Recruit, Retain & Celebrate Sports Officials

How To Become a Basketball Official

Basketball officiating is great if you are interested in being constantly active and closely involved with the game action. Basketball is also a sport you can officiate nearly year-round via school, club, AAU and amateur contests and therefore has a higher earning potential than many other sports.

Why Real Officials Love What They Do

You Meet All Types

You meet just about every type of person there is and you have to learn to deal with all of them in a manner that shows that you deserve to be called an “official.” You meet cheaters, schemers, geniuses and idiots. You meet talented, mediocre and middle-of-the-road people. No matter who you meet, you have to deal with them as people who deserve the best from you. No matter what age, talent, salary, race or sex, you must give your all. You are expected to be perfect and improve after that.

Rick EberhardtBuffalo, N.Y., a 36-year basketball official

It is the Best Seat in the House

I love officiating because of the challenge. It is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, we miss plays every night, but the challenge of trying to be perfect and get every play right is why I love it so much. There is no better feeling then walking back into the locker room with your partners and knowing that we worked together as a team and that we gave everything we had for those 48 minutes.

Ed MalloyNBA referee from Aston, Pa.

It Has Toughened Me Up

Because of officiating I see clearly that life moments often are not about winning or even losing. It’s about being the best you can be in that moment and accepting the outcome. Sometimes I may not like the outcome, but I accept it knowing I did my best and move forward. I’ve learned how to deal with difficult crowds; I have been called things my mother did not name me. I have watched winners lose and losers win. Each year I learn something that makes me a better official and a better person. Each year I meet people that inspire me and people who serve my life no purpose, but I learn from all of it.

Bertha MooreHigh school basketball official from Baltimore, Md.

Things To Consider

Physical Demands

Basketball officials are moving constantly. There are no opportunities for rest while play is ongoing because basketball officials need to adjust their positions constantly to see the action as player positions shift. You will run between 1 and 4 miles during a competitive basketball game. Most basketball games take place indoors, but because of the activity level, hydration is something basketball officials take seriously. As the players you’re officiating get older and the competitive levels increase, the physical demands also increase.

Mental Demands

Basketball officials work with one or sometimes two or three partners. You will shift between the lead position and the trail or center position many times per game, and thus, your responsibilities will change constantly. Basketball officials are also closer to the players, coaches and the fans than in other sports and must be able to focus and ignore distractions. You will also need to be able to handle hearing verbal criticism from the stands and sometimes communicate with coaches. Teamwork and support for and from your partners is crucial to success in basketball officiating.

Training

Basketball requires officials to move to different positions around the court, and be responsible for watching different parts of the action depending on where they are. To maximize your success, you’ll have to learn all these positions well. You can train yourself with rulebooks and manuals from the Referee Training Center, but you should also join a local officials association where you can expect lectures, demonstrations and exercises that will prepare you for what you’ll face.

Different organizations have different requirements, but most require at least attendance at a meeting to go over any current rule changes. Additional requirements may be a written test with a minimum passing score, payment of fees for the upcoming season and association meeting attendance.

Equipment

  • Polished, black, athletic shoes.
  • Black socks.
  • Black beltless slacks.
  • A striped V-neck shirt no collar.
  • A whistle and a lanyard.

Estimated cost: $200. Once you join a local officiating association, there may be veteran officials who are willing to give or sell you “hand–me–downs” to help you get geared up at a reduced cost.

Game Fees

Game fees vary widely based on the players’ age group, competitive level and the state you officiate in. The fees range from $10-$25 for youth games and $25-$100 for competitive high school games. To maximize your income, you can work a combination of levels several days a week, including weekend tournaments where you can work games all day. You can also work adult amateur, club and AAU basketball year-round to make reliable income. A basketball official with a full schedule can make several hundred dollars per week outside their normal jobs.

Certification

Here’s the path for starting and continuing your officiating career:

Youth Level

Many officials start at the youth level. Contact your local recreation department leaders. Your local association should also help you make contacts to get games. Parks & Rec departments offer youth and adult games in many cities and you can potentially work multiple games per day on the weekends for schools and independent organizations, enhancing your earning potential.

High School

National Federation of State High School AssociationsAfter working youth games, you may feel you have the skills and confidence to work higher levels of competition. You may also start at this level if you have a good grasp of the rules and/or experience as a player. For jr. high games, ask your association leader or contact your school district. For high school games, you’ll need to work with an assigner through your local association. Any work with sanctioned school games requires you to be registered through your state, to prove you’re competent.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) is the nation’s governing body for high school athletics. Through them you can get all the information you need from your state to register and start the process to work High School sports.

Begin your high school basketball officiating journey at highschoolofficials.com

In most cases, your state association can put you in contact with a local officials’ association. Local associations assign games, many times offer mentoring programs and assist in training.

High school athletic directors, association assigners and other officials can also get you games.

Plan to attend local camps and clinics. They are focused on helping officials learn and improve.

College

College basketball officiating is highly competitive. Officials with one year of youth experience would most likely not be a candidate even though there isn’t a designated number of years of experience to reach the college ranks. Obtaining a conference schedule and advancement within a conference is based on the league or conference. When first trying to enter a college conference, talk with officials who are currently in the conference. They can give you valuable information such as the conference commissioner and officiating camps to attend. College athletic directors or sports information directors can also be helpful.

You may start your career in the NAIA, work a NCAA Division III conference, advance to a Division II schedule, then on to a smaller Division I conference and culminate with a major Division I schedule. Attending officiating camps is an important tool to improve your officiating. Not only can you learn from experienced veterans, you can be seen by those who assign games at that level, most often conference commissioners or officiating supervisors.

The collegiate national governing bodies:

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
PO Box 6222
Indianapolis, IN 46206-6222
317-917-6222

National Association Of Intercollegiate Athletics

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
23500 W. 105th Street
PO Box 1325
Olathe, KS 66051-1325
913-791-0044

NJCAA

National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)
PO Box 7305
Colorado Springs, CO 80933- 7305
719-590-9788

Professional BASKETBALL

Professional basketball officials come exclusively through NCAA Division I conferences because they need experience with athletes of that caliber. Many Division I conference officiating coordinators are NBA/WNBA or former NBA/WNBA officials also, so if your desire is to reach the NBA/WNBA, focusing on rising in the college ranks should be your objective.

National Association of Sports Officials

You may also consider joining NASO, the only nation-wide officials support organization. As a member-driven community; NASO exists to unite, celebrate, develop and protect all officials so that they can reach their goals and take pride in their contributions to the benefits that sports provide society.

Learn more about NASO at NASO.org.

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