Remove Before Flight

Like a pilot leading a pre-flight check … the referee should take control of the pregame crew discussion. Here are some tools to help with a comprehensive two and three person crew pregame talk.

It doesn’t matter how many years of experience an airplane pilot might have … before EACH and EVERY flight the “pilot in charge” reviews a comprehensive checklist  before even firing up the engines or taxiing out onto the runway.  Even if they have flown thousands of times before in the same aircraft, with the same co-pilot … they still take the time to do their “pre-flight checks” to increase the likelihood of a smooth and uneventful journey.

While a basketball game might not require the same meticulous and rigid checks and balances it does merit a methodical approach to preparing the crew for any eventual situations and problems on the court.

Here’s my take on a solid pregame discussion.

  • The “R” Takes the Lead: If you are assigned as the Referee (or crew chief) it’s YOUR responsibility to lead the pregame discussion.  Take this as responsibility above and beyond the normal game assignment.  Just as the referee (typically) will toss the ball to start the game – you should initiate the pregame / locker room talk as well.  If the “R” fails to initiate that conversation — you (as a crew member) prompt them – gently and appropriately.  “Hey Mr. R, what types of things should we discuss before going out there tonight,” might be a good way to start that dialogue.
  • Five Minutes is Better than None:  While I truly believe a good pregame takes about ten minutes to be covered properly – if you only have a few minutes, take advantage of them and use it wisely.  It’s better to prioritize a few key items than walk onto the court without any discussion.  If only five minutes, make sure to talk about the big items – like PCA’s, line coverages, last second shots, etc.
  • Don’t Go By Memory: Pilots use checklists … and so should you.  You should not be embarrassed by pulling out your favorite list that can be quickly reviewed by the crew.  Some folks have long multi-page documents and others have 3×5 cards with a few key items.  IAABO provides a nice laminated card to our members each year.  The one that I use is a hybrid from the IAABO card and items that I feel are important.

pregamecardiconsmallCLICK to DOWNLOAD a SAMPLE:
 60 Seconds on Officiating Pregame Discussion Card

  • Be Visual: Whether it’s a chalkboard in the locker room, a small magnetic board, or a dry-erase coaching board — make sure to “visually” discuss important areas of concern.  Most pregame cards have a small court diagram already incorporated into them. (see sample above)  Using a couple of pennies to represent your crew on these court diagrams and moving them around can really help the less experienced officials understand positioning and line coverage.
  • Make it an Open Dialogue:  While the Referee should lead this discussion it’s not just all about him / her and  in a dictator mode.  It’s about a collaborative and stimulating conversation between crew members.  If you decide (for some special reason) to deviate from the standard mechanics then you must communicate that during the pregame discussion.  Allow your partner(s) to contribute to this discussion by asking questions and their viewpoint on various topics.

To make this a bit easier … we’ve taken the 60 Seconds on Officiating Sample Pregame Card and put some video (and audio) behind it — see below.  This enables officials to become more familiar with a consistent process and flow to a standard pregame discussion.  From there you can branch out, edit, revise and customize this to your liking and crew situations.

The key takeaway here is … the crew should ALWAYS have some type of pregame discussion based on the situation and time allowed.  And as the Referee … it’s your job to initiate that discussion.  If you have any special topics .. feel free to share them with our Ref60.com readers below.
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

3 Comments on Remove Before Flight

  1. Excellent! This is timely with post-season play coming up. Accentuates the ideals and philosophies of positive-preventive officiating. No official is too experienced to participate in a constructive pre-game “discussion.” Thanks for continuing the good word!

  2. I agree with Bob! This is perfect timing. While I work with the same few partners during the regular season and we cover the things that happened in previous games as well as how to handle situations we may or may not have had, the post-season is completely different as I am working with individuals I have never worked with before (or in some cases never seen before). We all hope we never have a situation where we don’t have time for a pre-game but I have to face facts, I live in Chicagoland and it snows here (alot this year) and you may have to make due with that quick 5-minute pre-game!

  3. Great article and the audio was spot on. Pre-game, half-time and post game discussions can’t be stressed enough and are vital to successful crew communication.

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