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Advice from an intramural basketball ref: Stay cool!

Foul, blue 24 with the body," I shout to the mirror, with appropriate gestures towards the fake scorer's table in my bathroom. It's an hour before I head to the Dell, and I'm practicing my calls with whistle in hand, about to embark on the thankless job of summer intramural basketball referee.

As co-MVP of my freshman high school team and a seasoned Dell basketball courts 'baller, I signed up to be a summer Intramural-Recreation Sports basketball referee without hesitation. Earning a smooth $5.95 hourly wage for watching basketball smelled slightly of a pyramid scheme. A large portion of my teenage years was spent watching basketball without monetary compensation, often costing me the price of a ticket, but now someone wants to pay me for it.


Of course, I also would have to run the court and whistle fouls, both of which I do when I am playing at the Dell - sans whistle - so at first I didn't see any work in this so-called job.

Not that I would start off cold. Contrary to common perception, refs are trained. We were taught two-man and three-man mechanics before taking the court. Some of the refs have significant experience as players and refs, some only as players and a few are just basketball greenhorns, but we all needed a reminder of how the game is supposed to be played.

Related Links
  • UVa Intramural Sports
  • Official High School Basketball Rules

    The truth is that image is everything. Almost.

    So after all this training, why do referees still make wrong calls? First of all, it's only a "wrong" call for half the players. It's hard to be objective when you're hoping that one whistle could change the course of the game.

    Also, if refs see a possible foul but are positioned on the opposite side of the court, they often will acquiesce to the judgment of the referee in better position. After all, referees as much as players need to work as a team.

    For the first few games, the referees are either learning a new skill or trying to dust off skills that had been put on the back shelf. I haven't seen a player always make the perfect pass and drain every shot. How can you expect a referee to never make a mistake?

    If you think we made the wrong call, mention it to us but don't fly off the handle. Don't yell, taunt or offer us your glasses unless you want us to ignore you or make use of the "T" hand signal we all had to learn. An even more proactive policy would be to let us know the first time you are fouled, before it escalates into a paint-shoving match.

    By playoff time the reffing kinks should be all but gone, but if any of you have advice on how to look stylish in my thick black-and-white striped polyester referee shirt, please let me know that too. Just not during the game.


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