There are often conflicting opinions about that traditional initial meeting between the coaches and the referees prior to the commencement of a game.

How to start on the right foot

There are often conflicting opinions about that traditional initial meeting between the coaches and the referees prior to the commencement of a game.

Many years ago I was discussing this tradition with a baseball umpire. He made a lasting impression by stating “I do not want the first time for me to acknowledge or address a coach to be from a negative perspective”.


He expressed that he felt it was best to speak to the coaches prior to the game in a friendly non-threatening manner rather than having that first discussion with them when having to deal with an often confrontational situation.


While at the Olympics in Rio in 2016, another lasting impression was formed while witnessing the actions of Coach K from the USA. Coach K made it his responsibility to find out the referees names, the country they came from, their brief history (e.g. first Olympics, years of experience, previous major events) and what games they have had so far. He then was able to use this research to meet and greet the referees in a professional, friendly and informed manner, breaking down those potential conflicting barriers.


Finally, after reading a comprehensive article in the publication, Referee Magazine, I am now totally convinced that this traditional meeting between the referees and the coaches is imperative.


The following is a precise of the excellent article titled, “That’s a First – Your Initial Contact with a New Coach” by Patrick Malone.


In order to get the game off on a positive note, it is imperative that officials master the art of first impressions. And it is far more than simply showing up, smiling and shaking hands. Being able to ensure this initial encounter is a positive one, and building creditability requires several steps.


Be Prepared:

Being ready and doing some research can be a big advantage (like Coach K) Try to gather some information on the coach, how long been coaching this team, where they come from, etc.


First Impressions are Lasting:

Look the part, be well groomed, in shape. Arrive on the court looking professional, polished and perfect.


Shake Hands and Try To Call the Coach by Name:

Greet the coach with a firm hand shake, look them directly in the eye and introduce yourself. Ensure you refer to both coaches in the same way, to avoid any impressions of familiarity.


Leverage your Partner:

If your partner has worked with this coach before or they know them, use this familiarity to get off on a good start.


Keep the Coach Informed:

Coaches have many things on their minds. Keep the coach informed, eg. How many time outs are left, whether the team is in bonus etc. This communication will reinforce the positive impression made during the initial handshake.


Don’t be afraid of a little humour:

Humour can be the great diffuser when used sparingly and a the right time. A little joke or funny comment can assist build a good working relationship.


Credibility for a referee is an important key to success of a basketball referee. If you look professional, are confident and can communicate effectively you will go a long way to being a respected and reliable referee. This credibility is more easily achieved in the opening moments of a contest as opposed to after a controversial call.


So with that initial contact with a coach, be prepared, look the part and make that informed connection.

For more information, contact:
Bill Mildenhall – Referee Development Officer
P: 03 9837 8000


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