Trusting Your Partner


Is it that you don’t trust your partner(s) or is it just your bad habits?

In the world of Basketball Officiating, we always hear “Trust Your Partner, you have to Trust Your Partner/s.”

For the record, I’m not disagreeing with this statement one bit. In fact, it’s very important to trust your partners when you’re working together. Whether it be officiating a basketball game or whatever the task may be. It’s a clear fact that having trust in your partner is to your benefit.

My issue with the term is when it’s spoken about in reference to a partner blowing all over the court or often blowing their whistle outside of their primary coverage areas. In these instances, we’ll hear other officials saying or instructing this official to “trust your partner.”

My question here is, is this action (constantly blowing outside of your primary) a sign of a lack of trust or just an official with Bad Habits?

Let’s Dive into it

On the surface, it seems as if a Basketball Official has a pretty simple job, but anyone that has had any training, put on the stripes and has Officiated in Real Games knows this is no cake walk. There’s much more to this than meets the naked eye.

When 2 or 3 basketball officials get on the court they should already understand that they have each others’ back. This is fundamental.

So when you have a partner that’s blowing their whistle outside of their Primary Coverage Area, (PCA) certain things you may or may not be aware of are happening that can make your game turn to crap in a heartbeat.

When working with less experienced officials, you’re sometimes giving them the impression that you don’t trust them and you need to take over.

This, in turn, will make the young official even more uneasy, causing them to sometimes question even the most obvious fouls and violations.

This action of blowing all over the court also gives coaches and fans the impression that you are the only official on the court that knows what they’re doing. This, in turn, makes your partner look bad and can cause coaches and fans to ride him/her more often throughout the game.

This doesn’t help the newer official at all. Most new officials will trust and lean on their veteran partners. They understand they just started officiating and don’t have much experience, so they usually believe the vet must know better.

Other times the new official has so much going on in their heads while on the court, they don’t even realize what their partner has done.

Some Vets get really angry when their partner blows outside of their primary consistently. I’m sure you can understand how this Bad Habit can cause friction between two or more officials.

Unfortunately, there are times when this action (constantly blowing outside of your primary) can cause things to get ugly.

A knowledgeable coach knows when you’re reaching and possibly guessing on your rulings. This same coach will now question the official who’s standing right in front of the play, putting him/her in a bind. This can cause tension for everyone involved.

The Point is, there’s really no good that comes from the action of blowing outside of your Primary on a regular basis.

No Trust or Bad Habits?

I agree that blowing outside of your primary coverage area does give the appearance of you not trusting your partner/s. But is this really the case?In most cases, I’d argue NO.

What I see, more often is not a lack of trust, but officials that either:

Don’t thoroughly know their Primary Coverage Areas

Have Bad habits of Ball watching and Blowing outside of their PCA

Extreme Arrogance – Feeling like they’re the “Top Dog” Ref and have to always “Save the Day”

Most times Bad Habits is the case.

We’re Creatures of Habit

This is a fact.

Whether you trust someone or not, you will fall back on your habits, in most cases. When you get to know officials and watch enough games, you will notice that you’ll rarely see an official act one way with official A and then totally different when working with officials B and C etc.

The official that blows all over the court with you will in most cases blow all over the court with me. Trust, in my opinion, has very little to do with it.

Although the official that blows all over the court is definitely giving off the perception that they don’t trust you. Rarely is Trust the reason why they’re doing it.

The root of the problem is the development of Bad Habits over time.

Most times, the official that blows all over the basketball court has been told this many times. Their excuse may be ‘well I had to because he/she was letting stuff go right in front of them…’ or ‘Coach A was gettin’ crazy, so I had to help him out…’

Don’t get me wrong, with a very new official, sometimes you have to make rulings outside of your area. This should be discussed with the official in a way to encourage them. You want them to understand that “we are in this together.” You want to instil confidence in the young official. If you’re blowing in their primaries consistently it will only make the newer official more timid with their whistle.


Of course, you will definitely pick up a bad habit or two from time to time.

The 1st step in correcting any bad habit is being aware of your bad habits. 

Key Points to Remember

Know Your Primary Coverage Area for the Lead, Trail and Center Positions like the back of your hand, If you’re going to blow outside of your primary, make sure you’re 110% sure (Allow your partner to have 1st crack at it)

Your manual is your friend. Read and study it regularly. The Truth is, most officials don’t. This is no excuse for you, you have to stay acquainted with the proper rules and mechanics of our game.

 Your manual clearly outlines the Primary coverage area from the Lead, Trail and Center positions. If you are unclear about your responsibilities, you can find the answers in the manual or ask a trusted veteran. There’s really no excuse.

Work to stay in your primary each and every game. Keep this in your mind throughout the game and use self-talk if that helps.Every Official on the basketball court has a responsibility and a job to do depending on where they are on the court.

If you are taking care of your business, you have more than enough to worry about.

There’s no need to constantly look in your partner’s area. Don’t ball watch, watch the action within your primary area.

Remember, there are more players off the ball than on, so catch some off ball illegal contact. This will raise your credibility as an official.

So take care of your business, in your Primary 1st and foremost.

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