Joe Crawford: Advanced Tips on Improvement

ON AND OFF-COURT IMPROVEMENT FOR REFEREES OF ALL LEVELS

In a short interview published by the NBA, Joe said that the premise of officiating at any level is to

get the plays right.

In this part of our series, we explore how to actually get those plays right and how you can improve as a referee, no matter if you are a novice or a national top level veteran.

“Before the game, your earn respect with your physical appearance so that others see that you have prepared for the game. It is important that the participants have access to you, and to be honest and fair.” – answers Joe when asked about how refs can earn that much-sought respect before the game.

VIDEO REVIEW

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 12: NBA referee Joe Crawford reviews a play from the replay center in Secaucus, NJ during the game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the NBA Playoffs at The Quicken Loans Arena on May 12, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Reid Kelley/NBAE via Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 12: NBA referee Joe Crawford reviews a play from the replay center in Secaucus, NJ during the game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the NBA Playoffs at The Quicken Loans Arena on May 12, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Reid Kelley/NBAE via Getty Images)

Post-game video analysis apparently plays a major role in improving as a ref:

“During my first years, I thought I was always right. With the advent of video tapes and with the fact that I can actually take a second look at my own games, that has changed.

It was a real eye-opener to me to see that the players and coaches are sometimes right. Of course, I don’t say that they are always right, many times they are wrong, but I suggest you to consider the players’ reactions for a moment.

There were times when I called a foul and four players were looking at me in disbelief. No wonder, when I looked at the tape I saw that nothing happened on the play.”

Obviously, it is a human tendency to ‘rationalize’ and to defend our calls even after a second look at the tape. Especially younger referees do that, but instead of feeling embarrassed, you can use it as a tool to improve for your next game.

Joe suggests figuring out why you got that play wrong, considering a number of factors like positioning and overreaction. The truth is: if you rationalize and do not believe others that you got a play wrong, you are not getting better.

As a referee, you have to accept the fact that you will make mistakes.


Question: How do you deal with a mistake once you’ve identified it?

Answer: “When you make a mistake and you realize it, one thing I use as a tool is talking to myself. A bigger mistake than making a single mistake is regretting it and making it worse by losing focus!”

Instead of doing that, Joe advises going back to your basics: as they say, move on to the next 24” (i.e. next plays). Get the upcoming basic play calls right and care about your mechanics. Of course, it is easier said than done, but in Joe’s opinion,
this is what separates the good referee from the great one.


Q: How do you find ways in the NBA to get better?

A: “Believe it or not, there’s still something to learn every night, even after officiating your 2,500th NBA game.”

“To be able to improve, you have to have pride in what you’re doing. You need to be proud to be an official and have an inner drive to be better. This can only come from the official himself or herself.”

Joe told us that he always wanted to be perfect and treated every one of his games as they were the game 7 of the finals.

As a matter of fact, not all of us can get to officiate a real NBA finals game 7. But, regardless of your level, the biggest thing you can do is care about everything connected to the game.

Keep your body in shape, practice and imagine different situations and interactions. Work on your rules knowledge.

Seek always higher, don’t ever be satisfied but remember to be happy along the way.

One of Crawford’s biggest motivation before each game was to not let the NBA and his crew down. To do so, he did as much preparation as he could.

“Officiating is not about just going from one game to another and getting caught up with the money. You need to take pride in your performance by constantly improving. And, if you do that on a nightly basis, you will have a great chance of becoming a pretty successful referee.”


Q: Why should national top level refs still keep improving?

A: If you feel you no longer want to get to a higher level (e.g. due to an age limit), find new development areas. For example coach others, help them along the way becoming the next great referee. Make your own self-improvement for them.

Looking back, you should always seek to enjoy your journey and be happy with what you got. Don’t be so caught up always seeking a higher level game, as in this case, you might always be disappointed.

Your season can be a truly successful one even though you did not referee the championship game.

Looking for further advice on how to handle difficult situations? Remember to visit next week for Part 3 of our interview series with Joe!

But before, share the wisdom!

David

About David

David Szots is an aspiring young basketball official who is passionate about studying the world's top referees and is looking for quality content all over the web to help others and share information

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I did a huge trip officiating games last week. I traveled 6000 kilometers (around 3750 miles) and refereed 6 games....

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