Nobuo Hashimoto is the Japan Basketball Association Director and Chairman of Referees and Rule Committee. He is a former FIBA International Referee. In 2005 he became FIBA Commissioner. In 2006 he was Commissioner for the FIBA World Championship for Men (JPN) and in 2009 he was Commissioner for the FIBA U-19 Championship for Men (NZL).
It is hard to say that Japan is one of the major countries in world basketball. However, Japan is a very unique country in terms of refereeing because the Japan Basketball Association (JBA) has about 6800 certified referees including 900 certified female referees, and about 10,000 non-certified referees including 1,500 female non-certified referees. The commitment of female referees is especially positive. Some major college teams in Japanese women's basketball have had "Referee's Development Programs" for over 30 years.
We can now see a lot of graduates from the program on the court, not only in Japan, but also all over the World. The Women's Japan Basketball League (WJ-BL) - the top women's National League in Japan - has requested FIBA to nominate the top level female FIBA Referees from FIBA Europe and FIBA Americas for the WJBL playoffs.
The purpose of this invitation is to get a feel of the sense of international level basketball under our philosophy "Develop our strength in International Competition." Both players and referees are being brought to get a feel for the standard of world top level refereeing and learning from it to improve our refe-reeing skills. During the program, many female referees watched the games, attended the clinic and exchanged opinions after the game.
They are very good opportunities for invited referees to provide our referees with lectures on being a FIBA referee as well as communicating with them to practice their English communication skills. The program got a very good response from our referees. Also, the Japan Basketball League (JBL) - the Men's Top National League - launched the same program two years ago. Top Level FIBA referees from FIBA Europe were nominated to JBL Final Rounds, with their officiating influencing the development of our male referees' skills and mental approach.
I think that the specificities of Japanese referees are very unique. We know that most Japanese referees are shorter than European and American ones. However, continuous weight training may help build larger bodies, which look better to spectators and even players. I believe that a good body size gives the referees confidence and that confidence will create a strong mentality, which results in good and stable communication with players and coaches. I have been telling young referees how weight training is just as important as other fitness training.
The nature of the Japanese mentality is also very unique. I feel that it differs from the other countries. It can be characterized by its seriousness, modesty, respect for the elders, etc. Especially, we always tried to decide right or wrong on pro-con issues and have tried to have unified answers by everyone in all situations.
Unfortunately, most Japanese do not realize "we are different from others" and most of them think "others are the same as us." Of course, it is not a big issue in daily life, but it has sometimes been the cause of problems on the court. The nature of Japanese character affects referees' activities, such as control of coaches and benches, communication with partners, decisions on blocks or charges, etc.
Especially on block or charge calls, Japanese referees always try to decide one way or the other; even when double fouls should be called. I believe that the only solution to solve this "domestic mentality issue" is to learn from other countries. It is very difficult to learn from reading or lectures only. I suggest to all Japanese referees to visit other countries and to learn from their experience: style of basketball, refereeing skills, their way of thinking, behaviour on and off the court, how to communicate with partners, table officials, coaches and players, sometimes even with spectators. I strongly believe that to have experience is the most important key to starting an international refereeing career.
For a decade now, I have also been running some programs, sending many of our referees to attend the overseas camps and competitions such as NBA Summer League, NCAA referee's ramp and Euroleague referee's camps. Also, our referees were sent to observe competitions in Europe. These programs are not only for active FIBA referees, but also experienced top national referees who might have missed taking part in FIBA referee candidate courses due to the set age limit. I expect from them that they get a feel of world basketball and improve their "international sense." It is helpful to expand their insight and improve their own skills, and to instruct young potential referees for the future.
The JBA has put a lot of effort into developing the young referee's programs. "The Young Potential Referee's Camp" for persons under the age of 25 has been held every summer for the last ten years.
The camp consists of practical sessions, the study of rules and of English communication, and includes lectures by ex-national team players, officials from other sports, dieticians, mental training coaches, physical training coaches, running-form coaches, etc. We also invite top active FIBA referees as instructors. I expect our referees, whose mother tongue is not English, to realize how English communication skills are of equal importance as skills of world level officiating.
Every January, we host a clinic for Japanese FIBA referees and top level national referees. The main theme of this clinic, which includes lecturers from FIBA, is: what is expected of referees on the courts in World Competition and what is important for referees there? I believe that these efforts will be helpful to improve the level of the world standard, not only of each individual referee but also of Basketball in Japan.
The improvement of the country's basketball level is based on "common understanding" between players and referees, and improving both of them at same time. As a result, FIBA referees from Japan have recently been assigned to the finals of Asian Championships in most categories. Also, many FIBA referees from Japan have been honoured in receiving nominations to officiate in a number of FIBA Championships.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, a Japanese FIBA referee was assigned to officiate in the final. It was a supreme honour and pleasure that world basketball chose to include referees from Japan, while we feel responsibility for the future at the same time. During the 2006 World Championship for Men in Japan, many referees were able to observe the performances of the world's top players and referees right in front of them. Additionally, they were able to communicate with top level referees, referee supervisors and commissioners. The fruit of this achievement is immeasurable. I must send my deepest appreciation to Mr. Lubomir Kotleba, Sports Director of FIBA, who has been supporting the training and development of referees in Japan all this time.
My motto is "Know World Basketball, and think how adjust oneself to it. Do it right away if you decide it is valuable to do so." The Japanese referees are able to support promotion and development of World Basketball and I shall keep working for this.