First published on Referee.com, 2017

Raise your Game with Elevated Thinking

There you are, just cruising along in a basketball game. Everything is going smoothly, and then all of a sudden — bang! All hell breaks loose. What happened? “Why did that coach explode on that play?” “Gee, I hope I got that play right, because that’s the last nail in the coffin.” “Oh my god, we needed a whistle there!” “Crap, and that was his or her fifth foul too …”  

Ever have any of those thoughts? Be honest. We all have. But what can we learn from those situations? Should we have seen them coming? In most cases, the game will give you “caution signs” if you pay attention. But the overwhelming problem is that officials generally rely on their reactions to get through a game. And even if their reactions are normally good, all it takes is one bad one at the wrong time to blow up the game.

So how do we see the caution signs? Well, first realize that you’re standing in the middle of a minefield! Don’t panic, you can get through this — all you need is to apply some “elevated thinking.” To avoid shrapnel, you need to think your way though a game.  “Elevated thinking” is about knowing where the danger lies in officiating.

What to Look For

When you examine why and when we get yelled at, it often boils down to not only making marginal calls, or missing illegal plays, but also includes the circumstances surrounding them. If you know where and when it can be dangerous, you then can raise your awareness to make solid decisions versus relying on just reacting to plays.

We all know that a marginal call can frustrate players, coaches and fans. And the same can be said for when we miss a call that is obvious to everyone. But those situations are not created equal. Some incidents end up being more explosive than others. That realization led Darron George, NCAA D-I men’s official, along with his co-camp director, NBA official Pat Fraher, to run the Elevate Officiating camp (elevateofficiating.com) and to identify four “land mines” of play calling. Let’s examine the minefields in regard to missed or marginal plays.

Marginal Call Landmine #1 – Impact Players

Some players are better than others. It’s always been that way, and always will be. They are called impact players because they have an impact on the game, and on their team’s chances of winning. Does that mean they should receive special treatment? No. But you better know where they are. Everyone’s eyes are on the “key match-up.” “Coaches pregame them, announcers analyze them and we better identify them,” George said. “When we call a marginal play against an impact player, that whistle has a consequence. It may cause a substitution, or worse yet, a disqualification. It may mean free throws or points scored. Both of those can severely impact a team’s chances of success, which is why coaches, players and fans go nuts on those plays. The problem is that those situations act as double-edged swords, because if you miss a play, or call a marginal play, for them or against them, there will be a major reaction.”

The point is an elevated awareness is needed. It doesn’t change your judgment, but hopefully will keep you from merely reacting on the plays, and induce you to make a decision instead.

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