How to Manipulate the Referees to Make Every Call in Your Team’s Favor


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Want to know exactly how to get the referees to give you every call? Simple. Bribe them with money.

Woah, relax. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. We would never do that at BFC πŸ™‚

While bribing referees might not be the best option to get some extra calls, there are a number of ways to increase the chances of the whistle being blown in your favour…

Now I understand that there are going to be some people that have a problem with this article. It’s a little bit controversial. ‘Manipulating referees’, ‘referees deciding the outcome of games’, it’s an intense and highly debated topic. But an important one that must be talked about.

There are some people out there that believe the referees have no influence whatsoever on the outcome of the basketball game.

That is a lie. A huge lie.

A couple of referee decisions can decide a basketball game. Referees have decided many games before and will decide many, many games in the future.

Here are nine strategies that will help your team get a few extra calls every game if used correctly.

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1. Build Trust Before The Game

The very first thing you need to do is build trust between you and the referees working the game. This needs to start before the game begins.

If you have the same referee a few times a season or during a tournament, building a rapport with them can go a long way to getting a few extra calls in games. Not because they’ll favor your team, but, for example, once you develop a rapport with a referee, there’s a far better chance they’ll listen to what you have to say during a game instead of shrugging you off.

How can you build trust? Here are a few of the things I do…
1. Be sure to introduce yourself to both referees before the game.
2. Ask them a question: “How’s the tournament going?”, “How’s your day going?”, etc.
3. Smile.


2. Learn Their Names

Taking the couple of extra seconds before the game to remember the referee’s name’s is important. There’s a big difference between…

“Ref! Come on, where was the foul?” and “Michael! Come on, where was the foul?”.

Referee’s will be more inclined to talk to you if you address them by their name.


3. Compliment Them on Correct Calls

You want to let the referee know that you know the difference between a good call and a bad call. Regardless of which team it’s called on.

Usually for beginner coaches the only time they attempt to communicate with the referee is when they have a problem with a call. They’re only communicating with them about the negatives.

Experienced coaches don’t only interact on the negatives. They compliment them on good calls, whether they go in favour of their team or not.

I don’t recommend doing this on every call. I save this for when it’s a 50/50 call and the referee might be receiving a few negative words from players or parents. Regardless of what team it benefits, if it’s a 50/50 call and I believe the referee got it correct, if they’re close to me I’ll compliment them on the call.


4. Ask Them to Watch SpecificΒ Parts of the Game

Sometimes all it takes to receive a few calls is to make the referee’s aware of what you think they should be calling.

Countless times I’ve asked a referee to “please keep and eye on ____” and we’ve suddenly received the next couple of calls on the exact thing I’ve asked them to watch.

Here are a few examples…
“Hey Michael, can you keep an eye on how long number 41 is staying in the paint?”
“Hey Larry, can you watch number 24? He’s holding my guy every time he cuts”.

When you bring a potential call to the referee’s attention they WILL start looking for it each time down the court.


5. Teach Your Players How to Respond

Just as players don’t make every shot and coaches don’t make all the right substitutions, referee’s don’t get every call right 100% of the time.

If you’re trying to receive some calls in your favor, the last thing you want is for your players to complain on every missed call and the referee becomes annoyed with your team.

Teach your players to get on with the game. You’ll handle the referee’s.

If anyone breaks this rule and complains then substitute them straight off. Don’t let the players get the referee’s to disadvantage your team.


6. Don’t Be a Sarcastic Jerk

The same rules apply to you as it does to the players… just don’t be a rude coach. It sets a bad example for the players and the referees will hate you.

Every coach, players, and referee knows what I’m talking about… sarcastic comments, laughing at calls, etc. All the things that you know as a coach you can get away with without the referee calling you for a technical foul.

Most of these will only hurt your teams chances at getting calls and they’re simply not necessary.


7. You Must Adjust to The Referees

Here’s the truth: All referees are different. What they call will depend on how the referee has been taught, what they’ve been taught to look for, where they’ve been taught to stand, what they’ve been taught warrants a foul and what doesn’t, etc.

This is especially evident in youth basketball where the referees are mostly young and are still learning. You’re not going to have college/NBA officials on your games that know the rule book like the back of their hand.

You have to adjust.

If something is called twice that I disagree with, assuming after the second one that the call wasn’t just a once off, the first thing I’ll do is attempt to get the referee’s point of view of the rule by asking “What should my player be doing differently?”

Get clarification from the referee on exactly what your player is doing wrong in the referees eyes so that you can tell the player to adjust.

This also proves to the referee that you’re trying your best to play by the rules.


8. Always Shake Hands After the Game

When the games over, whether you’ve won or lost, always shake hands with there referees. You do this for a few reasons…

a. You always want to display good sportsmanship. Don’t forget, you’re always setting an example for your players. As a coach you’re a role model.

b. You don’t know when you’re going to have the same referee on your game next. You don’t want the referee walking into your next match with a grudge against you. Leave on good terms and it will start the next game on good terms.


9. Make a Statement With a Technical Foul

A technical foul is a big statement that you’re very unhappy with how the game is being handled by the referees.

While this isn’t something I’ve done myself, I’ve heard many coaches talk of intentionally getting a technical foul to really get their point across to the referee’s. After they’ve received the technical and let them know exactly what they’re doing wrong, the game’s flipped and they start receiving calls in their favor.

After all, the opposition only receives two free throws. This might be a big deal at the end of a close game, but when put into the context of a full game with all the missed shots and 50/50 calls, two free throws isn’t much.

I do caution coaches to remember the age of the players they’re coaching before using this technique. By shouting at referee’s you’re telling your players it’s OK to have an outburst when things aren’t going your way.

I personally wouldn’t use this technique while coaching any players under the age of 16 at minimum. And if they’re above that age, it better be a very, very important game.



There you have it. Nine different strategies to manipulate the referees into giving your team extra calls during games.

We must all understand refereeing is an incredibly tough job. When a game is within 5 points, the calls they make are a huge factor to the outcome.

All coaches must get used to that, understand that they will sometimes be on the positive side and sometimes on the negative side of the referee’s calls, and know the different strategies we can use to be on the positive side as much as we can.

Do you have any other strategies you use to influence the referees?

I’d love to hear them. Share them below in the comments.

– Coach Mac

  • Coach Kennon Rude

    This article is great.. As a young coach i have come to realize that having a good respectable relationship with the referees always has a positive benefit over a course of a game.

    • Hey Coach,
      Most definitely. It’s an aspect of the game that most young coaches don’t find important until they gain experience. All you need is a couple of extra calls, or for the referee to hear you out, and it can completely change the game!

  • James Minogue

    I prefer “Influence” rather than “manipulate”

    • But that’s a lot less fun James πŸ˜‰

  • Matthijs Bettman

    Some of those “strategies” are really not gonna work and will work in your own disadvantage..

    • Hey Matthijs,
      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Maybe you’re right with some referees… but I’ve used most of them and they definitely do work πŸ™‚

  • Tony Haire

    There’s some good points here about how to appropriately communicate. But none of them will get you a call from me.

    Everybody in the room has a camera today. Every game is recorded. In football, there’s HUDL. Officials are constantly under a microscope. We make calls based on what we see, not based on what a coach said to us, good or bad. If I were to start making calls in your favor, outside the flow of the game or because you were nice to me, it would show up very quickly on film. I’m there to do the best job I can do, not to make friends.

    If you feel it works for you, go with it. But I promise, you’re only fooling yourself, and anyone else who believes you.

    • Hey Tony,

      It’s always good to hear a referees perspective.

      It’s a fine line. There’s not a referee in existence that will admit to being influenced by most of these strategies. And I don’t blame them one bit. I’ve been a referee in the past and don’t like to admit I have either.

      But in my experience it does happen. To what extent depends on the level of the referee, but it does happen.

      Then again, this is just mine (and most coaches) side of it. I’m sure referees have a completely different view.

      I appreciate you taking the time to leave your feedback Tony πŸ™‚

  • Ira

    I’m a long time ref. While many of the author’s comments make sense, getting a technical is not one of them. If I get to the point that I T someone up, I can assure you that calls will not be magically going the coach’s way.

    • Hey Ira,
      You must be a very good referee because it does change the way the game is called with some referees! πŸ™‚

  • Hey Jason,
    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!
    I definitely agree about having a laugh with the referee. Especially if the other coach is having a go at them at the time. It’s nice to look like the good guy haha.
    I’m sure some referees do, although they’ll never admit they get influenced by coaches… but who knows πŸ˜‰

  • Hey Peter,
    You’re completely right. I feel that these strategies work quite a lot more than most referees would like to admit. In fact, I find the referees that are adamant that a coach can never influence them are often the easiest to influence.
    It’s similar to coaches saying that parents comments have absolutely no impact on the way they think and sometimes coach a game.
    As you said, we are all human and emotions definitely play a role.
    – Coach Mac

  • Hey Chris,
    Thanks for taking the time to leave a reply.
    I definitely disagree that these strategies only work on first year officials. I think they work a lot more than most would like to admit. Just as outside comments often change a coaching decision more than coaches would like to admit.
    All coaches do coach the game, should always be respectful, and should always obey the rules.
    – Coach Mac

  • Hey there,
    Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.
    You must be a very good referee because the strategies work on a lot of other officials.
    Love that you’re an official that is happy to answer questions when it’s appropriate.
    Keep up the good work πŸ™‚
    – Coach Mac

  • Completely agree. That’s a fantastic point. Thanks for sharing it with us πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Alex! πŸ™‚

  • Hey Matt,
    Of course, you can ask that.
    Out of curiosity, do you disagree that referees can sometimes have an impact on the final score?
    I completely agree that 99.9% of it is determined by the players. I’d never dispute that.

  • Hey Matt,
    Of course, you can ask that.
    Out of curiosity, do you disagree that referees can impact the final score of the game?

  • Hey Harold,
    Great response. I appreciate you taking the time to reply.
    Completely agree about the coaches that rarely complain and when they do it carries some weight.

  • Thanks!

  • Fair enough August.
    I still do definitely believe you can develop trust before the game!

  • Hey August,
    I’m not saying a referee consciously chooses to favor one team. There’s a lot that happens on the subconscious level when the above strategies are used.

  • Thanks for the comment Kevin πŸ™‚

  • Thanks, David. I wouldn’t expect any official to agree with the above strategies. But they do happen on a subconscious level.
    I don’t really understand your second paragraph. I find it odd that if the game is tied at 57-all and a referee incorrectly calls a travel on a team as they make a shot as the buzzer expires how that’s not an official having an impact on the final scores. That is a referee deciding the game. But I get what you mean, it just happened to happen at the end of the game. I use the same philosophy when my team loses a game in the final seconds and I explain that it didn’t come down to the final play. We could have dove on the loose basketball in the 2nd quarter, or boxed out and not allowed the offensive putback in the third.

    Thanks πŸ™‚

  • Hey there,
    Haha. I can’t imagine anyone saying the name out loud directly to them as they’re shaking hands. That must be odd.