By Dave Sheets, published Feb. 27, 2017 –

An observer at a recent basketball tournament shared his notes with other officials a few days later. He left the names out of his comments to not embarrass any official but the discussion was extremely valuable.


He noted that one official would often comment from the lead position, “Keep moving, keep moving.” The observed noted that most of the players being encouraged to move, did not. He began his own counting finding that five and six second stays in the lane were common, despite the encouragement from the official. After the game in the locker room, the observer asked the official about not having a three-second violation call. “I don’t want to affect the flow of the game. I never call three seconds,” the official stated.


In a later game that day, the observer noticed that none of the officials had a visible count in the backcourt or a closely-guarded situation. The more he watched, he began his own mental counting on full court pressing situations. Still, no count from the officials. The coaches and fans were pleading for a count, but none was given. In the observer’s opinion, there was not a missed 10-second violation, but a couple of situations were close. The locker room chat included a discussion about these counts with the officials. Their responses were, “We aren’t interrupting the game for something like that. The defense is preventing them from scoring so why blow a whistle?”


The observer also recounted how there were instances of shirttails not being tucked in, illegal hair control devices being worn and a host of illegal sleeves, wristbands, compression garments  and headbands being used. In nearly every case, the officials explained to him that those things weren’t important and they weren’t going to make the player, coach or crowd angry by dealing with them. In a few instances, the officials simply stated that they had not noticed the illegal equipment.


The bottom line is that officials during these games were determining which rules they would enforce and which they would ignore. Sometimes these issues were discussed in the pregame so all officials could agree and other times, it was simply how it worked out. When questioned, the observer indicated that each of these games was officiated by a crew that was familiar with each other and not the first time they had been together. The question as officials, “Is this preventative officiating or is this allowing a player or team to have an unfair advantage?”

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