An Open Letter From a Referee

The following open letter was sent to me by an official.  I think it encapsulates much of the perspective that is often missing in today's game.  That's especially true at the grassroots level.  Considering recent events, including the 1 year suspensions of dance coaches at 4 schools for their 2015 state dance tournament conduct, it is also timely.  With permission, I'm publishing it here unedited.

An Open Letter to Club Directors, Coaches, Parents, and Referees from a Referee

This weekend, I was involved in a tournament where a referee was called a b***** and shoved by a coach who was upset with a call.  What’s frightening is this type of behavior continues to become more common.  I referee basketball because I think it’s the greatest game in the world and I am writing this letter out of my concern for the game I love. 

Club Directors – Your love for the game of basketball and the kids involved is unparalleled.  Your investment has paid dividends and made Minnesota a basketball hotbed over the past few years.  Protect your investment.  Start holding out of control parents and coaches responsible for their actions.  Stop asking the referees working for you to have thicker skin and start supporting them.  The parents who are thrown out of games are the same ones who complain to you about the team their kid was placed on. The coaches who are ejected are the same ones who give summer basketball a bad name.  You need to start holding parents and coaches accountable for their actions.  When a coach who makes malicious contact with a referee is knowingly allowed to coach in one of your events again you have failed the game, your athletes, and yourself.  

Coaches – I have a special admiration for what you do; my dad coached for 30+ years at a small school in Northern Minnesota.  I grew up watching my dad make countless sacrifices and invest many hours in the student athletes he coached on and off the court.  I know the majority of you are the same way, you live for the kids you coach.  Don’t ever forget that many of these kids live for you too.  They look up to you and will emulate what you do on and off the floor.  You have the ultimate responsibility of being good role model.  A great man who coached me had one rule for his teams – the Golden Rule.  If your biggest concern is winning the consolation bracket of the Club State Tournament, it’s time to reevaluate your approach.  Start with the Golden Rule. 

Parents – There’s no guarantee that your child will receive a scholarship or even want to play college basketball.  Enjoy the moment!  You’re lucky your child is able to participate in the greatest game in the world.  Cheer for them and forget about the officiating.  Many of the people working your child’s games are new to officiating.  $25 per game isn’t enough to get many of the top tier referees in the state to work.  New referees will make mistakes (a lot of mistakes).  If you continue to berate these new referees, the pool of referees will shrink and the officiating will get worse.  Also, if you think you can do a better job quit screaming and start officiating – the game needs more referees.

RefereesPut the game 1st, your partners 2nd, and yourself 3rd.  I’m going to hit you with a mind dump here…  Do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing to do.  You can’t referee alone and you can’t referee forever – be a good partner and do whatever you can to help others be successful.  A mentor of mine used to say at referee camps “You only get to keep, what you give away.”  The game and your partners always comes before money and assignments.  Last thing, a veteran referee I know well, always says “You can’t be a good referee, if you’re not a good person.” 

The one thing we all have in common is our love for the game.  AAU Directors start supporting your referees.  Coaches remember you are a role model.  Parents enjoy the moment and stop worrying about the officiating (unless you are actually interested in becoming a referee).  Referees put the game 1st, your partners 2nd and yourself 3rd.  If we don’t all take some responsibility, we’ll lose the game we love as we know it.


  1. Question ... are you willing to post OPEN letters from coaches as well as parents. This is a two way or should I say a three way conversation. You where there this weekend.

    1. If you have something you feel is worthwhile, You're welcome to send it along

  2. Aside from the opening paragraph, the letter has nothing to do with this past weekend. It does however have everything to do with what is wrong with AAU basketball and calls all those involved out in attempt to create a change in the culture.

    Coaches, parents, officials, club directors and tournament directors all need to take a long look at the way that things are run and handled. AAU basketball, at the core of it, is about the kids and the game that we all love. To me this letter addresses that and should make all that read it take a long look in the mirror and ask "what can I do better?".

    I was also there this weekend, and in my opinion, we all failed the kids and the game at some point and that is simply unacceptable. We all need to step up to the plate if AAU basketball is going to continue to be an enjoyable, positive experience that it meant to be. We also need to remember and reinstate the mindset that its about the kids and not how many points little Johnnie scores or how many wins a coach gets in AAU. No one will remember these games or outcomes in a month anyhow. What they will remember is the experience which they had.....why not make that experience a great and positive one for the kids and all involved?

  3. The game is supposed to be about the kids and like with many things adults have ruined it at times.

    We, as adults, tell kids to treat social media as a worldwide press conference. Yet, adults are acting like children when it comes to youth sports.

    I think Czar retweeted something that should be seen for all. It's 90% of the people that do it the right way and we pay attention to the 10% that don't.


Have a different take than mine? You can provide your take here.