By Madi Crowley Basketball Queensland Referee Development Manager
The Queensland Basketball League (QBL) is the highest standard of basketball that Queensland has to offer, excluding our National League teams, so it follows that it is refereed by the best officials in the state. As a junior referee coming through the ranks, or even a senior referee looking to make that last step or two, it can be daunting to look at some of these referees and imagine trying to reach that level. The sole purpose of 2018’s newly developed QBL Accelerated Referee Program (ARP), was to take hopeful officials and accelerate them from reaching the QBL in 2-3 years, to reaching the QBL in the next 12 months.
With the program having officially concluded at the end of May, here is a look at three key aspects of what it takes to be a QBL referee, and how the ARP helped push its members closer to their goals:
1. Look Like A Referee
Every QBL (and SBL) referee has to pass a fitness test (66 laps of the court for females, 86 for males). This is the minimum standard for physical fitness. The faster, stronger and fitter a referee is, the better they’ll be. Physically exhausted people don’t make good decisions, and weak joints and muscles lead to injuries in those fast breaks or sharp turnovers.
The other component to physical fitness is superficial – do you look like an athlete? Do you look confident in your calls? Are your signals sharp and confident, or do they (and you) look uncertain? Players, coaches and spectators are more likely to believe someone who looks like they belong on the floor with elite athletes and who believes in their own calls.
The QBL ARP provides members with individualised, referee-specific training programs from Acceleration Australia. These included pre-season workouts as well as a game day warm-up and cool-down routine. Members either had access to training with their association referee groups or were provided with group training opportunities with local providers to help them complete their programs.
2. Interact Like A Referee
Refereeing requires communication and a lot of it. There’s the obvious – engaging with players and coaches throughout the game to diffuse conflict. But there’s the less obvious too – the little snippets of conversation that prevent conflict even starting, the interactions with the crew in breaks, pre-game discussions, post-game discussions, and how referees interact even when they aren’t on a game.
Being open to what the crew and referee coach has to say, as well as still being able to put your part forward, is a crucial balance to strike. If the team doesn’t feel like they’re equals on the floor, it’s much harder to have a consistently called game. Considering who the crew members are, and how to best seek to engage with them to build strong relationships, is something all up-and-coming referees should be doing. QBL referees are also able to take on board feedback in a post-game and recognise their own strengths and weaknesses in a match.
The 2018 QBL ARP members were constantly exposed to situations where they had to interact with one another to either deconstruct their own games or discuss the games of other members. They had to put forward views on video clips or live plays and then justify their views to their peers. This required everyone to be able to set aside personal pride and recognise that errors aren’t what we want to have, but everyone will have them and the best possible course from this is to learn. From the opposite perspective, to point out someone’s errors takes a level of tact and should be done not as a personal attack, but as a discussion on the play from a technical standpoint. The best QBL referees are very good at discussing plays and keeping the crew on template, without belittling or demeaning their partners.
3. Referee Like A Referee
Lastly, and simply, QBL referees are on the panel because they can call the game at that level. This comes down to a variety of factors, not least of which is experience at that level or those immediately below it (e.g. SBL, Tropical Youth League, domestic A-Grade or Australian Junior Championships). Other ways QBL referees reach and stay at the level include watching QBL games (even on the days they’re not rostered to games), keeping up to date with rule knowledge, reviewing their own games and observing referees more senior than themselves.
This most crucial aspect was a heavy focus across the course of the 2018 QBL ARP. Attendance and participation in a QBL pre-season tournament which included a weekend camp, exposure to QBL referees and the QBL Commissioner, as well as inclusion in pre/post game discussions, was the most intensive aspect of the program. Other elements included working with Acceleration Australia to use cloud-based brain-training software Neurotracker for enhanced peripheral awareness and focus, weekly rule questions, reviews of games from previous QBL seasons, analysis of video clips and talks from senior QBL referees on what to expect and how to handle the League.
The response from the members of the ARP was overwhelmingly positive. Rockhampton-based member Kyle Zulian, who has been rostered to 9 QBL games so far this season, said the Program was a “great asset as a regional referee, allowing me to access high-level referees via monthly Skype calls, and gain exposure in an immersive environment at the pre-season tournament”. Brisbane’s Calia Hanks, who last Friday refereed her second QBL Men’s match, said being in the ARP “created a supportive environment for a big step forward in our careers. It allowed us to ask questions and have group discussions that fostered a better understanding of rules and game situations.”
The ARP also included 3 development positions that were included to enable referees who showed high potential but were still 2-3 years from QBL, the opportunity to fast-track themselves. One such official was former Bundaberg junior Lauren Drabwell, who said coming into the Program was a “Wonderful opportunity to access resources such as experienced high-level officials, mentorships, and customised gym programs, all of which have contributed positively to my preparation for this season.” Ipswich Basketball’s Jordan Harton, who was ranked the #1 official at both the U16 and the U18 Division 2 State Championships, had high praise for the program – “Throughout the course of ARP, it has helped me develop not only as a referee but as an individual. ARP has exposed me to improving my game through utilising many new tools … [and] simply being a part of a group who had the same desires and motivation to achieve the goal of refereeing at QBL. We also had weekly meetings which allowed me to stay focused and know what I needed to improve game by game as I had strong guidance, and overall the opportunity made possible by Darrell and Madi … was an experience more than worthwhile and I feel like I have really grown as a referee.”
With 4 of the 8 full members already on QBL games this season, and all 3 development members officiating SBL Men in their first SBL seasons, the Program has been declared a resounding success. 2018 Program Coordinator Darrell Millard has been the driving force behind it all and is excited about what the future holds. “The ARP has proved to be a great platform for preparing young, promising officials for refereeing at the QBL level. Having 4 referees hit the floor for the first time this season is a reflection of this. The guys that made the panel have been having a great deal of success and are performing extremely well. Next time around we will look to help more officials get to the senior leagues. We had some great elements to the program and are developing ways in which we can build on these to ensure the program becomes as immersive and beneficial as possible.