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Article: Road to officiating a careful mix of… | Ohio Valley Basketball Officials Association | Cincinnati Ohio

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Article: Road to officiating a careful mix of…

Posted by | February 9, 2011 .

…, tolerance and learning consistency

Road to officiating a careful mix of education, tolerance and learning consistency

The Eagle-Gazette Staff

CANAL WINCHESTER — The discussions among players and coaches before, during and after basketball games are all about analysis and adjustment.

As it turns out, similar talks occur among the officials for those games. It’s all in an effort to ensure that, for referees, one goal above all others is reached every night: consistency.

“If you have a charge at this end, and you have a similar thing at the other end, you have to make sure you call it the same way,” said Rick Johnson Jr., a 12th-year basketball official. “Sometimes there’s no set way of going about it. You just want to be consistent.”

Each official must undergo extensive training before ever picking up a whistle. It’s all in an effort to ensure a quality experience for high school athletes, said Ohio High School Athletic Association Assistant Commissioner Henry Zaborniak Jr., who oversees officiating, as well.

“We do want to provide as much consistent training with respect to rules knowledge and judgment,” Zaborniak said. “We don’t want a situation where one night kids get away with all kinds of contact and the next night they come back and every touch foul is called.

“We want to try to eliminate that wide disparity.”

More than 3,400 officials are certified to officiate varsity basketball games in Ohio. All were required to take a 25- to 30-hour course on rules and mechanics before taking the certification test.

In a recent survey of officials in all sports conducted by the OHSAA, the two most popular reasons for becoming certified were to stay involved with a particular sport and to help young athletes learn the values they believed interscholastic athletics provide.

“I played basketball all my life,” said Kerry Stringer, in his ninth season as a basketball official. “I liked the game and I was wanted to stay a part of it. I do it for fun, and try to do the best job I can every night.”

Stringer, with crewmates Jeff Buchholtz and Paul Still, officiated the boys varsity matchup between rivals Bloom-Carroll and Canal Winchester this past Friday.

During halftime of the junior varsity contest, the three-person crew advised their JV counterparts of things they could do better in the second half.

At the break in the varsity matchup, those junior varsity officials would return the favor.

“I look at it as giving back the same way someone did for me when I started,” Still said. “Someone took the time to help me get better, and so it’s important that I help out, too.”

In addition to regular game work — all three members of Friday’s crew said they typically officiate 25 to 30 games a season — officials can attend any number of skills and mechanics camps throughout the offseason.

The OHSAA offers skills minicamps for basketball referees every summer, which they must pay for out of pocket. Of the roughly 5,500 certified to register all levels of high school basketball, almost 1,000 attended one of those camps, Zaborniak said.

“That’s nearly 20 percent of our officiating corps,” Zaborniak said. “I think that says a lot about a group of people who have families and jobs and do this as an avocation.”

Johnson said he typically begins getting into shape for an upcoming basketball season during the summer, and will officiate games in summer leagues to work on his timing and mechanics.

“You think you know the rules and mechanics before you start,” Johnson said. “When you start as an official, you find out you don’t. It’s just like anything else — you have to put in that time.”

Stringer, Buchholtz and Still followed their normal pregame routine before Friday’s contest: The crew made sure observed the style of play during the junior varsity contest, then went over points of emphasis before taking the floor.

“Once you’ve been officiating for awhile, there’s a comfort level,” Buchholtz said. “You don’t think so much — you’re just reacting to what you see in front of you.”

As far as boisterous or overzealous fans voicing their displeasure, Johnson said that as the years go by, an official develops a thick skin for that kind of criticism.

“You tend to block that stuff out,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to differentiate when you get a whole bunch of stuff mixed together.

“You can’t be out there taking it personally. It’s an intimate atmosphere. You can always have a little laugh when that kind of thing happens.”


• After completing 25 to 30 hours of instructional classes, potential officials can take the certification test. The test for certification consists of 100 true-or-false questions that deal mostly with game situations.

• Once certified, officials typically work one to two seasons at the freshman and junior varsity levels before being allowed to officiate varsity contests.

• There are 3,410 Class 1 officials in Ohio, which means they are eligible to work varsity OHSAA tournament games. Those 3,410 Class 1 officials by district: Central 541; East 274; Northeast 1,018; Northwest 583; Southeast 263; Southwest 731.

• Including Class 2 officials, who are certified to officiate freshman and junior varsity contests, there are about 5,500 basketball officials overall in Ohio.

• Basketball officials work in three-person crews. During the course of a game, each official is in one of three spots: the lead, trail or center position. Each position is responsible for a different area of the court, and each has specific types of action to focus on. All officials spend some amount of time in each position during a game.

• The fees paid to basketball officials for regular-season contests are decided by each league. The average is $55. For OHSAA tournament games, officials get paid $70 for sectional, $100 for district, $135 for regional and $180 for state-level games.

• Many individual leagues enlist paid or volunteer evaluators for officiating. Those people observe a crew and report back to league officials. The OHSAA evaluates officiating during all levels of tournament games, and uses those evaluations to develop points of emphasis for future seasons.

• At its February 2010 Board of Directors meeting, the OHSAA approved the creation of a Director of Officiating Development for 12 OHSAA sports. The goal of these positions is to improve communication and “foster the development of local association-based education and training for officials,” according to the OHSAA.