How to Become a Basketball Referee: Ultimate Guide

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Wouldn’t you like to know how to become a basketball referee? Perhaps, you would like to know how basketball referees get to where they are now. You may even be interested in finding out the average salary for a referee.

Whatever the reason you were here, welcome! Surely you can agree that one of the most essential jobs in basketball is that of a referee. We want to take a closer look at the refereeing position, their responsibilities, how to become a referee, and their salaries.

Sports officiating can be challenging but also quite rewarding. We will take a close look at this very important job in the game we all love so much.

What are the Duties of a Basketball RefereeWhat are the Duties of a Basketball Referee?

So, what are the duties of a referee? We often see referees officiating games, and we, to a certain extent, appreciate what they do even though we do not understand all of it. A referee has enormous amounts of responsibilities and the duties that they need to carry out as part of their jobs. Their jobs begin even before the start of the game.

Equipment check

Those of us who play basketball can attest to this. Before our games, we notice the referees performing certain tasks that are required by the rules of the game. Before the start of the game, referees needed to ensure that the equipment that will be used in the game is inspected and is in-game condition.

When we say equipment, we are talking about the court, the basketballs, the timing and scoring equipment, backboards, Etc. This is an essential check for two reasons. All the equipment being used should be at the game standard and should not offer any competitive advantage or disadvantage to any of the players on the court.

The other reason is that all of these equipment needs to be safe for the players while they are playing. The referees are also responsible for checking the players before the game. Players often wear safety equipment for themselves, so the referee needs to ensure that all of these equipment are not dangerous to other players.

Referees should make sure that hard protective materials are covered with pads or foam so that they cannot harm anyone they come into contact with. They also need to make sure that all the gear being worn by players are approved by the leagues in which they play.
Referees also need to ensure that no prohibited substances are being applied to the players. When we say prohibited substances, we are talking about things that can give the players competitive advantages such as height, weight, or reach.


What are the Duties of a Basketball Referee

The referee is responsible for the game process. From tip-off to the final whistle, the referee is literally responsible. It’s the referee’s job to conduct the tip, and it is their responsibility to blow the final whistle. As you know, the referees are responsible for calling fouls, violations, and also administering the punishment for these.

The referee has a vital job of ensuring the ball is in the right team’s possession after calls or violations are made. We are sometimes very passionate about the way we approached basketball, and as a result of this, tempers may rise, and situations that are less than ideal may occur.

It is the job of the referees to ensure that the players and coaches behave with ethical sportsmanlike conduct throughout the game or penalize those who do not. Referees are in charge of ejections for both players and coaches and for calling unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. If errors are made throughout the game, such as with the game clock or the recording of the stats and score, the referees are responsible for correcting these errors.

In some leagues such as the NBA, the referees have an extended team member that uses television monitors and replays to help them in situations that are very hard to call on the court.

Monitor player’s health

If players are injured or cut throughout a game, the referee must have that player immediately removed from the game.

If there are extraordinary situations on the court that are not covered by the rules, the referees have the power to make decisions based on what they see fit. In the NBA, this is called elastic power.

5 Qualifications for Becoming a Basketball Referee5 Qualifications for Becoming a Basketball Referee

Being a great referee depends more on one’s ability to quickly make good decisions and one’s experience in the field more than it does on one’s level of education in school. There are specific requirements that referees must have before they are allowed to officiate games.
Depending on one’s level of commitment to become a basketball referee, getting certified can be easy or difficult. In most leagues, referees need to have a minimum of a high school diploma. To be certified as a referee, there are various tests that need to be passed.

1. Know the rules

Before we get to the various tests that a potential referee should pass, let’s start at the very beginning of what a potential referee needs to do. A person who wants to become a basketball referee should first learn the rules of the game. This is the most crucial step in the journey. A referee is in charge of enforcing the rules on the court, so it is only logical that they know the rules.

Purchase the rulebook, learn the rules, and then watch games either live or on television to see the rules being enforced by other referees.

2. Learn from the rest

In addition to learning the rules and taking tests, a new referee must learn the game’s unwritten rules from more experienced referees.
There are some aspects of referring that can only be learnt through experience. Referees that have been doing this job for a long time have a wealth of knowledge.

3. Pass written exams and live tests

For officiating high school level, potential referees need to pass a written exam and a floor test in which they officiate live games while being judged.

For high school basketball, the training and certification process is done on a state-by-state basis.

4. Gain valuable experience

To become a referee at the collegiate level, you will need to first have some experience at the high school level.
You can register with the NCAA and take the officiating exam. You will be placed in the lower divisions as a rookie referee. Based on your skills and experience gained in these divisions, you can move up to division 1.

5. Demonstrate capabilities for NBA officials

To become a referee at the NBA level, it is customary for you to start in the NBA’s development league, national tryouts, NCAA camps, or international events. The NBA scouts referees for the NBA at these events before selecting them.

What Training is Available to Become a Professional RefereeWhat Training is Available to Become a Professional Referee?

If you are interested in being a referee at the highest level, you must first start refereeing in one of the grassroots programs. These programs include NCAA championships, high school basketball, national tryouts, intramurals, International gameplay, and so on.

The NBA uses a scouting system to select who they feel to be among the top 100 candidates. After the candidate pool has been narrowed down, the potential referees will be sent to three different levels of camps.

After finishing the initial training camp, they will progress to the mid-level training camp and then on to the elite camp. After being successful in the elite referee training camps, the referees are then hired into the NBA G League summer league training camp, or they may do additional new hire orientation sessions.

These new G League referees attend preseason meetings, preseason-play-off games, and NBA official’s testings. After they gain some experience in the NBA G League, these new referees are evaluated, and if they are good enough, recommended to be hired into the NBA or the WNBA.

If you are interested in starting this journey, you can find information on referee training camps here. You can then find basketball referee training videos here.

How Much Do Basketball Referees MakeHow Much Do Basketball Referees Make?

A professional referee salary depends on the level that they referee at. Understandably, the higher you progress in the leagues, the more you will get paid. As with any job, there is a range in the salary earned by referees at each level.

How Much Do Basketball Referees Make

For referees that referee at the high school level, the top referees can earn as much as $250 weekly on average. Referees officiating in the NCAA can expect a salary ranging from $130 to $700 per game, depending on the division that they are working in.

Referees that officiate in the NBA can earn around $100,000 per year at the entry-level while the more experienced referees have the potential to earn up to $300,000 yearly on average. WNBA referee salaries average out at around $16,000 per year.

How Many Referees are there in a Basketball GameHow Many Referees are there in a Basketball Game?

In professional games, three officials officiate a game. There are also situations in semi-professional or non-professional leagues where there can be one referee or two referees per game.

Every NBA game is officiated by a 3-man crew comprising of an umpire, a referee, and a crew chief. In FIFA gameplay, there are sometimes two men crews that have a referee and an umpire or 3-man team containing a referee and two umpires.

What's the Difference Between a Referee and an Umpire in BasketballWhat’s the Difference Between a Referee and an Umpire in Basketball?

The referee and the umpire have similar responsibilities in terms of making calls in their area of the court. The referee usually has a bit more responsibility than the umpire and sometimes will have more weight when difficult calls are to be made.

Who is the Youngest NBA RefereeWho is the Youngest NBA Referee?

Ed T. Rush has the record for the youngest referee appointed to the NBA in its history. Ed became an NBA referee at the age of 24 in 1966. The youngest referee currently in the NBA is JB DeRosa. JB started refereeing games at the age of 13.

He officiated in the NCAA and NBA G League before being appointed to the NBA at the age of 26 in 2017.

Wrapping Things Up: How to Become a Basketball Referee

The requirements for becoming a referee differ at each level. At the lowest level, you need only to know the rules, learn the hand signals, pass a written test, and pass a live game appraisal.

You will be evaluated at this level before you can progress to the collegiate and international levels. If, after scouting, you are deemed suitable, the NBA will guide you through its ranks starting at the G-League. 

Because you read this article, you may also find our review on the best referee pants helpful.

Check out other basketball gear reviews here:

> The Best Basketball Compression Pants

> The Best Gifts for Basketball Players

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Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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