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NFHS Basketball Officiating Principles – NFHS Officials Manual [2018]

NFHS Basketball Officiating Principles – NFHS Officials Manual [2018]

NFHS Basketball Officiating Principles are an often overlooked by basketball referees. Having a quick review can only reinforce the positive messages therein!




1.0.1: Officials shall master both the rules of the game and the mechanics necessary to enforce the rules, and shall exercise authority in an impartial, firm and controlled manner.

1.0.2: Officials shall work with each other and their state associations in a constructive and cooperative manner.

1.0.3: Officials shall uphold the honor and dignity of the profession in all interaction with student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors, school administrators, colleagues and the public.

1.0.4: Officials shall prepare themselves both physically and mentally, shall dress neatly and appropriately, and shall comport themselves in a manner consistent with the high standards of the profession.

1.0.5: Officials shall be punctual and professional in the fulfillment of all contractual obligations.

1.0.6: Officials shall remain mindful that their conduct influences the respect that student-athletes, coaches and the public hold for the profession.

1.0.7: Officials shall, while enforcing the rules of play, remain aware of the inherent risk of injury that competition poses to student-athletes. Where appropriate, they shall inform event management of conditions or situations that appear unreasonably hazardous.

1.0.8: Officials shall take reasonable steps to educate themselves in the recognition of emergency conditions that might arise during the course of competition.


1.1.1 Purpose of Rules: The philosophy of the basketball rules is to allow two teams to play so that neither team has an unfair advantage. The role of officials is to enforce the rules. Mechanics are the necessary tool that place officials in the proper position to enforce the rules. This manual is written with those purposes in mind. The philosophy that should be followed is that the rules book and manual are the constant to which everyone has access. The official should enforce the rules as written and follow the manual as written.

[bctt tweet=”Purpose of Rules: The philosophy of the basketball rules is to allow two teams to play so that neither team has an unfair advantage. The role of officials is to enforce the rules.” username=”BetterOfficials”]

1.1.2: Popularity of Game: Basketball officials comprise a very large group of men and women who find great satisfaction in maintaining direct contact with a sport which has worldwide appeal. Basketball is the most popular sport sponsored by state associations who are members of the NFHS. Well over 17,600 state association member schools have boys and girls varsity basketball teams. Also, most schools have a junior varsity team for both boys and girls, and in addition, many have separate teams for sophomores and freshmen. Nearly 1,000,000 boys and girls compete on inter-school basketball teams.


1.1.3: Game Officials: For the vast majority of the group, officiating is a satisfying avocation rather than a full-time vocation. Professional, responsible and energetic men and women, who enjoy the activity and the relationships established and maintained, make up this group. The ability of the schools to make the work attractive enough to continue to command the interest of such people with the personality, sincerity and good judgment, is a very important factor in the administration of a school athletic program. To be of maximum service, these individuals must be fully informed of the purposes and policies of the schools as exemplified in the work of the conference, league and statewide organizations. This is facilitated through the registration, promotion and training programs practiced in the majority of states.


1.1.4 Rules Knowledge: Good officiating is partially dependent on a thorough knowledge of the basketball rules and of all related materials that are published each year. Most of the decisions on the floor must be made so quickly that they come by reflex. The only way the proper reflexes can be perfected is through continual study of all possible situations so that fundamentals and correct interpretations are always clearly in mind. For such study, the following aids are helpful rules book, case book, simplified and illustrated rules, handbook, preseason guides, Part I and ll examinations, officiating mechanics exam, interpretations, Powerpoints, video, discussion at state-sponsored and local meetings, and periodic releases by the state association office.

[bctt tweet=”Rules Knowledge: Good officiating is partially dependent on a thorough knowledge of the basketball rules and of all related materials that are published each year. Most of the decisions on the floor must be made so quickly that they come by reflex. The only way the proper reflexes can be perfected is through continual study.” username=”BetterOfficials”]

1.1.5 Language: The language of basketball must be fully understood. Such as: bonus free throw, common foul, double foul, fumble, multiple throw and many other terms as found in the definitions. The technical meaning of “team in control” and understanding of technicalities such as when “continuous-motion” provisions apply are essential. The same thing applies to a clear and definite understanding of exactly when the ball becomes dead and when an act such as a dribble or a free throw ends. Otherwise, many of the statements concerning rules provisions are meaningless. All of the technical terms are a part of the basketball language. No one will have success in mastering the rules without learning to “speak and understand the language. “The definitions portion (Rule 4) of the NFHS Basketball Rules Book should be thoroughly studied.


1.1.6 Signals: Proper NFHS signals, as outlined in this manual and the rules book, are to be used exclusively. Signaling is an essential aspect of officiating and, through its use, decisions and information are relayed to players, coaches and spectators. These official signals are dignified, informative and meaningful. Poorly executed and unorthodox signals only tend to confuse. The manner in which a signal is given determines, to some degree, its acceptance by those associated with the game. Precisely executed clear signals establish the understanding that the officials are in complete charge with the game properly under their control.


1.1.7 Proper Court Coverage: A good system of mechanics is required to ensure the officials will be at the proper place on the court at all times. The movements must be such that the official is constantly in position to observe any action which falls under his/her jurisdiction. An official not in the proper position on the court has committed the “unpardonable sin” of officiating. The official must be proficient in good officiating mechanics.


1.1.8 Officiating Fees: Game fees should be agreed upon through friendly negotiations between officials in a given area and those who administer the school program. Attempts to dictate specified fees for any wide area or wide variety of schools or organizations have met with little success and have created problems in some cases. Fortunately for officials and for those who are responsible for administering the school athletic program, there is a healthy overlap of men and women who are interested in both groups. This makes it possible to arrive jointly at a fair fee for a particular area and for a given level of play or size of school. As independent contractors, officials are responsible for reporting and paying all appropriate taxes. Questions should be directed to your tax consultant.


1.1.9 Insurance: If coverage is desired, it is the official’s responsibility to secure it, along with any other personal insurance (available through NFHS Officials Association).

1.1.10 Players’ Welfare: Officials should be alert constantly to the possibility of player injury. Injured players should be attended to as outlined in the rules. In all situations, the welfare of an injured player has the highest priority.

NFHS Basketball Officiating Principles


1.2.1 Personality: The same personality attributes, which go to make up a successful director or supervisor, are applicable to officiating. Conscientious attention to detail, alertness, firmness and quick reactions are items which must be cultivated. An apologetic attitude while making decisions creates lack of confidence.


1.2.2 Cooperation: Each official must give full cooperation to coworkers and to the assistant officials. Officials are not limited to calling fouls or violations in their own area of the court. Each official should call obvious fouls wherever they occur and be prepared to help the other official at all times.


1.2.3 Conditioning: Basketball requires a well-conditioned body and an alert mind. A physical examination should be taken at the start of each season and after any illness which might occur during a season. Unless an official is in good Physical condition, reaction time and the ability to concentrate in making decisions will be less than satisfactory. Hustle and energy have no substitutes. An official must cultivate the habit of moving quickly and being in position to observe all of the action in any doubtful situation. One extreme is wild, purposeless running. The other is “standing on a dime” and making decisions at long range.


1.2.4 Tact: Tactfulness is a talent that will pay dividends in officiating. A diplomatic manner will often prevent ill will and resentment. Tactfulness encourages a cooperative attitude on the part of players, coaches and spectators. Use of it goes a long way in creating a willingness to accept decisions.


1.2.5 Courteousness: Politeness is the lubricant for good human relations. Sometimes officials are afraid that politeness implies softness or “politicking.” This is far from the truth. A polite person can be very strict and exacting. Cheerfulness and optimism tend to bring out the same qualities in players.


1.2.6 Fair and Impartial: A good official will be courteous, but will avoid “visiting” with players during the game. Carelessly placing an arm on a player’s shoulder or around his/her waist tends to destroy respect. Loafing in the coach’s office or carrying on long conversations with the coach before, during or after the game may give the appearance of favoritism. If conditions warrant a conference, both coaches should be involved. A player should be addressed by number rather than by name. In addressing the captain of a team, do so by title. The quickest way to lose respect of coaches and players is to get the reputation of being a “homer.” All actions should reflect strict and total impartiality.


1.2.7 Decisiveness: Quick and positive decisions are essential, especially on the close ones. Timidity or hesitation causes a lack of confidence. Self-confidence can be developed. Many decisions can be questioned no matter how they are called. Hesitation in making a decision tends to make everyone waver. The practice of making speedy decisions must be habitual. However, officials should not be hasty when there is a question at the table regarding scoring, timing, disqualification, fouls, the alternating-possession arrow, etc. Take time to try and prevent any mistake or error from being made.


1.2.8 Teamwork: Allegiance to fellow officials implies an active, intelligent desire to carry out the intent of the rules by a well-coordinated team. Each official must be willing to share the responsibility and must avoid attempts to shift the blame. Do not negatively comment about a game worked by another official and never criticize a fellow official when you are a “fan.”


1.2.9 Thick-Skinned: An official cannot be overly sensitive about criticism. If the official has a chip on the shoulder, a surly attitude or a short temper, officiating will be difficult. Most spectator comments during a heated contest should not be taken seriously. It is often a rebellion against authority in general, rather than against an individual in particular. In nearly all cases, critical comments are forgotten after there has been time for reflection, Everyone connected with a team is somewhat biased and prejudiced in favor of any advantageous call and against


1.2.10 Go Unnoticed: It is not desirable to “show-off” in making a call. The official should remain in the background. It is not the officiating, but the game that is the attraction. An official should not be overbearing, but should not tolerate disrespect from any player. The official should not attempt to “coach” players.


1.2.11 Calmness: Arguments with a player, coach or team representative do not settle anything. After a game, if a coach asks what happened on a certain play, to convince the coach he/she is wrong. An easy way to end the conversation is to your explanation should be the extent of the conversation. It is unprofitable to try, say, “well coach, if it happened the way you say it did, I just missed it. “Never argue with a player or coach and never lose your temper.


1.2.12 Prevention: An official must anticipate when trouble is brewing. The presence of an official in whom the players have confidence will prevent most of these situations. Being in a position to observe any questionable contact will go a long way toward preventing such contact. When a player attempts to bait an opponent, it is a circumstance that requires immediate attention before it gets out of hand. In some borderline cases, the official can get best results by calling the matter to the attention of the team captain so that the captain can handle the unnatural conduct. The captain should be made to understand that he/she can stop the problem without penalty. The only way the official can stop it is to penalize.


1.2.13 Maintain Control: Clean, fast play is a credit to any team. However, attempts to draw fouls or to go the limit on crowding and disconcerting an opponent have no place in the game. The officials must not tolerate it. Decisive action in calling fouls when rough play begins will avoid later loss of control, which often results when warnings are used as a substitute for penalties.


1.2.14 Integrity: An official’s word is his/her bond. If you accept a game, be there-on time. If there is some good reason for cancellation, confer with the contest manager and present the facts honestly. Let the manager make the offer to release you if he/she desires to do so.


1.2.15 Courage: A courageous official will be quick to call violations and/or fouls when they occur. Do this consistently without regard to the score, position on the floor, whom it may hurt or how it may affect future relations with the school or coach. Regardless of pressure from fans, coaches or players, the official must go “straight down the middle” and have the courage to call them as they occur. Your honesty must be above reproach or you would not be an official in the first place. It takes real courage to resist pressure and intimidation. To a large extent, the personal reputation of an official will be built on this.


1.2.16 Cardinal Principles: The following items are specific goals and personal attributes that every good official will strive to attain and accepted procedures which should be followed

  1. Have an understanding of the rules and approved mechanics.
  2. Be on time. Do not cause the contest manager to worry.
  3. Be prepared physically and mentally.
  4. Wear the prescribed uniform in good condition.
  5. Carefully check scoring and timing facilities before each half and at intervals during each half.
  6. Maintain good posture while on the floor and administer your duties in a businesslike manner.
  7. Be professional with fellow officials.
  8. Know the official signals and give them promptly and decisively. Never use unauthorized signals.
  9. Be pleasant but firm and alert.
  10. Do not fraternize with coaches or fans before, during or after the game.
  11. Attempt to maintain poise and calmness at all times.
  12. Do not smoke or use tobacco on or in the vicinity of the court.
  13. Do not consume alcoholic beverages at any time on the day of and prior to a contest.
  14. Do not make any report that might be used by a future opponent as a scouting report.
  15. Do not wear jewelry during the game.

NFHS Basketball Officiating Principles


1.3.1 Licensing/Registering: The first step for an official who desires to work high school games is to become licensed with his/her own state high school association. No interschool game should be scheduled until this has been done.

Licensing assures that the official will receive all needed supplies and full information as to interpretations and policies in the given state.


1.3.2 Rules Study: Complete knowledge of the rules is essential. There is no substitute for rules study. The rules should be reviewed well before the opening of the season, and this study should be continued up to the final game. Knowing all phases of the rules at the end of the season is no guarantee that it will carry over to the next season. Discussion of situations in small groups is effective.

Writing the comprehensive tests in the material provided by each state association is excellent training in analysis and in the building of confidence. Even the most complicated situations can be separated into basic rules statements to eliminate argument and doubt.


1.3.3 Proper Mechanics: Good officiating mechanics and techniques will be promoted by frequent study of this official’s manual. Knowing and maintaining correct positions on the court is important in administering the rules.


1.3.4 Attend Meetings: Rules interpretation meetings and officials’ clinics sponsored by a state association or by local officials’ groups should be attended regularly. Much can also be gained from informal meetings of small groups of officials living in a given area. Rulings for controversial situations that may arise should be requested from the state association office. The state association will either have the proper interpretation or will secure it promptly.


1.3.5 Experience: A beginning official must gain officiating experience. For this purpose, the official should not hesitate to accept intramural level games or recreation league games without too much concern about the fee.


1.3.6 Advancement: Most officials strive to advance. Either the official improves and advances or he/she goes backward. If the state association has a promotion plan, efforts should be made to move constantly toward the highest rating.


1.3.7 Obtaining a schedule: An officiating schedule is to an official as patients are to a physician. Much like a doctor, an official does not “drum up” business. Under no conditions should an official ever “solicit” games. However, unless the state association’s policies are to the contrary, a beginning official or one new in a community might properly send to coaches, athletic directors or league offices a postal card or form letter stating in brief the official’s name, address, telephone number, experience and qualifications. Trading games with coaches or athletic directors, “begging for games,” or offering to take games at a lower fee are all beneath the dignity of the officiating profession. Working up a schedule is one of those situations where the “job seeks the individual.”


1.3.8 Contracts: Contracts for games should be in writing to avoid any misunderstanding as to terms or dates. Many state and local associations provide printed contract forms. Use of these assures orderliness and avoids misunderstandings as to dates, fees and conditions. Every attempt should be made to have something in writing. Be prompt and businesslike in answering requests and in making reports. Confirm a date in writing. About a week before the contest, send a card or note to the contest manager so he/she will know you will be there.

Mention the time of the game. If a driver or companion is to accompany you, give this information.


1.3.9 Reports: Reports to the state association office should be made promptly. If rating reports are used, send them. If there is any irregularity or unsporting act in connection with the game, your testimony is needed by those who are responsible for maintaining athletic competition as a respected part of a good school program. Deviation from the time schedule, in proper policing of the court, in sanitation or in treatment of guests are evidence of poor administration.

Remedial action is possible only when the proper authorities have all the necessary information.



1.4.1: Rules fundamentals are clearly outlined in descriptive material. When these are thoroughly understood, the chance of making an error in decision on some infrequent and uncommon situation is greatly reduced. All of the rules are based on these few fundamentals. Mastery of them enables the official to base the ruling on logic rather than on memory of the proper ruling for each of the hundreds of situations that may arise. The basketball fundamentals are:

  1. While the ball remains live, a loose ball always remains in control of the team whose player last had control, unless it is a try or tap for goal.
  2. Neither a team nor any player is ever in control during a dead ball or jump ball, or when the ball is in flight during a try or tap for goal.
  3. A goal is made when a live ball enters the basket from above and remains in or passes through unless canceled by a throw-in violation or a player control foul.
  4. The jump ball, the throw-in and the free throw are the only methods of getting a deal ball live.
  5. Neither the dribble nor traveling rule operates during the jump ball, throw in or free throw.
  6. It is not possible for a player to travel during a dribble.
  7. The only infractions for which points are awarded are goaltending by the defense or basket interference at the opponent’s basket.
  8. There are three types of violations, and each has its own penalty.
  9. A ball in flight has the same relationship to frontcourt or backcourt, or inbounds or out of bounds, as when it last touched a person or the floor.
  10. Personal fouls always involve illegal contact and occur during a live ball, except a common foul by or on an airborne shooter.
  11. The penalty for a single flagrant personal or flagrant technical foul is two free throws and disqualification plus awarding the ball to the opponents for a throw-in,
  12. Penalties for fouls are administered in the order in which the fouls occurred.
  13. A live-ball foul by the offense (team in control or last in control if the ball is loose) or the expiration of time for a quarter or extra period, causes the ball to become dead immediately, unless the ball is in flight during a try or tap for goal. The ball also becomes dead when a player-control foul occurs.
  14. The first or only free-throw violation by the offense causes the ball to become dead immediately.
  15. A double personal foul involves only personal fouls and only two opponents; no free throws are awarded and the ball is put in play at the point of interruption. A double technical foul involves only technical fouls and only two opponents; no free throws are awarded, and the ball is put in play at the point of interruption.
  16. The official’s whistle seldom causes the ball to become dead (it is already dead).
  17. “Continuous motion” applies both to tries and taps for field goals and free throws, but it has no significance unless there is a foul by the defense during the interval which begins when the habitual trying or tapping movement starts and ends when the ball is clearly in flight.
  18. Whether the clock is running or is stopped has no influence on the counting of a goal,
  19. A ball that touches the front face or edges of the backboard is treated the same as touching the floor inbounds, except that, when the ball touches the thrower’s backboard, it does not constitute a part of a dribble.
  20. If the ball goes through the basket before or after a player-control foul, the goal shall not be counted.

NFHS Basketball Officiating Principles


1.5.1: The uniform shall be clean and well kept. State association patches or emblems shall be worn as specified. The official uniform consists of the following

  1. Belt: If worn, it shall be black.
  2. Jacket: Navy blue or black, all crew the same, if worn. Recommended for wear prior to game.
  3. Shirt: Standard black/white vertically striped
  4. Short sleeves-approximately 8 inches in length; with black cuffs
  5. “V” neck shirt shall be worn and an undershirt should not be visible
  6. Worn inside pants
  7. Entire crew shall wear same design and style
  8. Shoes: Primarily black with black laces.
  9. Socks: Entirely black.
  10. Pants: Entirely black, with no flares.
  11. Whistle: Black lanyard-recommend black plastic whistle; if metal, it shall have rubber cap-carry a spare.



1.6.1: The following pregame conference is designed for a crew of three but can be adjusted accordingly for a crew of two

  1. Review New Rules
  2. Review New Points of Emphasis
  3. Review New Mechanics Changes
  4. Review Previous Year’s Rules Changes
  5. Conference with Bench officials: Equipment; special court considerations new rules.
    1. Scorer: Reporting; good eye contact; substitution for disqualified/injured player; give disqualification information immediate confirmation that game is over and there are no problems
    2. Timer: Time-outs, interval for disqualification or injury

Game Management

    1. Review all dead-ball management situations.
    2. The guidelines regarding hand-checking, post play, illegally bumping off-the-ball coverage must be emphasized in the pregame meeting before every game
    3. Stay consistent as a crew throughout the game
    4. Stay with the play after you have called a foul or a violation
    5. Know game situations

Clock Management: Check game clock; stalling and stopping; be aware of mistakes/malfunctions.

Basic Rotation/Floor Coverage

    1. On-/off-ball coverage/areas of intersection
    2. Referee your new area of responsibility immediately
    3. Exception: If the Center has started the five-second closely guarded count and the Lead has rotated to the Center side, the Lead needs to continue to referee in the lane until the Center stops the five-second count. Be patient in starting the five-second count.
    4. Lead may use accelerated pace in rotation-doesn’t have to finish
    5. All officials in front court before Lead rotates
    6. Free Throw Coverage

Lead Position

    1. In transition-wide-angle (2-3 steps inside arc) or close-down (1 step outside lane) position
    2. May step into paint-area extended one or two steps on drives from Center’s side or down middle; primary coverage for Center; secondary coverage for Lead
    3. Primary focus is post play

Center Position

    1. Drive to basket, referee play all the way to the basket
    2. Includes primary, secondary and all defenders
    3. Move to improve angles of coverage: don’t get too low (close to end line); don’t get too high (two trails)

Trail Position

    1. Look into the lane when Lead picks up ball at the free-throw line extended and below
    2. Referee where Lead cannot. Stay wide. Move to improve angles of coverage
    3. FT-At 28-foot mark unless players in backcourt

Double Whistles: Double whistles belong to primary. Release.


    1. Competitive or potential match-up concerns
    2. Help calls: out of bounds, 2-VS. 3-point shot, tipped ball, CUulluLiailuot score
    3. Signals
    4. Shooters
    5. Warnings to coaches
    6. Time-outs: get together, especially late in the game-quarter-ending situations
    7. Last-second shot

Challenging Calls/Situations

    1. Jump ball and held balls
    2. Illegal Screens
    3. Traveling
    4. Out-of-bounds
    5. Tripping
    6. Illegal or excessive contact
    7. Secondary defenders
    8. Double personal/technical fouls; intentional; flagrant; fights
    9. Consider intentional fouls on fast-break situations
    10. Always know the status of the ball

Crew Discussion

    1. Rules questions/clarifications
    2. Previous game situations
    3. Referee your primary coverage area when ball goes away from you
    4. Patient whistle: blocked shots, rebound situations, calls out of your primary
    5. Concentrate and focus throughout the entire game

Conference/State Requirements

    1. Uniform
    2. Reports

NFHS Basketball Officiating Principles


1.7.1 Guidelines for Two Conferences

  1. 0:15:00 Officials enter court area and go directly to positions
  2. 0:12:00 At Center Court area
  3. Referee will introduce or cause introductions
  4. U1 and U2 will get respective team captains
  5. Discuss sporting behavior expectations
  6. To Team captains: team color, proper basket, other appropriate items.
  7. 0:10:00
  8. Referee will go to scorer’s table and check scorebook(s), talk with scorer & timer, and check game balls
  9. U1 and U2 return opposite side
  10. 0:01:30 Officials will go to area of scorer’s table and
  11. Greet head coaches, address sporting behavior expectations, and check on legality of player equipment.
  12. Stand at attention for National Anthem
  13. Remove jacket during introductions of players
  14. Prepare to begin game
  15. If both teams return to dressing room and re-enter court area in time for National Anthem and/or introduction of players, officials may relocate to the scorer’s table area and wait or, retire to dressing room area and return as teams return.


1.7.2 Guidelines for a Single Conference

  1. 0:15:00 Officials enter court and go directly to positions
  2. 0:12:00 Referee goes to the table and checks scorebook(s), brief scorer and timer, check game ball
  3. 0:10:00 Remaining official(s) go across the floor join referee, greet the visiting coach, then greet the home coach.
  4. Referee goes to area in front of scorer’s table
  5. U1 and U2 get respective coaches and captains
  6. Referee does introductions of officials, coaches and captain(s)
  7. Referee conducts pregame briefing to include discussing legal equipment and sporting behavior with coaches and captain(s). Also discuss team color, proper basket, other appropriate items.
  8. Return to original positions
  9. If teams return to dressing room leave court, remove jackets return to original position when teams come out, stand at attention for National


1.8.1 When an alternate official is used, his/her duties shall include, but are not limited to the following

  1. Be present for pregame conference. Wear game uniform and jacket and be prepared mentally and physically to officiate in case of an injury, illness or other emergencies.
  2. Be seated at the scorer’s table as close to the scorer and timer as possible. Serve as an aid to both the scorer and timer.
  3. Keep a written record of all fouls called, the number of the player fouling, the number of the shooter, the number of free throws and the time that the foul occurred.
  4. Serve as an aid to game officials in case there is a scoring or timing error, a substitution error, a correctable error, etc.
  5. Your role is as a “working observer.” Use a data sheet to make appropriate notes and monitor any irregularities in order to report to the referee — do not make any rulings.


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