The foundation of basketball as a sport rests on four elements, which most directly influence the attained quality of the basketball game. These elements make a chain consisting of inseparable rings. In case just one of these rings would get broken, the chain would lose the strength it is expected to have.
Basketball rules, defining the way of playing
Coaches, teaching the players how to play
Players, playing how they are taught to play
Referees, controlling the game – applying rules
The definition itself points to a special importance of the referee – coach relationship:
The characteristics of the coach should include: general education – teaching talent and skill/capacity – professional approach – knowledge of the basketball game – proper approach to the management, players and the competition. The coach should be present/there/at hand, he should estimate the situation, find the way how and lead his team to finally win the game.
The coach is a leader, but not the leader who commands “let’s go to win”, but the leader who takes a leading position of the team and gives an incentive – “let’s go/off we go…”.
In a modern basketball, the coach is assisted by a number of teams of experts to make sure that by a proper evaluation and an adequate preparation all the prerequisites to play high quality basketball and win the game are met.. Nothing is taken for granted nowadays. Absolutely all the details are taken into consideration.
Feeling a need and in response to the actual interest in this topic, I have been trying to select the most appropriate approach to elaborate on it, and finally, I have come to a conclusion that the best way to achieve the desired effect is to be sincere and explicit.
For that reason, when it comes to the pre-game referee-coach relationship, we have to point out the following:
1. The majority of coaches want to know who is going to officiate the game
2. More than a few coaches enquire with the club management if they tried to ensure that “a favourable/fitting referee” is to officiate.
3. From the moment the coach knows who the referees to officiate the game are, he starts to analyse the experience he had with these referees in previous games.
At the same time, from the moment the referee receives the nomination for the game, in the course of his pre-game preparations, he starts analyzing:
1. His previous experience and relationship with the particular coach.
2. Whether he as a referee had any troubles or, on the contrary, close relations with that coach on or out of the playing court.
3. What are the most favourable tactical options of that coach.
All the things that are not directly linked with the game, i.e., all their intimate relationships, companionship, conflicts, personal dislike of some coaches, the referees should put completely aside and separate from what is related to the game and its officiating.
The last season has revealed a new tendency in the referee-coach relationship, that is, a reduced effect of the officiating itself on the occurrence of problems on the one hand, and an increased effect of the personal referee-coach relationship on the occurrence of these problems, on the other hand.
The first contact/communication with the coach just before the game start is a first step, and often, the most important one in establishing a correct/right referee-coach relationship.
1, The first contact should be dignified, considerate, courteous/mannerly, polite
2, Discussions on press/public statements (if any) which one or both of them have given should be avoided.
3, Details related to a particular game should also not be discussed.
4, It is necessary to bear in mind that the opposing/another team coach or members also carefully watch every gesture and count every minute of the referee-coach encounter /contact
After the players on the playing court, the coaches and the referees are those who are the centre of the attention. In other words, they are persons whose functions are definitely public. All their decisions, actions/motions, gestures/signs, shouts…are precisely registered and commented upon after the game.
It would be best that the positions of the coaches and referees such as: “I’ll call everything I see and the best I am able to…”, i.e. ” he is an amateur taking/ grabbing bread out of my mouth” are left in the dressing room, or even better, at home.
When speaking about the referee-coach relationship, our wish is that this relationship results in a joint/shared, harmonized/synchronized, and in its character/nature an effective/fruitful “WE” on the playing court.
The coaches as well as the players are extremely intelligent people and that is why the referees are required to establish their own standards in the game as soon as possible, i.e. to show everyone in the game what will be allowed/acceptable/tolerated and what will not be allowed/tolerated that evening. The next step forward which is indispensable is consistency. The intelligence of coaches and players is then activated, along with their tactical and adaptation/adjustment abilities.
This should result in a well done job/good quality performance that brings satisfaction, i.e. in something that is not a function (does not depend on) a victory or a defeat.
However, the problems inevitably arise.
On the one hand, it may happen that the rules of the game are inadequately applied by the referees, or even that the rules are adequately applied by the referees but there is a lack in an adequate/correct training of the players. In this case, it is necessary to point out a psychological moment of calling a violation, which may make the referee blow the whistle because he saw something “unusual”. That “unusual” need not necessarily be a violation, it may be an extremely complicated and long-practiced/trained action the coaches and the players have worked hard on for hours. Such a decisions may be an introduction to misunderstanding, and if repeated, it may lead to a conflict.
However, there are also the coaches who teach/train their players to disrespect/evade the rules of the game, i.e. to reach the target – score – win, with as little technical skill as possible.
An impartial observer/the game spectator may be very surprised about how the coach after only few minutes of “dissatisfaction/ disapproval” may change his attitude/ behaviour toward the referee, only because he is now satisfied with the outcome of the game.
Here we reach an extremely specific situation, which is the “tactics” of unsportsmanlike behaviour of the coach aimed at provoking the referee’s reaction he counts on, wishing to achieve a later influence on him, and thereby/as a result he gets the game/play which mostly suits him and his team.
We now enter the aspect of the game, which has been very well studied – the conflicts.
The referees, and especially the experienced ones know how to identify the situations that lead to conflict. They also know that the solution to these situations is not to run away from them/escape them, but to face them/decide how to approach and solve them.
The most of referee-coach relationship problems today originate not so much from officiating as much from conflicting personalities in some situations. Solving problems actually means dealing with people, personalities, their characters, feelings, mentality…
In the referee-coach relationshp, due to already mentioned public performance, the gestures and the voice intonation are the source of conflicts in most of the cases.
Very often, it is very important to identify/find out the reason that caused the conflict as soon as possible. More often than not a kind/calm, polite, reassuring tone and reasonable/logical explanation (all do not know the rules of the game as the referees do) will be accepted/admitted by the other conflicting party. The two-way/mutual communication is essential. It is necessary to try by all means not to solve the conflict in such a way that one side will be a winner and another a loser, because that inevitably leads to additional misunderstanding and arguments. The imperative, commanding communication leads to an abyss of passion, emotions, anger, fear… Politeness, dignity, decisiveness may be achieved through a self-control, rather than through imposing the authority on and controlling the others. The communication should be as short as possible. It is vital to establish the reason first/as soon as possible, then to choose the best way and method, and the solution will be satisfactory.
The referee-coach relationship must rest on mutual confidence and sincere actions/behaviour. Mutual referee-coach responsibility is very important, but even more important is their responsibility for basketball.
The coach, if we ignore/with the exception of his tactical actions/moves, is engaged in evaluating the quality of officiating, he is not a coach but an officiating supervisor, and during his “engagement” his team has no coach. Likewise, the referee who directs/ re-routes his whistle from the situation on the playing court to the coach, turns his back to the very essence of the game.
The scope of activities by which the coaches exert “pressure” on the referees is large: approaching the commissioner at the score-keeping table. making gestures, entering the playing court, turning to the spectators, persuading the assistant coach to protest, taking the ball in his hands when it is in the vicinity of his bench, using referees’ signs such as awarding/cancelling points, unsportsmanlike, technical, exclusion foul… so that the spectators see it, shouting, throwing things…
In such situations, the referees should observe/follow the rules of the game which are very precise and clear.
When it comes to the coaches, there is one question which is highly present, that is, no matter that the coaches are professionals spending every day several hours doing their job, and the referees are “amateurs”, whether the coaches know better the rules of the game, or the referees know better the game technique and tactics. The answer to this question is very clear, it is not to be compared, it is a mission that requires the level of this knowledge to be brought as close as possible because it ultimately leads to an increase in the quality of the basketball game.
In every game we pay attention to its regular termination procedure. I have noticed that there are uncomparably many more situations (almost 90%) in which after the game, the coaches shake hands and thank each other for cooperation. However, when it comes to the referee-coach relationship, the percentage of these situations is lower (60%), what is in itself indicative and includes various elements.
The point is and it is very important that the coach and the referee, when leaving the dressing room after the game, they both already think about starting preparations for the next game. They are two actors/participants of the competition who know they depend on/will be depending on each other for a long period of time. Besides, if through a self-control they secceed to overcome their momentary weaknesses, the possibility to lay the foundation for the forthcoming cooperation is there.
For that purpose, at the end of this subject, their mutual good luck and good bye would be the greatest satisfaction.
Alan Richardson and a top European coach who wishes to remain anonymous.
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