South Africa's basketball community

The other side of the court

By on September 17, 2014 in Resources

With most of the winter leagues done or almost done, I figured its good time to look at other aspects of the game that might have been covered before but that we need to be reminded of. I have been an avid basketball fan for a few years now and when I go to games I usually don’t go there to just watch the game but also to observe what is going on around the pre-games and after the game and during the game.

Make the right call!

fiba refLet’s look at the South African context. Maybe it also applies to your part of the world. In this southern part of the world, because of the lack of investment in the sport, we are still suffering from lack of proper training of administrators, referees and table officials. And these components play a big role in the success of any competitive game. Everywhere you go you hear that “we lost it because of the referee”, or that “we got a technical because of an illegible player” or “I don’t know how my star player got 5 fouls in 2 min”.

What I have picked up is that most local games are influenced by what referees do and what table officials do during the game.  Some coaches miss it or are helpless when it comes to these dodgy calls. We have had FIBA coaching clinics around the country but these are few and far between and the need for continuous training and recognition that comes with it is still lacking. You will find that some of the referees used to compete against you (if they were players), against your players or had some link with a rival team and this will influence their decision and good judgement. Sometimes its pure madness, with referees trying to get your star player out of the game as quickly as possible by making strange calls in a matter of minutes in the first quarter. Sometimes it is a managed process with referees or table officials managing the way your player collects fouls, almost like “constructive dismissal”, with table officials finding out that the player on the spreadsheet is not registered only after the game is under way or that the name is spelled incorrectly to the one registered which incurs technical fouls against the team. I have also seen instances where players get given “ghost” fouls when you look at the score sheet because the table might have added a foul to the wrong player during the game and you only pick it up during the break in quarters. These are the little things that take a coach or a team’s concentration away from the running of a game and disturb the flow of the game. The game requires consistency and impartiality from the officials if it is to be trusted by the fans out there. During the BNL season of 2014, there were a lot of inconsistencies with the referees and the administration side of things and one of the fans tweeted during the playoff phase:

BNL 2014_Duzi Loyal



Some of these issues need to be addressed before the game with clear registration procedures so that it doesn’t take away from the spectacle for us fans. And again, assigning the right referees and the right number with the right caliber of experience appropriate for a game should be done before any whistle is blown. The issue is usually that there is a lack of referees to pick from and they don’t get paid enough to even bother sometimes. So you get a referee and table officials jumping from game to game trying to maximize income for that day and when they are done inflicting the damage of their bad calls or decisions, teams are left to ponder what could have happened if they had proper referees officiating their games. This is not a problem limited to one part of the country. It is nationwide, and the sooner we train the youngster coming up the better. It’s such a pity that often the good one are overshadowed by the inexperience or bad referees because they get exposure too soon and the occasion sometimes overwhelms them.

The other question we need to ask some referees is whether they watch basketball games to improve their knowledge of the game, just as we do as players or coaches. We all learned how to pump fake from one of our heroes on TV. Do they have heroes? Can they name one international referee that they look up to and say: “I want to be like him one day”?

Although our game seems to be making the right moves, we mustn’t overlook the importance of officiating and the administrative side of the game so that one aspect doesn’t lag behind the other. And investing all our money and efforts in a selected few at the top and forgetting to invest it in training the young and upcoming referees or administrator can only point to a short term solution or planning from our leaders at the top.

How do you become a better referee? Here are some suggested links to get you on your way:

BNL 2014_Duzi Loyal

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