First Horn – So What

After the first warning horn it’s time for the crew to get back to work. Know your responsibilities in a two and three person crew.

The following is a recommended best practice for handling resumption of play after a time-out or intermission — after the first warning horn is sounded.

  • Start in the right spot.  In a two-person (NFHS) crew — the person situated at the division line will be the official to handle the teams returning on the court.  In a three-person (NFHS / NCAA) crew, the officials that are either positioned at the top of the 3-point arc (30 second time out) or the opposite side neutral lane space mark, commonly called “the block” for a 60 second time out will be responsible for handling the huddles.
  • Move toward the huddles.  After the timer sounds the 1st warning horn which designates there is only 15 seconds left in the time out or intermission to be “ready and play” — you should “physically move toward” the huddles.  Don’t walk … a slight jog looks better.  In a three person crew it’s easy.  You have one official for each huddle.  With a two person crew the official at the division line needs to handle both.

    “Never turn your back or run away from the huddle until you are confident of the team’s return to the floor.”

  • Get Verbal and Visual.  Be close enough and say loud enough for everyone in the huddle(s) to hear:  “First horn … No Substitutions.”  It’s simple.  Four words every time while holding up your index finger with the arm toward the huddle.  If the team is still talking after the first warning horn — keep moving closer until you next to the huddle.  I personally continue to hold up my index finger so they can see a visual warning.
  • Stay until Huddle Breaks.  In my pre-games we discuss this technique.  If the “huddle handling” official is still standing out of position dealing with the teams — then we are NOT ready to resume play.  Once the huddle starts to break you will start to back-out to your position.
  • Stubborn Huddlers.  If they don’t break and the 2nd horn is sounded.  Get verbal again.  “That’s the 2nd horn … we are about ready to play ball” … or something like that.  A bit of final encouragement (and official final warning) before we get ready to resume play.  If after the 2nd horn the handling official is still near the huddle and not in position, we will NOT put the ball in play.  However if that official has given the final warning and decides the team is not complying then they should move away from the huddle into their next position.  This alerts the inbounding official that we’ve given enough warnings and you can follow the resumption of play procedures — in NFHS by putting the ball on the floor and initiating a count.
  • Count and count again.  Each official (or the table official in a crew of two) is responsible for two things.
    1) Not allowing any substitutes after the 1st warning horn.  (remember, you already warned them)
    2) Counting the players as they return to the floor.  This is CRITICAL and a key responsibility of the “huddle handler.”  If you are alone (crew of two) then count both teams.  Otherwise count the team members from the huddle you were responsible for.   Obviously do not signal ready to play (to your partner) if teams have excessive players on the court.  Allow time to remedy that situation before starting.  (a.k.a. preventative officiating)

    “It’s the entire crews responsibility to make sure the right number of players return to the floor.”

  • Don’t Cry over Spilled Water.  In both a high school and college game if the court is not ready to play because of a team spilling water on the floor – just issue a warning for delay of game, per the rules.  If they already were issued a warning for delay then a Technical Foul would be appropriate here.
  • Resumption of Play.  If all goes well the teams will break the huddle on time and you can resume play normally.  If not, the resumption of play procedure (NFHS 7-5 or NCAA 4.31) should be used.   That’s  a topic for another day.

Once the first horn sounds it’s time for YOU (and the crew) to get back to work.  Focus on clear communications with the huddles, prompting the players to be on-time ready to play, and make sure to prevent rule violations such as late substitutions and too many players.

 Rule References
NFHS 4-47, 7-5  NCAA 4.10.1, 10.2.5c, 4.31, IAABO Mechanics Manual 2013-14

About Billy Martin

Co-creator of "60 Seconds on Officiating" and co-author of Beyond the Rules (book series) for Basketball Officials. Billy is a 35+ year basketball official with IAABO (Camden Board 34 and Cum-Cape 196, in Southern NJ). He also is a collegiate softball umpire with the Eastern Collegiate Softball Umpires (ECSU), and created the best selling "Bluebook 60" for fastpitch umpires, and coaches. Contact: Website | Twitter | More Posts

7 Comments on First Horn – So What

  1. sammyl312@hotmail.com' sam lamacchia IAABO #47 // January 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm // Reply

    One tip I learned long ago was when I met with the coaches at pregame bench intro, I would tell an asst. coach that I would not interrupt the head’s speech but I put the responsibility on that assistant to get the team out of huddle on time outs. When 1st warning came I would verbally say 1st warning so the assistant coach knew I was there. Eye contact would tell me he-she heard the warning…never had a problem with that technique, as with other way the head coach may bait me into the huddle and I didn’t want dialogue or interfere with coach’s time out coaching. If no assistant just do it the other way and use voice projection properly.

  2. One of my pet peeves…In my pregame with coaches, I’ll say we want to be ready to play on the second horn, not trying to get one or both teams out on the floor.
    In baseball, pitchers get 8 warm-up pitches to start the game and then 5 between innings, not however many they feel like….we count them. It’s all about advantage/disadvantage when one team is out and the other isn’t…Put the ball in play!

  3. If the offensive team does not come out, we put the ball down and start the count. If it’s the defensive team, would you recommend a delay of game warning or simply giving the ball to the team ready to paly?

  4. Give the ball to the team ready to play. If you follow procedure, the defense has had plenty of time and warnings and should be back on the court. I have done this on a few occasions and I guarantee the defense will be ready to play at the end of the next time out.

  5. Our association has found that a short whistle before the verbal statements is a big help in getting the teams to break the huddles.

  6. In my role as an Interpreter of a Maine board, I ask our officials to give the first horn signal physically and verbally and then go to their proper positions to begin play. It is not our job to cajole teams to respond to the 2nd horn. It is in the rules. Resuming play procedure has a magically effect if used early and often. Your offerings of how to handle this responding or lack there of is more “college based” and not a guideline that I would support. Coaches have enough assistants to “assist” with the sounding of horn #2. You may say it is facilitating…I say it is fraught with opportunity for inconsistency from game to game, from crew to crew and from team to team.

  7. I tend to agree with RTG. It has been my experience that if you enforce the rule as written without the “accommodating” gestures coaches and teams become aware of your professionalism and will work within the parameters that you set. Tolerating the envelope pushing by coaches at any level leads to unwarranted delays and soon both coaches will push the limit. Clear and concise directions lets coaches know what is expected

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