By Joe Henricksen

Yo, stripes! Lose the attitude

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By Joe Henricksen

In all honesty, I can't think of a more thankless position to be in than a high school basketball official. Think about it. The goal of an official is to walk out of a gym having those in attendance not even knowing you were there.

I admire and respect what these three individuals do every time I head out to a gym and the impact they have on a game so many people love. High school refs aren't living the luxury of a NBA official. They aren't getting paid the huge amounts of cash, in the neighborhood of $700 - $1,000 per game, college officials who do Big Ten, ACC and Big East games are receiving.

These guys have it even rougher than high school football officials, who are at least outdoors and 30 or 40 yards away from the prep fans who sometimes border insane. In Illinois high school basketball, the men in stripes are controlling the most high-profile sport in the state--and doing it just feet away from fans in the stands and constantly within earshot of both coaches. The skin they have must be elephant tough. And at least half of the calls a ref makes, someone in the gym disagrees with -- often times when it's 100 percent accurate. The worst part is officials are vastly underpaid and underappreciated, especially the good ones, while also constantly being placed at the center of the storm.

But ...

You knew there was a big but coming.

There is a rapidly growing trend among high school basketball officials. And it's being seen too regularly by those closest to the game and is certainly alarming. That trend is an arrogance and haughtiness attitude in regard to the game, making calls and the way they are treating both players and coaches. There seems to be a greater desire to engage in confrontation than ever before. With some of these individual officials (and again it's a small number but the concern is it's a growing one) it's become so blatant and almost embarrassing. There is a way to go about making calls and controlling a game.

The Hoops Report would love to call out certain individual officials by name (and there are many high school basketball coaches who would love for me to do so as well). But it's not about singling them out. This isn't even about officials blowing calls.

There are going to be missed calls. There may be several missed calls each game. We're talking humans who sometimes don't have the best angle or they simply get it wrong. In fact, I rarely ever get in an uproar over poor officiating. While it's certainly not ideal, I'm in the belief that when it comes to poor officiating, most of the time it evens itself out over the course of a game. And just like any profession, there are going to be bad ones in officiating as well.

But what I -- and many others -- are getting put off by is the growing arrogance and attitude of particular officials. Again, this is not about blown calls but about professionalism slowly slipping away for far too many of them. A reminder to all officials: the game is not about you. Ever. There isn't a single person (Ok, maybe the wife of the ref) who has ever paid a single dollar to come watch you officiate. You can take control of a game without being the show. And try to think back to why it is you first got into doing what you do. It hopefully had something to do with the kids on that court.

There are outstanding officials out there. A couple of years ago the City/Suburban Hoops Report did a "Best Of" issue in its publication, which included every category imaginable in high school basketball. The lengthy list included "Best official." When the project and research began, the Hoops Report didn't believe there would be a consensus on one official. There are too many out there and too many individual perceptions. The thought was the category "Best official" would have to be scratched. But as the survey and research went on, it became abundantly clear there was a run-away winner.

Fred Allman, a respected official who has worked eight supersectional games and three Elite Eights, was the clear winner. And the Hoops Report can't help but think back to the reasoning many of those coaches gave for putting Allman at the top.

Sure, he obviously calls a good game. But the consensus of the high school coaches surveyed was that he handled and communicated with individual players and coaches far superior than his peers. Coaches noted how he is fair, consistent and comes to the floor without an ego. He takes responsibility and understands the game is way more important than himself. There are plenty of other officials that bring the same intangibles and credibility to the floor -- official Kevin Grayer is another example of an official who just gets it when watching him work a game -- but Allman is the poster-child due to the survey the Hoops Report put out.

Allman and several other standout officials represent the best at what they do and are widely respected. In fact, you have to feel bad for the good ones in the profession as the bad apples are beginning to truly contaminate the whole bunch. But the Hoops Report has seen more "shows" put on by officials and unwarranted technical fouls called this season than it can ever remember. There has been one example after another where I have shook my head at how officials have handled situations with players, coaches and even fans. And added stories told to me by coaches--coaches who weren't the ones victimized or targeted but were there--add fuel to the Hoops Report's officiating fire.

Once again, players can be very disrespectful, coaches can get out of hand and fans can be idiots. Anyone who has seen enough games realizes this. But while players can get Ts, coaches can be forced to sit on the bench, fans can be tossed out of a gym and games can be impacted because of it all, there are really no repercussions for the outlandish behavior and attitudes (again, not bad calls) of officials.

For starters, we need them. Badly. There is an absolute demand for them due to a shortage of officials, especially good ones, statewide. Second, there aren't any TV cameras (usually), HDTV, replays, ESPN and national TV games showing their costly mistakes or behavior in a gym on a Friday night. And third, for some ridiculous reason the IHSA has a rule in place where officials can only work the State Finals in Peoria three times. Once an official has reached his magic mark of three, he is no longer allowed to officiate on the state's biggest stage.

Huh? The best at what they do can't do it anymore because they've done it too many times? An official like Allman, who was a run-away winner in a survey of 150-plus coaches naming the best official in the state, will never do a state tournament game in Peoria again due to having done three already.

There are many issues surrounding the state of high school basketball officiating. A shortage, lack of pay, not allowing the best to do the biggest games, just being plain bad, etc. But the escalating concern of arrogance, ego, confrontation and the desire to be the show is just simply a change in attitude.

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80 Comments

I was JUST thinking this last weekend and noted to some buddies at a game how officiating has really changed at the high school level. Some of them now mock coaches and players. Exactly. Yes it is a very tough job. But dont do it if your going to handle it the way some of them do.

For starters, I am not an official and would never be one. Couldn't pay me enough. But it is obviously a very hard job because there are so many bad ones. Have you ever watched a sophomore game? JV game? Oh my! So I have to think it is impossible to do.

With some of them it is all about ego for sure. And you are right that it ruins it for the good ones out there. Think about the good ref that is paired up with a bad one? How would you like to work with someone who is just bad? Fans just lump those officials all together most of the time when sometimes it is just one blowing it.

I see your points but the other factor in this is that fans have become way worse as well. Parents, crowds are more obnoxious than ever. Hard to listen and deal with that and not be impacted by it I think.

I don't envy refs. But then again, they do understand the pressures they are under before they hit the court. If an official would be consistent, that would really add to the level of the game. It's hard for players to play by the rules when the rules change during the game. And I've seen that several times this year. Guys, please, just be consistent in your definition of a charge, over the back, etc. Also, one thing that really bothers me, is when kids are getting cheap shot right in front of a referee and the ref just ignores it. I saw a kid get two-handed shoved out of bounds while the official looked at him and the ref did absolutely nothing. It was very obvious. There was no mistaking what happened as a box out. The ref just shrugged when he was booed. So he did see the play. Most ref's are really very good. They do their best and it shows. But there are a small few that just don't belong on the floor.

Its just getting out of control with some of these referees. I know a friend who is a high school varsity ocach who is pretty intense and is well liked by some officials but just hated by others. The reason......when he questions a call he really means he questions it and is just looking for a response. When the official gives it to him he says OK and continues coaching and thats it. He repspects the officials who talk to him even if he disagrees with a call they make. But alot of these guys have this attitude how dare you question me and won't communicate back usually with a technical. Instead of working with the coach they escalate things

As a wife of a coach and a mom of two boys who have played high school basketball in the last couple of years it is apparent some refs have an agenda. It may be subconscious but it is obvious nonetheless.

Honestly Joe, this piece you wrote was badly needed and should be addressed.

I totally agree with what you have written. The key point that was asked, "Why did they get into that profession." Hopefully the answer was for the kids. When they take their frustration out on the coach or the crowd they are only hurting the kids who have worked so hard and for so long to get a fair shake. The other point I would like to make is I see Referees carrying their emotions and feelings with them from one game to another. This is wrong. Each game should be fresh and new.

Please, please, please someone forward this to the IHSA. Do they even know what is happening out there with some officials who have become complete renegades?

NO NEED TO BE NICE ABOUT IT. MANY OF THESE REFS NEED TO HANG UP THE WHISTLE. NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE BAD, BUT BECAUSE THEY TAKE THINGS PERSONAL WITH CERTAIN COACHES, PLAYERS, SCHOOLS, ECT.... SOME OF THESE GUYS TRY TO ACT LIKE THE GAME IS ABOUT THEM. WELL, GUESS WHAT? IT'S NOT!! NO ONE CAME TO THE GAME TO SEE "THE REF". I AGREE THAT FRED AND KEVIN ARE GREAT REFS AND GREAT FOR THE GAME. THEY UNDERSTAND WHY THEY ARE OUT THERE. TO ALL YOU SENSITIVE, EGO TRIPPING, THINK THE GAME IS ABOUT YOU REFS.. LET THE KIDS DECIDE WHO WINS THE GAMES...NOT YOU!!! DON'T CALL AGAINST A TEAM BECAUSE YOU DON'T LIKE THE COACH, A CERTAIN PLAYER, OR BECAUSE YOU HANG OUT AT BARS WITH CERTAIN COACHES. GO TO BED AT NIGHT KNOWING YOU DID THE BEST YOU COULD DO FOR THE GAME, AND THE TEAM THAT WON, WON BECAUSE THEY PLAYED TOUGHER, SMARTER, AND DESERVED TO WIN...DON'T YOU DECIDE BY MAKING CALLS YOU SHOULD NOT MAKE OR NOT MAKING CALL YOU KNOW YOU SHOULD. THESE ARE HIGH SCHOOL KIDS AND YOU ARE A HIGH SCHOOL REF(NOT A BIG TIMER). IF YOU REFUSE TO DO THE RIGHT THINGS OUT THERE, THEN YOU SHOULD FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO TO MAKE SOME EXTRA CASH. FRED AND KEVIN NEED TO HOLD "REF 101" AND ALL OF YOU "THINK YOU KNOW REFS" SHOULD SIGN UP FOR THE CLASS AND LEARN FROM THE BEST. I COULD DROP NAME AFTER NAME, BUT THE COACHES, PLAYERS, FANS, WRITERS, FELLOW REFS, AND MOST OF ALL "YOU BAD REFS" KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!!!

Joe, the two things that frustrate me the most about the current state of refereeing are 1) the combative, unprofessional nature of certain referees and 2) lack of consistency in enforcing the rules as written. In the last couple of weeks I have seen a ref get involved in an exchange with fans while play was going on and another ref who tried to bait a coach into a “T” and when the coach didn’t say anything he gave him a “T” anyway. As Larry pointed out above, that two hand shove in the back happens several times a game and God only knows what over-the-back means anymore. Call the game by the rules as written not by some misguided effort to keep the game moving, not by the score, not by which teams are playing and not by the players involved.

The comments already seem to show a piling on towards officials. Still it is hard to ignore. Obvious things jump out at you when watching games. Like the story said it is not just about write and wrong calls. But its things like watching a referee staring at a coach from the baseline when the game is in action just so he can T him up or get him for stepping a foot or three outside the coaching box. The staredowns they give for a coach just asking for something or questioning. But again its just like anything else, there are good and bad. The bad do it front of 1,000 or 2,000 people though.

Oh Joe!!! Great article... long overdue!!! I agree with "fan of the game" and "JT" - send this to the IHSA and let it be addressed!! But the refs seem to be getting worse and worse. It is like they think the game is all about them!! They want the spotlight on them for the night. Well, it is about the kids and the team. I also agree with you about Fred Allman - he is really good - NO ego at all, he is fair and knows how to control the game!!! Maybe some of these refs should take a good look in the mirror and think about WHY they are even going out to work a game or WHY they want to do it... not just beer $$$ and jokes after the game. Kids and coaches spend countless time to prepare for November-March. Far more time than the 2 hours these guys put in to call the game. They should really reevaluate WHY they are doing it!!!!! If it is not for the kids, then call it a day gentlemen... retire your stripes and whistle and find a new hobby!!!

Heaven forbid anyone should write about a bad call in high school sports or their names put in the paper. A kid misses a key free throw, gets ejected, has a poor game, its in the paper the next day. Coach gets tossed, its in the paper the next day. A ref acts like a fool and nothing. I think a big part of it is these refs, aside from getting booed and heckled, get a free pass.

You know when you can sense or get a feel for one of these types of refs? By their smirk. Watch and learn. You see the smirk and you are screwed.

If what you just wrote is true that a ref can only appear in the Elite Eight or state tournament three times that may be the dumbest thing the IHSA has ever done. And that is saying a lot. How can that be true? You get to state, do a great job lets say, and then you can't go back after three trips?

Would absolutely love to know how many officials have played basketball higher than lower level high school? I think that plays a big part in it as well. I could be way off base. But I also think the high school officials take a page out of what they see with some of these college refs today where they think they are bigger than the game. And I think some refs think they HAVE to act like that in their minds to control the game.

Well written! They should be doing this job for the kids and not themselves! They let their ego and emotions get in the way. If they get mad at a kid during the game they do not call anything for the rest of the game for that team or player. I do agree that some of the fans are idiots and it can be crazy. But some of these guys think it is all about them - get real!! It is not about YOU at all. If you cannot be fair and not hold a grudge against anyone or any team, then be done. Time for some of these guys to move on and do something else.

By the way, what happened at the Waubonsee Valley game this past weekend? Heard it was crazy over there!

Wow am I glad you wrote this! I am and always have been a quiet fan. I enjoy the game and understand refs don't get the credit they deserve. (Now here comes my but) BUT, I have found myself fighting back my "yells" at the officials. First, since when do officials literally acknowledge the cries from the fans? I have seen more refs literally looking into the crowd or even worse saying things back? Second, it bothers me how certain players or teams get all the calls. Sorry Benet, I'm going to pick on you. Not at the fault of Benet, but after watching this team several times I have the opinion that the refs literally love this team. I'm serious! Just watch Sobo. He is a great player and probably a great kid BUT this kid gets to push off any player from any team whenever he wants. Sorry, to turn this wonderfully written blog into my bash-fest against a great team but it's frustrating.
Joe, I really hope you have a good fan base that consist of officials because you have made some great points and it was done respectfully.

Yeah I heard about that game, I have also seen bad ref work in action at a Wheaton North game against Glenbard East. I'm a huge Wheaton fan, but what this one ref did towards Glenbard East was horrible. Techical on Glenbard East coach for looking at him, 2 techicals and ejection of Glenbard East Player ( Second techical for shoving a player off the top of a teammate, Maybe, but the first one, a double techical on Wheaton North and The same Glenbard player should of been called a double foul. This ref did not like Glenbard East and everyone in the gym knew it. Guys like him should not ref high school basketball.

Stop The Club,I totally agree with you. These refs are soo stuck on themselves. They think people are in the stands going "wow, great call by that SUPER REF"... I don't think so. Be fair to both teams and let the better team on that night earn their WIN. DO THE RIGHT THING OR GET OUT!

Just want to say that this story, while stirring a hornets nest, was fairly written. Nicely done in pointing out the strengths of officials and also the glaring need to corral some of these individual refs that have clearly taken themselves too serious. Thanks for the interesting read.

Hoops Fan, 100% correct on Benet, Saturday v. Glenbard East. Their D-1 center picked up first foul in 4th quarter. Their D-1 guard unblemished for the game.

I second what Capital Phil said in his posted message. He is right on and emphatic with his words! Spot on Joe and Capital Phil took it to another level. And great job of showing the good in a ref and how it should and can be done. I see Fred Alman and Grayer at Pontiac tournament and they are both so respected by coaches and fans.

"Stop the club" you hit it on the head!! I hope all you bad refs can put your head on the pillow at night and be proud of how you called the game. Please just do the right thing and be FAIR!!!!!

Let the name dropping begin! Keep up the good work Fred and Kevin!

Obviously I am biased being in the East Suburban Catholic and not a fan of Benet. That is why I put my moniker as Shamrock so as to not hide. But the comments on Benet are legit and a mystery to me and others. I guess their style and brand lends itself to getting calls but this has gone on for two years and it baffles me. I know St. Pats has no way of beating Benet. But I watch games of Benets other than the St. Pats game and is a common trend. This team DOES NOT FOUL!

The IHSA just does not have the manpower to do anything of consequence in so many ways. They can't monitor all the transfers. They can't monitor how their officials are officiating these games. Thus both get away with highway robbery really. The transfers to some schools and what they do and don't look into are a joke. And turning a blind eye to what is happening on the floor when it comes to some of there officials is sad.

I give Benet credit for having a great team. So let us not take anything from the coaches or players.BUT, last season Benet beat East Aurora and Glenbard East in the sectionals. In both games the refs allowed Benet's point guard to push off to get past defenders. Don't show favor towards a team. KEEP THE GAME HONEST. Good luck the rest of the season to All the teams and may the best teams WIN.

What the story shows as written and some people fail to recognize is that it is not about bad calls. It is about how refs carry themelves. Like Joe H wrote in his story --- there are going to be blown calls. Every game there are bad calls. The reason this is a fair article is because it is dealing with the attitudes. Someone else made a good point.

A big concern for me is seeing officials carry the attitude towards a certain team and coach into future games. It happens. Maybe it happens unconsciously. But it happens. And maybe it happens because it is just a part of human nature that some can not get over. Coach rides a ref all game long it can get old and carry over. It shouldn't but it does.

Joe, as always, a great column. I have felt this way for a few years now and went so far as to get my IHSA basketball officials patch.

Reading your column makes me want to do what I need to do to become a real official and start to referee basketball games. If there are any ref's out in the western burbs who will guide me through the process of joining an association, etc. I would appreciate the help. Thanks.

Trying playing a game down at some of the small schools in Southern Illinois. One school that begins with Okaw and ends in ville hires the same folks game in and game out. You can not get a fair deal there, you better be a lot better than the home team. If you are the visiting team and your uniform is blue, when they call whos ball it will be and you hear "blue ball or our ball" you know you are in trouble.

I agree with some of these ref's getting out of hand. I manage a high school team and I was told by a ref i would get a T for looking at him the wrong way in the middle of a heated game because he missed a call.

I know coaches can be overbearing and complain a lot. But what really bothers me sometimes is how these refs talk to players. So sarcastic. Don't treat kids real well.

This reminds me of NFL refs. Anyone else notice how GB gets every call? Every game, the refs are either Packer fans or have $$$ on GB. The NFL wanted them in the Super Bowl, so the refs did what they had to do.

But great story Joe. I can't stand when refs have to have an impact on the game. Especially at the end. The game should be decided by the kids on the floor, not the man with the whistle.

In reality we can not expect these refs to be what we fans seem to want them to be --- for our own team. When is a losing team ever happy with a ref? But as the write wrote, its about the attitude they bring to the floor. They can have crabby days to - just like my wife.

It is honestly sad that it has come to this. I can personally say as a former coach who takes in a lot of high school basketball and still talks to a lot of high school basketball coaches that it definitely has changed as this story noted. There is such a bad taste right now among coaches in the business (and I guess the fans as well but that has always been the case) who feel a disconnect with certain officials. This is a topic that is talked about a great deal. But as it is noted in the story there really is no ramifications for the actions of a ref who is defensive from the start.

Well written and I feel you have hit the nail right on the head! As a former IHSA bball official for 38 years, I couldn't agree with you more. I gave it up 2 years ago for the exact reasons you have outlined in your piece. The egos of some officials were more than I could take. I started reffing for the kids and continued for the same reason until the end. In my last season, while working an opening night Boy's 1A regional game, one of my partners proceeded to throw out the mother of a parochial school coach who he claims disagreed with a call he made. He was the only one in the gym who heard anything. By the way, he informed the other 2 of us before the game that he didn't know why he was there, as he should be doing 3A/4A games! In the finals of another regional I was assigned to on that Friday, my partner who was the Referee, put time on the clock twice in the last 5 seconds of OT because he said the other team didn't have a chance to win the game. The last time he put .5 sec on the clock after a 3/4 length of the court pass was deflected directly out of bounds. The pass was made with .7, and the clock had to be started and stopped. Team leading at the time won, but I wouldn't have wanted to try to get out of there if they hadn't! That was the last straw for me. I had seen this phenomenon of some guys feeling they were bigger than the game for some time, and I didn't like it. Most guys do a great job and are there for all the right reasons. Too many do not and in my opinion, they are hurting the game, and we must all remember, it is just that: A game!

All you have to do is watch the ego of officials in Peoria. Seriously. These guys dress up in their suits and ties and parade around the hotels down there. Can't remember the one they congregrate in. But its a collection of them who look ridiculous in showing everyone they are in town, doing the games and thinking they are more important to the state tournament than they really are. It's just sad. And you wonder why it carries over to the floor in December, January and February?

Just boo them!

Boooooooooooooooooooooo!

There is a big sign in most gymnasiums, it simply states, let the players-play, let the coaches-coach, let the referees-ref, and all spectators, sport a winning attitude, and cheer for your team, unfortunately some parents, and regular spectators come to heckle the referees, they come to make calls, make catcalls, they forgot what they came for, they know the refs by their first names, they get others to join their bandwagon, and before you know it, you have chaos on the court, you even have some they have the audacity to follow the refs to their vehicles, now you know why some refs won't ref in the CPS, and other venues that they feel are unsafe to do their jobs, to be an official is difficult enough without having to listen to so-called spectators that ruining it for everyone trying to enjoy the game!

I understand (and agree with) the need to keep names and specifics regarding referees out of this comments section. But in that same spirit, I'm not sure comments about specific teams and players who "push off any player from any team whenever he wants" are fair. But as long as we've gone there, star players with the ball in their hands get a lot of attention from refs and crowds, as well as defenders. But watch defenders hang all over these playmakers before they get the ball. Refs do. They know the level of back and forth that they've allowed throughout the game off the ball. Most fans tune into the matchup when the ball arrives. And if pushoffs are tightly enforced, then handchecks (especially if they impede progress) need to be as well. I think all most of us want is consistency, where the rules (and more importantly, their enforcement) gives neither side an advantage.
I think we also need to take a look at style of play. Many people will look to imbalanced numbers in team fouls to "prove" refs are biased. Truth be told, some teams almost never gets up the floor defensively. If you pack it in defensively, and don't need to foul at the end to extend the game - you aren't likely to have as many fouls as your opponent. The hard work of those who do their job well is much appreciated.

I agree with Phil Smith Jr. and his comments about poor behavior in fans. I also believe that officiating in the CPS and a few other spots is WAY different than most places. It is like apples and oranges with the behavior and what is allowed. However, outside of the CPS and other so-called difficult environments to ref in, I have seen way more dialogue between officials and fans. Officials yell up into the stands way more than they ever did. And it doesn't help the situation at all.

I do think a big issue is the accountability. When it comes down to it, who is going to be the one believed when issues are brought to the IHSA: the referee or the coach who lost a game and is complaining about a referee. It is often a no-win situation for a coach because he just looks petty and raged over a defeat when often times it is legit.

anyone who thinks benet always gets favorable calls needs to go back and watch the supersectional game against simeon last year, or even last night agasint naz. ridiculous. i agree with joe that bad calls tend to balance out over the course of a season, so it's garbage to say that any team only gets favorable calls.

Benet is a great team. This really doesn't have much to do with this article but since there is so much Benet talk. Everyone wants an undefeated Simeon-Benet matchup. That won't happen. Benet will lose to an under the radar ESCC team. They only beat Naz by 6. I think that would not be a bad thing. It would serve as a wake up call to Benet and prepare them for the tournament. I don't know who it will be, but Benet will finish with an ESCC loss u heard it here first.

I am not sure I can really add much more to this than what was said in the story and all the comments that have been posted here. But I had to comment because this was spot on with how things have progressed, really only over the past two, three or four years. It has gotten out of hand. I am just a regular fan, not partial to coaches, officials or any one school. But it is something I have noticed and want to applaud the Hoops Report for bringing to people's attention. Hopefully refs will see this and look at the mirror before that next game they officiate.

As I write this i feel like I should be on 60 minutes with the voiceover to disguise my voice, darkened shadows to keep my identity from being shown. I am a ref. And I know I will be ridiculed by fellow officials, including past and present partners of mine, if I talked in the open about this. I have been an official for 14 years. I agree a lot with what Cherokee Ref said in his post and most definitely with what Joe Henricksen writes in this blog. There are times I am embarrassed by what I see. Even in the games that I have done. It is a tough situation for an official to put a fellow official in line when it comes to attitude and how they represent themselves. However, I have had a couple of moments this year and a few more last year where I was in that situation, which is embarrassed by one of my own partner's reaction to either a coach, fan or player. Why I bring this up is because in my first 8-10 years I rarely if ever saw that. Now in the past few years it has become more common. And it is sad. With all this being said I do think the majority of officials act in the way that they should. The bad part is that the few who do take it to another level really tarnish other officials and the perception of them.

Stripes, Glad to see another official (guess I'm an ex-official) agree and not be afraid to voice it. This trend toward taking a huge ego onto the court has to stop. As an official, you can't go into a game, any game, with an agenda, other than to do the best job possible. Too many times, in our pregame, I heard specifics about the night's coaches or players that one of my partners had had a problem with in another game. Stripes, my advice to you, for what it's worth, is to find yourself 2 good partners with the same approach to the game as yourself. For 20 years or so, I had the best partner I could ever hope for. Our officiating phiosophies were nearly identical. Unfortunately, I relocated to the southern part of the state and it was never the same. If anything though, I see a much worse attitude down here than up north. Guys, it is a great game. Check your egos at the door and help a bunch of kids enjoy it. Sounds simplistic and I know it's not that easy, but the high school game deserves it!

For last 24 hrs. I have been reading the comments to Joe's Blog. I am currently in my 33 year as an IHSA basketball official. I work mostly Boys Varsity throughout the Chocaoland area. I am an average official (according to my IHSA ratings)

I recently did a JV game as a favor to an assigner, the game was played by 2 below average teams with players of below average basketball skills (I played the game in HS, and competitively well into my 40's, so I think I can tell talent when I see it). This game was a nightmare, travels all over the place, poorly executed plays, terrible screens, lots of reaching, etc. One coach said very little (his team was winning most of the game, but I had been there before to do a varsity game and noticed that this schools' underclass coaches as well as their varsity coaches always acted civil towards the officials). The other teams head coach was always officiating from the bench...you know the type..."that's a foul", "he traveled" "over the back", etc. Of course they lost and of course it was our fault. Their loss wasn't affected at all by the 10 (if not more) missed lay-ups. Just our bad calls.

As in everything, there is good and bad. We have good players, good teams, good coaches and good officials. We also have players, teams, coaches and officials that are not as good. Most fans are there to support someone and they are biased towards the team they went there to support, so if little Johnny doesn't know how to play defense and gets 2 quick reach in or over the back fouls, it's lousy officials.

Sometimes when 2 good teams play and the game is officiated by good officials the game goes smooth and everyone is sort of happy (losing teams more often then not blame everyone except themselves when they lose a game). The good coaches give credit to the winning teams.

When 2 not so good teams play and maybe the game is officiated by 2 or 3 lesser experienced officials, the game is a nightmare. (even the best Refs don't look so good in those games).

Refs are schooled (and we do put in a lot of study time)to officiat the game as the IHSA wants us to. Every year there are more "points of emphasis" that we must work on. Hand checking and 3 seconds were 2 of the ones for this year. Hand checking happens EVERY normal trip up the floor, no matter how many tmes the whistle is blown for it. The good players adjust to the officiating, the not so good ones, wind up on the bench with 3 fouls and a bad taste in their mouth for the refs. HAND CHECKING IS A FOUL, yet all you hear (from the stands and some Coaches) is LET THEM PLAY...but when you let them play and their little Johnny gets jostled a little bit..."GET HIM OFF OF HIM"...Not a WIN WIN situation here.

Facts are most of the people involved in the game, WORK HARD AT IT...players, coaches and officials.Bottom Line is yes, there are some bad officials, but those guys do not last long. AD's advise their conference assignors that they would prefer not to see certain officials at their games and the assignors lose confidence in those guys if they get enough reports on a certain official and they wind up losing games in those conferences. Assignors talk and if they have a "problem" official they share the information and eventually that official winds up no longer working HS games.

MY 2 cents for now, I gotta go because I have a game tonight. Keep coaching & playing hard, cheer for your team, cheer a good play, enjoy the best sports value for your buck...HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL.

Hi Joe

With the Simeon vs Whitney Young game echoes in the background, I read your column with the looming Simeon vs Benet match-up in the near future with interest. While covering countless professional, collegiate, and prep athletic events through-out the Chicagoland area over the past 20 + years, I have experienced the growing arrogance of a number of suburban officials in football and basketball who have a pre-conceived idea of what the outcome of an event will be. The same officials always seem to be found in the center of attention. An excellent official communicates their expectations in a professional manner while officiating an event as if the event officiates itself. Who will officiate the Simeon vs Benet match-up? CPS officials? Suburban officials? I am not sure an arrogant official is tough enough to call a CPS game. Would these officials be arrogant if the game was played in the typical CPS gym, a definite home-court advantage for Simeon. Suburban basketball gyms/courts will never match the intensity of a CPS game. The level of intensity among the fans, players,and all involved is unmatched and could be intimidating to others. As a witness of 100's of CPS basketball games, I never have experienced any greater intensity. Read the other article in today's paper about the CPS games. There are a lot of tremendous officials working our events only a few bad officials are spoiling the professionalism of their craft. CPS officials allow the teams to play. A small collection of suburban officials seem to feel they are reason the game is being played. Leave the arrogance at home Don't bring it into the gym. Its the players night not yours.

Sports Med - Having grown up in Chicago, a CPS grad and HS basketball player, now living and working in the north suburbs, there is an one gym that matches and exceeds the intensity of the CPS. The school is Waukegan and their dog pound. This place gets packed for the sectionals and a couple years ago, when Waukegan, Zion Benton, Warren and LF made it there, all ranked top 10 at the time, there was absolutely no better atmosphere I have ever seen. And I've been around a long, long time. This was likely the pinnacle for Lake County basketball, with Jereme Richmond a McDonalds all American going to Illinois, Brandon Paul of Warren going to U of I, Lenzelle Smith going to Ohio St., Matt Vogrich going to Michigan... along with the countless lower D1 players involved. The gym sizzled with noise, intensity, and the best quality high school basketball I've ever seen.

James.

I love the comments from the peanut gallery. It is rather comical how ignorant most of these comments are and how little there are those here that know the first thing about officiating. Coaches and players use language that most could not repeat anywhere else, but the professionalism and ego is in question of the officials. I have been cursed at more doing a basketball game then I have ever been in my personal life and officials are out of control and are unprofessional. That is very rich I have to say. And you would think there are players and coaches when they complain would actually know the rules they were complaining about. Then when there is a POE you would think the coaches would actually read them. I have to give more rules clinics over things covered right before the season in detail because it is clear coaches never read the rulebook that year or review the Rules Meeting video. But official’s egos are out of control when we are asked a question and instead of listening for the answer it becomes a debate with the most ignorant individuals in sports as they clearly have no idea what rules apply to the game they are involved in. And the fact that one of the people responding said, "I do not know what over the back is anymore" is just the reason this entire article is hilarious. For the record there is no such rule in any rulebook at any basketball level let alone at the high school level. No such wording exists in the rulebook. But not only do you have fans yelling this, but coaches who should know better.

There are over 6000 officials in the state of Illinois. I by no means defend all of them. Some are good and some are bad, just like there are good and bad coaches and players in any area of basketball or profession. Most of the problem is there are people here that would never have the heart to work a summer league basketball game, let alone a big varsity contest. And most here would pee down their leg if they had to make all the decisions and would not be able to handle an angry coach yelling at them. To suggest that ego is involved then complain in one game two good players never fouled is kind of odd. What does who fouls in a game have to do with ego? Some players know how not to get in foul trouble and one player mentioned is bigger than most. He does not have to do much and he will keep from fouling as he is much taller than most of the players he will go against. I can imagine he just stands there and most players cannot do much to get around him. It shows a lack of basketball knowledge to even make such comments and a totally lack of understanding of basketball officiating.

To Manuel the official .... if you read the blog article you would have noticed the story didn't say one thing about blown calls. In fact it even said blown calls, bad called games can be expected. And it said fans can be "idiots" as well. The point is there is a growing trend the article focused on -- and I know for a fact a large percentage of high school coaches agree with -- that the attitude of officials has changed and continues to get worse. And if officials aren't able to recognize that, then the problem will never go away.

Anyone ever send this guy a note critical of his writing?

Sports writers are great at ctiticising, but are HORRIBLE at taking criticism.

To D Coach: Welcome to the real world. There are never going to be perfectly called games. I have yet to reach that level and no one I know has. But most of the time what people think are "blown calls" they have no idea what is blown about the call. Heck the reason that most people think the call is blown is because they do not understand the rule and it took place against their team. And when people use language that does not sit in the rulebook it takes away that credibility. And you make it sound like coaches are just passive participants in this and the officials are just out to get everyone. There is a total lack of civility to the point the IHSA has to ask officials to address things we should never have to. We should never have to remind players and coaches about basic sportsmanlike behavior before any game. Or there should never be rules to disallow specific taunting that incites hurt feelings and possible fighting with opponents.

I am not saying officiating cannot be improved and that some officials do not need to check their attitudes. But that is not the majority or the most experienced officials. But if this is a real problem other than the egos of those that think they understand the game is in question, where are the examples? If you are going to say someone is unprofessional, you have to show something that an individual has done or said. Simply complaining about calls to a so-called star is not an unprofessional act unless there is some evidence there was something an official was not doing as apart of their job. I did not read anything that said an official used inappropriate language or enforced rules that were not present. A lot of the problem is coaches and fans do not take responsibility for their role in knowing the rules and when an official actually enforces a rule we somehow are the problem. Not like the National Federations does not address these things but folks seem surprised when we ask a coach to comply with simple rules. That is not on the officials, sorry it is not.

Yes some of the comments are over the top and some get out of hand because they start talking about bad calls, judgment calls. That did not appear to be what the story was about at all. But I am just taking what was written and basing opinion on that, what was written. The blog was well written and fair and pointed out how difficult the job is, how bad fans have gotten and the disrespect that is out there. But what is wrong with stating that officiating has changed over the past few yaers? Since this came out I have talked to a good friend of mine who has coached varsity for 20 years. He said to me a lot of this is very true in that things have changed for the worse as it relates to officials behavior. Again, not all officials. But seeing it more in recent years than say 5 or 10 years ago.

What exactly is Refump talking about? I haven't seen the writer comment on anything on here or take objection to anything anyone has said. The fact is there are enough people out there that seem to think there is an issue. And we are talking people who see a lot of basketball, including other refs, coaches and media people.

There is nothing wrong with pointing out that officiating is bad, but at least say why. I am very familiar with training of officials from the newest official to the most veteran of us. We do not tell them they are unprofessional and leave it at that. There are very specific things that are unprofessional and cannot be tolerated. I am not hearing anything that needs to be improved and why. But to say officiating has changed is true. The game has changed and officiating has to evolve with it.

I also have to admit that I loved the part when someone said their was no accountability. That was also very funny as officials get hired and fired all the time for things that take place on the court.

Just get the facts straight, that is all.

Are there officials who "cross the line" at times with their on-court behavior? Of course...but (my turn to have a BUT) my guess would be that when those officials are "glaring at coaches" or "responding to fans" they have been pushed to that point by the outrageous behavior of same coaches and fans. Fans who think they can heap any abuse on officials - comments about mothers, wives, children, etc. - and coaches who think they can make "You" statements - "You are horrible", "You suck", etc. So are we really surprised when an adult male in our society loses his cool and glares back at the person saying those things? Give me a break. You want civility in the basketball games??? Start with the Coaches. Change their behavior. Then work on the fans. Teach them to cheer for their team for a change. Then worry about the officials. They are the LEAST of the problem.

First of all, a big thanks for recognizing the state of Illinois best officials in Fred Allman and Kevin Grayer. Additionally, thanks for your comments, noting that state officials only have 3 trips and done. Retaining officials after they have worked the state tournament are short lived. Thanks to those officials that hang around and share their expertise for our coaches, players and fans.

The good official are mentally prepared for the game, paying particular attention to having a clear head, temporarily forgetting other stresses in their
life.

The good official will have a strategy in preparation for the onset of conflict.
The pre-game conference should include a brief discussion of potential conflict situations and a basic management plan.
Preventative officiating is a critical component of the plan.
Good officiating do not take things personally – “coaches and players see the game with their hearts, referees see the game with their eyes.”
Good officiating understand the context of the game, the closeness, the time, and the state of play.

Fred Allman and Kevin Grayer have various tools in which to manage conflict situations. It starts with a winning attitude and good charater.

Ronnie Jones
Bloomington IL

Manuel, I am sure you do a fine job as an official. My point is that most of us just want the rules to be called as they are written, at both ends of the court.

The officials and coaches video training this year had as a point of emphasis "consistent enforcement of playing rules and don't change the written rule" as two points made in the training.

The video also points out the officials have been "lax" (their words) in controlling perimeter play - defenders using their hands to control the offensive player and the offensive player using his forearm to push off the defender to create space. I have seen 70 games this year (from public league to far western suburban games) and rarely see these called.

I see hand checking on virtually every possession and also see the defender "riding - body to body" the offensive player down the court. Both are fouls.

One of my concerns about the game is how it is being coached at the AAU level. Defensives maul the offensive player. The offensive player pushes back. It is ugly and it isn't basketball. Defensive players attack the ball in the hands of the offensive player, hacking down the offensive player. The bail out call is a jump ball. To me it is a foul. It is an epidemic in the girls games.

It would seem that if you told the players and coaches at the start of the game that the rules will be enforced and be specific about the situations mentioned above the game would be cleaner and more enjoyable for everyone.

By the way I have not been contacted by a referee or association as yet (see previous note). Thanks

Manual you make some good points, but I am putting more credibility in the two long time officials (one 38 yrs and another 14) who say they have retired because of or been embassased by the actions of officials they have worked with. Even in the short time I officiated, I noticed other officials who were way over the top and treated the job of officiating like it was a performance and they were the star. I would say most officials are good, but there are many who do think it's all about them and they love to show that it's their court and they are in control and don't anyone forget it. It's unfortunate that a few tarnish the good work of many others.

Manuel: Are you seriuos??? why do you ref if you feel abused more than you have in all your adult life. You do not have a clue how hard coaches and players put into this. The hours coaches put in preparing for a game, the hours kids work on their game, the summer, fall, spring leagues, the early morning or evening open gyms / workouts and then all the pressure to win from the community/parents/fans. Of course its going to be heated but refs are there to call the game thats it. Officials show up for their hour and half and take home their $65 and go to the local watering hole and meet all their other offical friends and criticize coaches and players. you know you all do it! Meanwhile the coaches and players deal with the wins and losses but you don't. You missed the entire point of the article. Its the stare downs, its the escalation of an already escaleted competitive environment, its the egos. You think officials in the ACC or Big East get all self righteous if Roy Williams or Jim Boeheim say over the back when they really mean the verticality rule. Get over yourself.The article was about the attitudes of officials. Joe even stated in his article names of officials that coaches have respect for who work with coaches and kids. The problem is too many work against them.

Manuel, my man! If it is that bad for you then you need to get out of officiating. I am an official in the south suburbs and while I have had moments like you say, they are relatively far and few between when it comes to dealing with players and coaches. Basically, if you handle coaches and players the right way, they more or less will give you the benefit of the doubt. You can put out fires early by just communicating with them. Fans, on the other hand, are what you say they are and it has gotten worse and worse. They are out of control with their remarks. But you know what? The fans are not a concern of mine. I honestly could care less when fans yell, boo, etc. I don't need to deal with them. But I owe it to the players and coaches to communicate and not try to take over a game. It's their game. I'm there to officiate it.

It is interesting that so many of the officials commenting are missing the point of the article. It is not about the occassional "bad" call or judgement calls that officials make. It is about referees who decide that they do not like a particular coach or player, and make calls accordingly. There are some who seem to delight in creating conflict with coaches, or who go into games looking for something, and as soon as a coach says something the referee T's them up. The outcome of a game should not be decided by an official, they are not the the "show", and they need to take a page from Fred and Kevin on how to manage the game.

Perusing the many posts, the tenor seems to be that officials have an interest in the outcome of a contest or carrying grudges into games along with having inflated egos. I can only speak for myself that 98% of the officials I know and work with, really don't care who wins. Half the time, I don't realize the score(which can be a bad thing!)and my main concern before taking the court is not screwing up and not letting my partners down.

Do some officials have inflated egos? Of course, as well as coaches do. That said, you'd better be confident walking out on the court in front of 1000-2000 people in a hotly contested game.

I'm not going to delve into fans(I'm one of them as my son plays high school ball)and by and large they are there to cheer their team. I could write a book on lack of rule knowledge, how to manage a game, the rudeness that is demonstrated on occasion. Personally, I haven't seen much change in this area over the years. It's always going to be there.

Someone commented on picking up 65.00 bucks for 1 1/2 hours of reffing. For me, it's a passion and more often that not the commute to my games are in the one hour range At the varsity level we are expected to arrive on site an hour prior to our game. I pack and prepare my gear at home checking off a list that I have everything.

15 minute prep time at home
60 minute drive
60 prior to game
90 minute game
20 minutes shower,dress, post game
60 minute drive home (Sorry no beer quaffing, too beat)

So we're looking at over a five hour evening for 65.00 not to mention gas.

My daughter makes more babysitting.

The point being is that we do it for the love of the game despite the aggravation from fans and coaches. I will say that 98% of coaches that I deal with are respectful and respect me. I have zero interest in 'taking' over a game or whacking a coach. Best night for me is when I'm not noticed. That said, I repect myself, my partners and the game too much to have a coach yell profanity laced comments at myself or partners and it will be dealt with as well as unruly fans.

Officiating has taught me to be the adult out there, when there is a maelstorm of chaos it's up to us to mantain composure and ensure that the game is played fairly.

Another comment on the three trips to state finals. There are many, many, many deserving officials who have earned the right to call a state final game. Like everything else in life it takes hard work, determination, and luck to get a state final game, the highest praise from your peers. There have been many officials who have said I've had my honor, it's time to pass it on, which I find commendable.

I've rambled here, but these are my random thoughts and to sum it up the cliche 'walk a mile in my shoes' clearly applies.




Scott -
I'm an official of 37 years and with the Heartland Diversity Officials Association (HDOA) in Bloomington ILL
and would gladly point you in the right direction on How to become and officials. Follow the link below to the IHSA Website to sign-up. Contact me for additional assistance if needed. Ronnie.Jones17@Gmail.com

How to become and official:

http://www.ihsa.org/official/howto.htm

FairAndBalanced: You are what the ideal official should be. Thank you. However, whether the number is 98 percent as you indicated or slightly lower (as I suspect it is) it has changed -- unfortunately. I see it as a scorekeeper and avid fan of high school basketball. There may be reasons listed throughout all these comments on this blog as to why it's changed but the fact there are even 2 percent, or 5 percent or 10 percent of officials (and growing as indicated my a number of coaches I talk with and what I see personally) that is significant. And I am not talking about bad calls, missed calls, etc. Those officials are impacting the game beyond missed calls, which are going to happen. IT IS THE ATTITUDE! You can see it, feel it! It is just there with some of them (small number of them) and it is hurting the sport. And what is so frustrating is it can be so easily corrected. I have seen so many unwarranted Ts and warnings having been up close to it. And there is no reason or purpose for that. We are talking free throws, coach having to stay seated and impacting that team significantly. Again, I am so glad you and the majority of officials approach the game the way you do. Thank you.

I just happened to attend a few games these past few weeks in the western suburbs. I am an avid fan, get out to a lot of games. And I am just making an observation. But in 3 of the games I took in over two different weekends there was one official who happened to do 3 of the games. He called a total of 6 technicals in the 3 games. Six! Now you're telling me none of the other officials he worked with saw or experienced what he did? I had no association with any of the teams that played other than watching as a fan but it jumps out at you when watching. That is an extreme case, I know. But it's out there.

Again I have yet to hear what the actual problem is. This suggests to me that the peanut gallery does not know what they want from officials. Saying someone has an attitude for one is subjective and not sure what it means. I cannot go back to my camps and train official by telling them to lose the attitude. I have to tell them something they are not doing right so it can be corrected. And that is the point many here are missing. It does sound like it that there are those here thinks that we care about the outcome and that is the crux of the situation, not the attitude. As I have yet to hear a single thing that is going to change in the officiating community based on some of these comments. And I have yet to hear an evaluator at any level tell an official to "lose the attitude" while referring to their on-court situation. Off the court that is a different situation as that will get you into more trouble than what you may or may not have on the court as that part is all the preparation to work a game. Most coaches I come in contact with are good people and coach their kids. Of course there are conflicts, but they are minimal. As an example of Geno Pingatore at St. Joseph who in about 6 times having him on court he said 1 thing about calls. And it just goes to show why he is one of the most successful coaches and sent so many kids to the college level than just about any other coach around. I will work with him anytime because he is going to do his job and let me do my job.

On a side note I teach a basketball class for newer officials every fall. I also am the President of one of the oldest associations for the basketball division. I would love to get some of you out on a court and then tell me what "attitude" someone will have on and off the court. I get former players and coaches all the time come to me and say, "I did not realize how hard this was" after they worked a few games. Criticism comes with the territory and if that was a problem I certainly would not do it. I just want something to tell my people that they need to work on and the best you can come up with is, "lose the attitude." Ok, I will remember to tell them that after they T up a coach that just MFed them over getting a rule absolutely right.

Well said Manuel. I agree, the 'attitude' seems vague to me. I really honestly have not seen it. I may be in minority but find coaches more respectful over past few years(maybe my calls have improved!) Fans however remain the same, and always will IMHO.

Thanks Joe for taking on the subject. I hung my stripes up years ago for the sole purpose of not being able to keep up with the training or working on the belief in lifelong learning towards becoming the best. Officials like Fred and Kevin are the best. They work camps and AAU in off season and are always working on techniques and interpersonal skills. They know the players and the coaches from working the off season and they make the game enjoyable. Had a chance to scout a recent DVC game in Naperville and saw three new guys to the DVC completing hose a team for a call at 1.7 seconds with a tie game. Again lack of consistency for the whole game and make the game end on a play for the officials and not the players, coaches, or fans. Perhaps they did not want an overtime game on a night when American Idol was on or that don't receive overtime pay! I question the three man teams. I do not think it makes a difference and when you multiply the cost against the public school system along with the shortage in personnel, as far as I'm concerned it can go back to two man teams. I think the consistency issue will be the same with two or three man teams. Thanks for taking on this subject.

I'll take consistently BAD reffing over the lop-sided ones. At least if the REFs are consistently bad the kids are still determining the outcome of the game.

I thought 2012 was just a fluke year of OLD washed bad officials but how wrong I am. IHSA needs a complete overhaul of its crew. Pathetic is the only word to describe this injustice to our kids playing sports.

The 2013 Litchfield IL tournament had such bad officiating that blatant calls were not only obvious but one has to wonder if there's some type of "payoff". BAD calls changes the game, frustrates the players, and should fall back on the IHSA staff. The only way to really address this ongoing issue is to have IHSA staff hidden in crowds.

PATHETIC!

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on January 28, 2011 9:55 AM.

Is upstart Bogan ready for Simeon? was the previous entry in this blog.

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