiently and keep you out of trouble.

Here’s a few of my favorite ones. 


Referee Trick #1:


When reporting a foul to the scorer’s table, preload your hands with the double digit player’s number.


In this first year of the NFHS mechanic of two-hand reporting I seem to stumble when bringing my hands up to signal the jersey number.  Early in the year I found myself displaying the numbers backwards to the table.  One of my colleagues mentioned the concept of preloading your hands as you are jogging toward the reporting zone.  I start with my right hand for the first digit and left hand for the second digit while the hands are by the side.  Bringing them up together AND preloaded with the proper numerals on the proper hand, seems to work every time.  While this sounds silly, it really works.  Try it!


Referee Trick #2:


Keep something in your pocket to remember which team is entitled to receive the ball on the next alternating-possession (AP) throw-in.

While I don’t personally do this many of my colleagues do this very successfully.  Just grab a coin, whistle or whatever you like and place it in a pocket before the game.  After the opening tap, whichever position you are in, move that object (if necessary) to the pocket the arrow is facing — as if you were standing in front of the possession arrow — looking at it.  The key here is to make sure you don’t forget to move the object each time after the arrow is turned.  It’s always suggested when the AP arrow is initially set or is changed that ALL crew members take a peek over at their first opportunity.  If it’s not right, make sure to correct this during the next dead ball opportunity.


Referee Trick #3:


Seal the official scorer’s book prior to the game to prevent additions to the roster.


While I’m not a huge fan of the requirement for checking the rosters and starters prior to the game, it’s something we all have to live with.  Prior to the 10 minute mark during pre-game warm-ups and while checking the appropriate entries in the official book, I scratch a line below the last player in the roster and place a number below that line.  For instance if there are 12 players warming up and 12 entries in the roster, I draw a line under the 12th person and write a 12 there.  For the team to add additional players they would have to erase that entry which makes it pretty obvious – resulting in an administrative technical foul.  As a side note — I always print my name (and crew members) in the appropriate spot, so it’s readable.  I believe if you’re NOT a good official they will find your name out easily enough but if you ARE good, make it easy for them to bubble up commentary to your assignor.


Referee Trick #4:

When spotting the ball during a time-out, how you hold the ball determines which team gets the ball during the ensuing throw-in.

One of my favorite tips to young officials focuses on how to hold the ball during a time-out. This trick includes which hand you hold the ball in too!  Similar to trick #2 above, place the ball in the hand that is closest to the endline (or direction) for the team that will be making the throw-in, in relation to facing the table.  I keep the ball in my left hand if going to my left.  And vice versa if going toward my right.  If spotting the ball prior to free-throws, I use my free hand to remind me how many free-throws are coming by holding this down to my side.  Index finger for one free-throw coming, two fingers for two, three fingers for three and hold my index and pinky finger down for a one-and-one bonus.  OK, that might be over the top but it definitely works for me. The key here is for YOU to come up with your own queues and reminders to stay focused on what’s coming next to start play.


Referee Trick #5:


Set your smartphone alarm or online calendar to alert you when it time to leave for your game.


I call this my “cut time” or the hard stop in my busy online calendar that I must be in my car – and actually heading for the game to get there in time.  If you’re the person that has trouble budgeting time (like me) this really works.  Use Google Calendar to run your schedule.  In GCal create two entries — one for the game and one for my “leave by” time.  On weekends when I’m not online, I use my smartphone and just set the same alarm.  When either of these go off I better be in the vehicle or already I’m in trouble. 


Leverage the technology around you to service your schools more efficiently and you will hopefully never arrive late to an assignment.


OK, so maybe these things are not really tricks … but they are really great ideas to keep you on track during the game.

Do you have any good Referee tricks?
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