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 🙂

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.


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 Specific 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


basketball referee, manipulating referee

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