Backpack For Travelers With a Whistle

We begin the women’s finals this season today in Hungary. Final four is coming in the Euroleague and the NBA Playoffs are also under way. On every level, this is the most important time of the season. Youth tournaments are the best places to show off and secure your places on the next level as a referee.

How to get prepared? What to focus on? This is the main question a lot of officials ask me recently.


As usual, I skip the stuff that is also very important, like criteria, consistency, and balance. I try to give you another perspective, so I’ve collected 10+1 things to keep in mind before taking up the challenge.

1. Always be in the present

It’s neither the Final game nor reaching the next level that matters. Likewise, the past is the last thing that counts when going to a tournament. It is the present, the next game, the next 24” that matters. Always be in the present. And when you notice that you are in the past or in the future, get back into the now.

2. Watch out for negative emotions

Destructive emotions arise when you don’t get the nomination you think you deserve. When a player misbehaves or when you are nominated with a colleague you don’t trust. Send those negative emotions away and keep your balance.

3. Be grateful

You are nominated. Meaning, people trust you with games a lot of people want to referee. Being grateful is one way to reach balance and get over bad games.

4. Make a good impression

It is essential to have a great teamwork on the most important games. This can only happen when the chemistry is good among the team. Be the nice (and strong) guy.

5. Define your goals well

It’s not about always going for the Finals. This is just a result of good performance. Also, being nominated for the Finals is not your competence, therefore, you cannot control. Focus on what you can control and be better each game. Development, concentration, brave calls and smart no-calls, the balance between the teams and within yourself, seeing the big picture. These are some of the right goals you can control. And all of them are to be reached by controlling what you think and tell yourself.

6. Be social

Get involved with everything up to a limit but never drink alcohol. Be open to everyone, be curious. Communicate and ask questions. If you have to argue, do it with respect, and look for thoughts you can agree with. This builds good relationships.

7. Build a TEAM

Not only on the court and during the pre-game but always, even off the court. Make rapport with everyone.


8. Respect the participants but be strong when it’s necessary

You go on the court full of respect. Be nice to the players and coaches, but when somebody wants to shit from where you eat, show them your strong side.

9. Know what’s important for the tournament

Or if you don’t know, ask. Instructors or more experienced referees will be happy to help you if you ask the right questions. Know what to focus on.

10. The most important is the game

Not what the instructors think. This is, again, out of your reach. They think what they think, but your actions define the game. Don’t ever be concerned what they will say after the game. Of course, when they say it, be nice and think about their arguments at least. Never argue with instructors.

+1. Do your homework

Pay attention and study special rules, teams, players, plays, the gym. Feel that you are ready to go. Preparation is the key to confidence!

Oh, almost forgot… Do enjoy every moment of these tournaments and games. If you happen to feel different, read this article again.

This is my backpack for travelers with a whistle.

If I missed anything, feel free to leave a comment. If you want to succeed, you may want to share this article with the ones you go for the tournament.

Photo credits: Björn Láczay, Flickr

About Peter

Peter Papp is an enthusiastic supporter of open-minded referees, international basketball referee (FIBA) and NLP Master Practitioner. Peter is the founder of


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