Referees Hard At Work On and Off The Court

10 August 2005

FIBA Europe’s youth championships are a breeding ground for the future of basketball. The best young players in the game get the chance to test their skills against their peers and to see where they stack up against the rest of the competition.

The referees find themselves in a similar situation. These events allow FIBA Europe to give much-needed experience to young referees and the chance to work together with their veteran counterparts.

While the referees need to work hard on the court, that is not the extent of their duties. Each FIBA Europe youth tournament is attended by a Referee Instructor and Referee Tutor, whose job it is to give each official feedback to their performance and discuss how they can improve.

The task of the Instructor and Tutor is not an easy one. They must spend the whole day watching games, evaluating performances and selecting situations for later discussion. They must then gather all the game footage on tape and plan the daily morning meeting with all referees to discuss the previous day’s action.

FIBA Europe Referee Instructor Zsolt Hartyani
FIBA Europe Referee Instructor Zsolt Hartyani
At the U20 European Championship Men in Chekov, Russia, this job went to Luigi Lamonica and Zsolt Hartyani as the Tutor and Instructor respectively.

“This tournament is a great opportunity for a group of referees to work together immediately after the game with the game video from the day before,” said Lamonica during the championship.

Working with the referees does not just mean telling them right and wrong. A clear aim of the FIBA Europe Referee Department is not just to teach how to make the right call, but when to make the right call.

The distinction can be seen in what became one of the main topics for Lamonica and Hartiyani in Chekov, the advantage-disadvantage rule.

“In the rulebook basketball is a non contact sport, but the reality is completely different and for referees it is very easy to call fouls,” explained Lamonica

“Everybody can call fouls, with the technology of 2005 a machine can recognise what is a foul or not. The difference is finding the ref who can say this is a foul for sure, but it is not important for the game. For example in a fast break there is contact, but it’s in the open court and the basket is scored. Everybody understands that this is a foul, but if the offensive player doesn’t receive a disadvantage, why stop the game, continue. This is a concept that nobody can teach.”

The method the Tutor and Instructor use to get across this concept, which is so important to the flow of the game, is to show as many situations as possible and to create discussion among the referees.

However, it is not an easy task and compounded by the different backgrounds and experience of the individual referees.

“Every country has a different basketball culture,” said Lamonica

“Eastern countries have one culture, western countries have another. Some countries have very good competition like Italy, Spain, Greece and others that are not so strong. So there are very few chances for referees to improve in national competition.”

Such problems make the task of having referees from all over Europe using consistent criteria to officiate games nearly impossible. But it is clear that progress is being made.

“There are some guys are who are very young for international refs and probably they are already better than some experienced referees, but they need time. Here there is no pressure, but in EuroBasket it is different and without experience the best referees can have problems,” said Lamonica.

It is also clear that the system of working with referees so closely during tournaments is still in its infancy but the goals and targets are clear.

“We have to keep everybody consistent, but it is not easy. We want to have a mix between experienced and young refs. We want that during the game, in timeouts they speak together after the game. If you get feedback after one month, you have forgotten about the game. Immediately after you remember the situation and you can discuss it. When we have discussion we are happy because it is very useful to discuss and have different points of view.”

It should be remembered that referees are amateurs working in a professional world. They need to maintain the skills to be able to officiate games with players and coaches who dedicate their lives to basketball 24/7. Referees, however, have lives outside of basketball, lives which take up the majority of their time.

Nonetheless, despite not having the time or money to be able to devote themselves exclusively to their sport, it is clear that at FIBA Europe tournaments, the referees are working extremely hard to be as good as they can be.

“This kind of way of working started with Miguel Betancor in FIBA Europe,” said Lamonica

His experience and his job in the university (he is a professor) was important to provoke discussion and good ideas. I know not many people know about this (the work outside the court), but I don’t think that’s important. I think it’s important we work for basketball.”


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