Dan Hooper, Sr.

Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to have many mentors and teammates whose guidance and friendship has helped shape my possibilities in both my personal and my professional life. 

I have always lived by the mantra that once I believe in something I will work hard to make it happen.  It is the working together piece that always sparks my interest, curiosity, and is my single motivating factor.  Never, however, does anything I ever "make happen" or set out to attempt, get done by myself.  I could list many, many people right now who helped me along the way, but today I reflect on one very important and special person, Dan Hooper.

In 1994 at a summer basketball camp at St. Mary’s College, I was introduced to Dan.  I was there to “ref some games” - it was not a “camp” for referees as we know them to exist today.  Following a game, when I shook Dan’s hand to meet him, he hired me on the spot to referee for SACO.  So at 24 years old, and someone raised to show gratitude and appreciation, that handshake turned into an immediate and genuine hug.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  He and Jack Ditty laughed when I did that, and Jack hired me too.

Our hearts are made to feel and express unconditional love.  When we lead with our hearts, division disappears and more possibilities generate. In that moment at McKeon pavilion, only possibilities existed. Instantly, I felt we were all in this together. Little did I know then, that the fact that I just loved to referee would garner me support from Dan for the next couple of decades...and then some.   

The type of support that has probably just popped into everyone’s mind's eye is “basketball” support and the “basketball” membership Dan offered me.  

However, the support I felt was not because I had a skillset to referee, it was for the passion and love for this game and for life I have been fortunate to cultivate that Dan offered his support.  That’s who Dan was – it was not just about performance, it was about the path he influenced me, and others, to take and the inspiration he instilled in his methods.

Basketball officiating was the vehicle for the messages Dan was able to deliver about life.  I am sure I am not unique in saying any of this.  Many referees knew Dan on a much deeper level than basketball.  He gave me opportunity all those years ago for the “what we do,” but the real opportunity he offered led to the cultivation of a friendship that was way beyond basketball and it served as an inspiration for me to be the best me I could be. And I am still trying at that!

Dan demonstrated true love for his family – very proud to speak of them at every chance he got and often when we would talk he was on his way to be with them or at a park with his grandkids.

Dan embodied a loving father, a teacher and man committed to society.  

Dan was an excellent business man, as well, and very generous.  Dan lived, his laugh and smile still provide an energy that's undeniable.  

Dan offered unconditional love and respect to all of his SACO and PacWest family members, and to the game of basketball- all he required of anyone was to put the game first. 

It was the game of life, the foundation Dan laid and lived by and the will power to endure and share all this basketball stuff with so many, as one way to express his commitment to excellence in life, that will remain his legacy.

Dan was a humble man.  He was not much for standing in the front of the room to tell you how it was, but demonstrated how he felt it should be by working his influence from the wings.  Even his mantras stood for bolstering someone else’s success always with the game’s success in mind. Operating in the wings to help others take the stage gave meaning to to Dan and he impacted thousands more lives than had he just been in it for him. 

The Zen slogan “Drive all blames into one” is, in my opinion, a philosophy Dan lived expressly.  This message has absolutely nothing to do with blaming complaining - in fact, I never heard Dan “blame” anyone (even in his expression of politics…).  The parallel of this slogan is that Dan's message always had to do with accepting what’s happened and making use of it.  Finding the benefit of the learning in all the craziness that may appear to exist.

Answering these questions (presented in Training in Compassion) is what I set out to do after speaking with Dan last week. 

What to do with his terminal situation?  What to learn from it?  How to make use of this along the path?

This is how I believe Dan would want me to proceed - as he expressed in his Farewell message.  So I answered those questions presented in that Zen teaching for myself, as many others also have answered these and others with regards to Dan’s passing, and my choice is to carry on the legacy he started. 

In life, the concepts of Effort, Enthusiam, Engage and Enforce apply regardless of what one does and more importantly are critical components in creating possibilities of who one could become.  Reporting Jersey Color, #, Consequence…has a message for life just in the creation of positive habits the sequencing represents and the importance of clear communication.  In a life where we really have no control, the message behind both of Dan’s mantras for my path is that these are qualities I can embody, live with and use to direct my actions.  In doing so, life’s experience reveals a joyous path full of living and serving others along their paths. 

Dan, I am grateful for the sometimes 2 hour talks and the visits, I listened and learned.  I will take your legacy along my life’s path.

Dan’s family – thanks for sharing your dad.

His family is honoring Dan with a funeral and celebration of life. Here's the information and they would appreciate an RSVP by clicking below.

Please RSVP here  

Information for Dan's Funeral & Celebration of Life

Sunday, October 23rd:
1pm Funeral: Lakeside Memorial Cemetery |
1201 Forrest Street 
Folsom, CA 95630 

2:30pm Celebration of Life: Lake Natoma Inn
702 Gold Lake Drive Folsom, CA 95630


Stay Engaged

Stay engaged

Anyone who watched the recent wrestling matches during the Olympics in Rio may have heard in the news a phrase we commonly use in basketball officiating: "stay engaged." 

It wasn't mentioned surrounding a basketball game, so what prompted the media coverage?

The Mongolian wrestler, who was winning near the end of the match, didn't "stay engaged" with his opponent, he celebrated his performance too early alongside his coaches and he ended up losing the Bronze because "He finished the match before the match finished.” He lost on penalties.

So many parallels could be drawn from this extreme example of finishing what you start or as the saying goes "it ain't over til the..." - you can finish the phrase.

However, staying engaged applies to basketball officiating at so many levels...where should I begin?

The obvious example would be to "stay engaged" on plays to the basket (and, that's been taught for quite a while now across all levels of basketball).

Or, one could interpret the phrase to "stay the course" as it’s a long journey to become a successful referee and to accomplish your goals - and, trust me, once you accomplish those goals there is no medal at the finish line (and hopefully, no one strips down in protest like the Mongolian wrestler’s coaches did either!) YOU have to have internal motivation, perseverance and genuinely experience joy around being part of this profession OR the finish line will fade as you try to cross it.

You could elect to interpret the phrase in its collaborative sense. Engaging with others to figure out methods to improve personally or helping others improve their game in a very transparent way.  And this type of engagement, with an attitude that "we are all in this together," will make anyone working in this profession, and ultimately the GAME, better. This takes a sense of vulnerability and a willingness to give up control…and monumental changes often occur when power and control are not the motivators. Genuine leadership abounds…not just from the leader, but the entire group becomes empowered and accountable!

This type of mentality is a MUST in today's environment. And, it's obvious when people are going through the motions to say they are in it together versus being in it together....more on that at the ref-ology Fall workshop....and trust me, we will not strip down like the wrestler's coaches did – but we will learn to how to experience compassion for them!!

Whereas all of the possible ways to interpret this phrase will bring about results, for my purpose, here today, I choose to apply a different meaning to "stay engaged." What if we applied the "Staying Engaged" concept to our personal, and our crew's, presence throughout the game.  What if we employed full attention to WHAT we do WHEN we are doing it.  It's another way of saying ref-Present!  One may declare, "I am VERY present when I referee, how dare you say that."  Or, "My calls are correct so I must be present when I am refereeing – I have high accuracy, it’s all right there in the numbers."

In reality, we are very good at being physically present and excellent at getting calls correct for various reasons, but How mentally present are WE when refereeing throughout an entire game?

And, what about when YOU are not in season, how do you PRACTICE staying engaged and refereeing present when you may not have been on the court for several weeks or even months? 

How honest can we be with ourselves, our peers and our leaders and how much feedback is too much or too little for us - do you know the answer for yourself and can you communicate it openly?

Please share the practices you have employed in your off-season to stay engaged...and if you didn't get an off-season, please share the opposite...what you have done to stay engaged during your games but disengage at times throughout the day or week. It’s equally as important for referees, to establish practices that allow them to disengage for periods of time – so you can stay present during the games you referee.

Remember, outside officials stay engaged on all plays to the basket…and EVERYONE…Stay Engaged and Present throughout the entire game.

If you want to get warmed up, or back engaged for the season, please join ref-ology at Delta Community College for a workshop (scholarships available).

This workshop is held conjunction with the Delta Women's JC Team Camp on September 23-25th. Please, click on the workshop link and get registered today!

Working in a Fishbowl

Last year in school, Gaby, my oldest daughter studied idioms - you know, those little phrases that mean something other than the individual words.  Well, this posed some challenges in our house when it came to homework as Gaby, just like her mom, is a direct communicator.   However, we overcame those stumbling blocks and are now ‘having a ball’ learning and using idioms as much as possible in regular conversation.

How does this relate to referees or officiating? 

‘Humor me for a minute.’  One day, Gaby asked me what it means when someone is ‘working in a fishbowl.’ 

Since both Rahn and I have been in sales most of our careers, I explained a bit about sales jobs, sales automation tools designed to help sales people measure and achieve their quotas and how, in sales, performance is relatively transparent by looking at the numbers.   Well, then I had to explain what "the numbers" meant. 

Gaby responded, "OK."  Basketball officiating has taught me the various meanings of "OK," so I tried another approach.  We walked downstairs to look at our fish tank.   

I attempted to draw the parallel that everything those little fish were doing could be viewed and tracked by anyone, if someone REALLY wanted to...kind of like the sales automation tools used in the workforce.  Gaby replied, "Well, it's not quite the same, Mom.  We can see what they are doing but they seem unaware of us.  They almost look trapped.  In fact, I don't think they even have goals."

So I asked her, "Gabs, you know when you are watching mommy referee, isn’t that like I am working in a fishbowl?"   She replied, "Mom, NO!  You are not trapped and you get to do whatever you want because you are in control of the game.  Those fish aren't in control of anything!"  

I smiled knowing I wouldn't be able to let that perception continue.  We talked for a bit about the two professions (sales & officiating) and we discussed how our work and our performance  are relatively transparent to those interested in viewing and understanding it. 

All that from one idiom!

As referees we do 'work in a fishbowl' pretty much every time we take the floor.  And, no, we don't get to do Whatever we want.  

Whether there are 25 or 25,000 people watching the game we perform our work in front of an audience.  Our performance is judged in real-time (and, nowadays, re-judged by many different people post-game via the film).  There's a system in place we use during the game and as long as everyone on the crew understands the system and works it, we can pretty much accomplish the goal we were hired to achieve – to facilitate a fair playing environment in accordance with the rules of the game.  

Nowadays, we have a ton of visibility in our profession and there appears to be a demand for high performing referees.  Most games are on TV or streaming on the Internet, and with replay monitors giving us the ability to review certain types of calls, the spotlight on the importance of getting our calls correct on the floor is evident.  Long gone are the days of just making calls and moving on to the next.

Anyone who's gone to the monitor recently knows that you are hopeful you got the call right on the floor because sometimes the angle(s) we get on the monitor may not provide the "indisputable evidence" we need to overturn/change a call.  We train to get these plays right and yet when we go to the monitor we are relying on folks elsewhere to get us the angle we need.  The final decision rests on our shoulders, yet we aren’t always able to derive the accurate call from what we see on these monitors. Sometimes there’s two angles or three, four...and so on, and sometimes the system just doesn't work to give us any good looks, the monitor is too small or not HD and the view is just unclear.  Different venues have different capabilities, and it’s still not consistent at most levels from site to site.

In monitor review situations, I would rather NOT be in a situation like the “fish in the tank” as Gaby understood their situation, in control of nothing and at the disposal of the system.   Since we choose to be officials, want to referee the games AND the system wants us to get the call correct, here's my simple solution to a variety of monitor-related issues:

After the crew does it’s best to make the right decision on the floor and communicate that ruling to the teams and the table personnel, the review process typically begins and referees have a protocol they need to follow.  Within this protocol there are items that have to be checked off the list for the crew to move forward efficiently and effectively.  What if the instant replay technician (or the producer) has a checklist as well?  Their checklist would include each available angle, and each angle gets checked off after being viewed by the officials until the decision can be made accurately (i.e. the decision may be determined from first angle or last available angle, when it takes more than one or two).  In this situation, the Referees can walk away from the monitor being able to make a decision that is consistent with what can be deduced from all the available information.  

Sounds a whole lot better to me than an officiating crew walking away only to later get a clip of the commentators seeing an angle the crew never saw - especially when the decision the crew made would have been different had they been able to watch the same angle/view those sitting at home saw.  Although we do ask them if they have showed us everything, a more formal procedure would be to put the final check on those that have the film – the officials would not able to leave the monitor until they have confirmed all angles were viewed.

Putting in place a "system" for the producers and the replay folks would seem to make the whole system work more efficiently with more people being held accountable.  Although it may not ALWAYS lead us to the accurate call, as sometimes the angle on camera is just not there, a systematic process puts a few extra fish in the bowl to help approach accuracy.


What's Obvious Mean Anyway?

All season long we, as referees, chant the popular mantra drilled into our heads from Day One at Officiating 101: Call the obvious. 

But what does that mantra mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, “Obvious” is an adjective and the word carries a few meanings but most notably the following two:

  1.        Easy to see or notice
  2.        Easy for the mind to understand or recognize

Don’t both definitions seem relatively obvious…? LOL. 

However, if you were to poll 100 referees on a set of plays, you would receive varying answers on what’s “easy to see.”  Then there’s what is actually “noticed” by referees when we are each highly focused on different aspects of the game taking place at the same point in time.  Or, possibly members of a crew are not focused enough or not focused on the right stuff.  And, in the end of the day, who knows who understands what?

Maybe it just ISN’T that OBVIOUS afterall! 

So, how do you translate the mantra into actual in-game performance by YOUR crew night in and night out – even during the off-season games you officiate.  How do we all determine what’s obvious and judge plays with all the subtleties that exist in the game of basketball, especially since we know that what we actually see in our game is based on the angle we have at the time the play occurs?  And if it was easy for one referee to see, is that enough for any of the three on the floor to blow his/her whistle regardless of where the play takes place?? 

Last season, in a pre-game, a great discussion around this mantra came up.  

We talked about a play that is obvious is one that the majority of people recognize regardless of where the play takes place (in your primary or secondary).  If the play takes place in your primary, needs a whistle and you see it, blow your whistle.  If it takes place in your secondary, needs a whistle and you see it, give your partner a chance to blow, when he/she doesn’t have a whistle, blow yours and make the call. 

Using that interpretation of obvious, here’s how I categorize plays to dictate my decision-making: 

Whistle plays - Well, in objective terms, these are plays where the option to blow our whistle or not blow our whistle just doesn’t exist.  These plays must have a whistle!  Turns out, these are not the plays that referees usually have trouble calling, regardless of whether the play takes place in one’s primary or secondary.  It’s only when a crew loses focus that a whistle from one of the three referees doesn’t come.  Typically, the entire place will explode – even the team that benefits from the “no whistle” recognizes a mistake has been made.  When we do have a whistle, we may go to the film and realize we didn’t see the whole play AND we may even get this play incorrect.   It doesn’t matter – the crew must still have a whistle and call the play based on information known at the time.

Face-value plays – These are plays that just don’t have any middle ground (In the women’s NCAA game , some examples are:  clear block/charge, five-second count for throw-in, ball hits the rim or it doesn’t, 10 second backcourt call, secondary defender in RA trying to take a charge on a play starting outside LDB, etc.).  These are plays that have answers.  Regardless of the game situation and other plays that have been called throughout, these plays are to be called for exactly what they are…when they are actually observed by one of the three referees.  When anyone goes to the film, he/she will agree with the decision made by the referee – provided the referee sees it and calls the play for what it is.

Plays with Options – These are plays where you blow the whistle if contact determined illegal, don’t blow the whistle if deemed incidental, for example.  These plays may be influenced by the game situation (e.g. physicality, intensity, take-fouls at the end of the game) and how the crew has been responding to similar plays all night.  The teams and players adjust based upon how the game is called when it’s called consistently.  You and your crew must have awareness to understand your options with these plays.  In my opinion, this is truly where the separation among officials occurs.  It’s the piece of the game that cannot be explained in clear and exact terms - and that drives our critics crazy.  Different games and crews may make different decisions on plays with options.  It’s where game flow can be defined or completely lost.  When the film is reviewed in isolation (i.e. play for play), the person reviewing the play may not agree with the decision made in the game, but when the game was actually going on - the call fit and teams and players buy-in and make the necessary adjustments. 

Eventually, the adjustments made by the teams when we are all consistent on these plays with options, makes our decision-making easier – as we have witnessed in the NCAA tournaments  for the last few weeks.  The crews have been able to call the obvious for the most part, freedom of movement seemed to exist, and the games were great to watch! 

We have to be able to follow our rules and guidelines and respond to plays accordingly, AND, by the way, keep the game running smoothly at the same time.  Plays with Options, in my opinion, are those opportunities to create the FEEL that the game was fairly played and officiated AND that the team that played the best that night won the game.

The game is an experience – it starts out 0-0 and in the end one team wins.  We are part of that experience.  The goal is to narrow the variability in how referees perceive plays to create more uniformity in our decision-making.  That is done through training and skill-share development.  We must engage each other and collaborate to make this happen.  We will always have plays with options, but engaging your crews in discussion surrounding various game situations to flush out any possible confusion and/or faulty thought process, in a non-judgmental way, is NOT optional.  This is what gets people engaged in the overall performance of the crew.

Please share some of your decision-making techniques and processes you use to bring accuracy to the games and your crews!  

Have a great off-season!

Not Cool

Rahn and the girls had gone skiing last weekend and arrived home on MLK holiday, while I had spent most the day in bed resting up.  Grace insisted that she had eaten healthy since our New Year’s Resolution – which was for the family to eat healthier, and I agreed to go get a not so healthy lunch for everyone.  Gaby texted me everyone’s order. When I arrived at In-N-Out Burger on Hegenberger the line for the drive through was so long I went in to order.  I sat on the bench in front of the counter to wait for our order when two high-school aged boys sat down next to me.  Of course, they were doing something on one of their phones.  Then a third sits down and squeezes in next to me to check out the other kid’s phone. 

Me, being me, says, “You just wanted to sit close to me, didn’t you?”

All three laughed and he replied, “We are watching a play, I just wanted to see it, do you have enough room?”  He was very polite and I was just happy he didn’t end the question with “Ma’am.”

Well, these three boys piqued my interest and I asked them what play they were watching.  They very graciously and openly responded sharing the details with me.  They all played football and they were watching a play on Hudl sent by one of their coaches.  I asked where they went to school and they each named three different east bay high schools.  They proceeded to tell me that they get plays sent by their coaches and they can dialogue and that their coaches can highlight certain parts of the film to deliver instructions to individual players or the team.  I could not help but share with them that referees do the same type of sharing of plays and use video review for training and development.  I also explained ref-ology’s Interact and how we use this to explore not only the accuracy of plays, mechanics and rules administration but for a group of referees, who often barely know each other, to work synergistically and share thought process, mindset and experiences so everyone can learn and move our profession forward!  Especially since the next generation of athletes is watching plays and doing the same at a very young age.

I was so impressed with these three young men that I asked them if they wanted to see a play I just happened to be watching.  They looked at me and without hesitation, said “sure.”  I showed them a missed Flagrant 1 foul from my game the day before and it was enlightening to watch them debate their thoughts on the play.  They all agreed it was a dirty play and that no player should do that in a game.  They commented on how sneaky the player was who did it.  Simply, they all stated, “not cool.”

Next, I showed them another play that took place the day before involving a close friend and long-time colleague.  I wanted to know their take on the situation.  We watched a play that had taken place in a Division I Men’s game where one of the referee’s was intentionally tripped by a player (see article and clip at the bottom of blog post).

They were shocked and all three called over their other friend to watch the play.  Again, they all replied “not cool,” and in football terms they explained the football incident in Texas where the referee got clipped.  They continued a conversation among themselves about a few other incidents they knew about regarding violence in sports, and they included me in this discussion.  Listening to them was refreshing.  They “get it” and understand that under no circumstances should anyone ever lose their cool like that, not in life – and especially not in sports.  These teenagers showed nothing but respect for me, sports, referees, players and each other that day!

My undying faith in our youth was instantly renewed in those 5 minutes with those 4 high school football players from different east bay schools.  One also played basketball.  He looked familiar and I mentioned I was one of the refs in the summer league at O’Dowd.  He then recognized me as he plays for one of the schools that is part of the league. 

Of course, they were all invited to come train at one of the ref-ology events next summer!  I hope they take advantage of the offer!

All our food was ready and before we departed, I shared with them how impressed I was that not only are they student-athletes, but also for being students of the game they play.  Lastly, I applauded them for their keen awareness that violence towards officials, or other players, in any sport was unacceptable and that they each demonstrated the making of true leaders – a true tribute for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Day.

I believe the generation categorized as “entitled” (i.e. Millennials) will be surpassed very soon by a group of amazing people who will restore the hard-work ethic to the workforce – however, they will bring hard-work back with a twist.  The Generation Z is proving to be a group that not only uses technology seamlessly but they seem to have the ability to think beyond themselves.  They can still engage in a high-level conversation with confidence and employ critical thinking strategies to real-world situations.  They will take “working smart” to the next level.  In my opinion, they are defining the “intelligently working-hard ethic” and I am enjoying experiencing my own daughters as part of this Generation Z, showing this Gen X’er how it should be done! 

Take the opportunity, any chance you get, to engage this newest generation in conversation and don’t forget to ask their opinion – they are very wise.

Here’s the “Not Cool” article and video, if you haven’t seen it:

No place for intolerance...

Teaching people to accept and respect others for the kind actions displayed should be the only basis for judgment. When no kindness is shown, still show others respect...When you give respect and receive none in return, your awareness that the other person's mind is imprisoned sets you free...No place for intolerance in sports - or anywhere.

Passion, Dedication and Courage!

Way to go Billy and the NBA!

"I wholeheartedly support Bill's decision to live his life proudly and openly," Silver told Yahoo Sports in a statement. "Throughout his 18-year career with the league, Bill has excelled as a referee because of his passion, dedication and courage. Those qualities will continue to serve him well both as a game official and as a positive influence for others. While our league has made great progress, our work continues to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity."

To blow or not to blow, is that the real question?

Referees make decisions.  Blowing, or not blowing, our whistle is “what” we do to communicate our decisions on plays.  As mentioned in the last post, understanding “why” we make decisions is relevant for analyzing in the film room to improve our decision-making process for the next time.  However, understanding “how” we make decisions is tricky and involves a fair amount of complexity.  Gaining this understanding can really help us on the floor when we are actually officiating.  

“How” do we make decisions? 

Before we can begin to understand that question, we must first choose a systematic framework to reference.  In life you may not be able to employ one system ALL the time, but in a confined time period (e.g. basketball game), having awareness of a process as it is happening will at the very least help a referee maintain concentration, capture focus and be present when making decisions.

One system that is used in many strategic decision-making processes is the OODA Loop, and it helps bring awareness to how we can strategically make decisions for better results during games.  OODA was developed by John Boyd and his initial idea was that the key to victory is to create the situation where one can make appropriate decisions more quickly than his/her opponents.   Whereas referees are to work as a team and our victory is not over an opponent (other than ourselves), the OODA process still has merit for our work on the floor.   

OODA provides a conceptual model for where a referee should direct his/her energy and attention.  One of OODA’s underlying principles is that all situations are uncertain and one must adjust his/her perspective to the world as it is instead of directing it to his/her perception of the world as it should be.  Using the OODA Loop has been proven to be effective in speeding up the time a person requires to react to what others are doing (e.g. the game in real-time).

The following is my adaptation of the concept and how Referees can use it on the floor:

O – Observe:                                     
Referees need to take in as much “current” information as is available.  Work the mechanics system to see as much of the actual game as possible.  Focus on your primary, but have an awareness of the overall game situation, the 10 players and your two partners, the offense/defense the teams are running, the clocks, etc. – the more you can take in, the more accurate your perception and understanding of reality will be.

O – Orient
Here Referees interpret the information taken in.  It is the stage in the loop that leads to the most problems in decision-making as it is where the observed data is experienced through the Referee.

A Referee interprets what’s observed through his/her eyes, experiences, analysis, perceptions and even his/her own traditions.  All of a Referee’s personal experiences offer the guidance he/she will use to make decisions.  Referees must constantly “re-orient” and revise their interpretation as the game is dynamic.  The more flexible a Referee is with regards to allowing the data available to influence their response, as opposed to employing a “pre-set” mantra, or philosophy that may no longer apply to the current action, he/she will make a better decision that fits THIS situation and THIS set of circumstances. 

A core tenet of ref-ology is to “ref THIS play.”  That tenet is applicable at the Orient stage in the OODA loop.  Instead of employing mental models rooted in theory based upon absolute truth, when a Referee allows flexibility, the re-framing of situations and employs many mental models to lead him/her to the best decision for THIS situation, he/she wins (i.e. the official makes the best decision – correct call or correct non-call).

D – Decide
Referees make decisions by noticing their environment and continuing to assess until the perception/understanding they have requires them to choose how to communicate with coaches or partners or players or the table and most notably to blow the whistle or not.  Referees make decisions based upon the information they are constantly bringing in during the Observe stage and the interpretation methods used in the Orient stage.  Based upon the feedback each Referee provides him/herself as new information arrives, the Referee may change his/her decision to respond and decide to just continue assessing for a more appropriate response or he/she will decide and take action.

A – Act
: Here’s where a Referee does what he/she decided to do.  Once the decision is made, it may be to blow, blow with cadence or not blow at all.  Following this action, a Referee will cycle back to observing.  One must quickly judge him/herself for the merit of the decision made and get back to observing.

At each stage you are feeding information forward to the next stage and following the action taken, based upon the call or non-call you make, you give yourself feedback and continue observing.  When decision-making is intentional, it’s a very active and mentally aware process.  It can be exhausting and Referees must train to endure a high level of concentration for an entire game – not just when the clocks are running.

Take an active and present role to ORIENT and Re-ORIENT to new information going on in the GAME as it happens. Consider all the stimuli you OBSERVE  as you referee the GAME.  Use as many mental strategies as you can to assist you in making the best decisions, but understand your decisions do come from a process.  Your decisions and how you ACT are relying on your ability to concentrate.   You can be present during that process or sit back and let it happen – it’s up to you and the level of concentration you can achieve.  Work the system (mechanics) we have been given.  When worked habitually, your concentration can remain with the GAME and the decisions we have to make in that individual GAME according to our rules and guidelines. 

The model is much more complex than I represented above.  See below for a few references used in this blog and for further reading about OODA.

Although we know we will not referee a perfect game, employ OODA (or another decision-making technique), continue to ref THIS play this season and be internally motivated to strive for excellence!

ref-ology’s “ref THIS play” site, otherwise known as Interact, will soon be available again for the 2015-2016 season.  Keep checking the website for enrollment details.

Have a great season!  Shelley


Twister anyone?

This time of year generates lots of energy as we gear up for the season which is soon to arrive.  For me it looks like this: New rule books, contracts, physicals, scrimmages, ref-ology Fall workshop (already successfully completed), and the regional clinics underway.  The NCAA test is already out and great rules discussions, with the referees I collaborate with the most, are getting my mind back into basketball.

It’s an anxious time in anticipation of the best part of the year – the start of basketball season!

As I look forward, I work to make sure I have “crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s,” and I go in search of the game I felt most proud of last season.  Why?

Several years ago, a fellow, very accomplished, referee gave me great advice.  “Shelley, find the best game you worked towards the end of last season.  Watch it, and begin preparing from when you were performing at your best!”  That advice has served me well over the years! Thanks Tommy!

In our pursuit to be the best referee we can be, many of us have become somewhat addicted to the near instant feedback we get following our games via observations or film review.  However, with the beginning of the season in mind, I want to throw this concept out there.   In my opinion, the film room is where we “connect the dots.”  It’s the place to learn “play-calling,” positioning, angles, mechanics, offenses and defenses, trouble spots, etc.   We also learn about our partners, whether the crew worked effectively and where we needed to demonstrate better teamwork.  It’s where we can take a scientific approach to our job.  Film review must take place - it’s non-negotiable in our line of work.

If done with the goal to understand your mindset and thought process, improve your awareness, and to make changes in your future performance and teamwork, film review is an incredibly useful tool. 

However, real refereeing (what we actually do on the floor) is where the information we learn from watching film, and other training we do, needs to take effect.  The mental & physical preparation we do manifests itself each time we referee the GAME.

Compared to the film room where we can be objective, the art of refereeing, in my opinion, cannot be dehumanized.  The physical act of doing our job as referees is more like playing the game of “Twister.” We actively perform, which involves responding and reacting to several moving parts of the game occurring at the same time.  We make decisions in real-time based upon what’s actually taking place in the game at that time.  We need to be able to assess that information, process it and respond to activity accordingly.  Never will you have the same experience twice on the floor.  Considering angles, judgment and perception, it’s mentally challenging – and for me, probably more than physically challenging.

To learn the art of “decision-making,” we must first recognize that the skill requires attention, focus and real-time mental feedback you give to yourself – and only you can give it to yourself in the moment when you are working a game!

So, find THAT game from last season where you were performing your best, watch it and remember, start playing twister when you take the floor for your first scrimmage or game.  This game requires your attention!


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