Alexey Chudin graduated from the Moscow State Academy of Physical Education and his graduate studies focused on the preparation of referees in Russia. He has been a national referee since 2001.
Basketball is a game that is growing in popularity around the world and particularly in Russia. The previous Eurobasket, World Championship, and Olympic Games also showed the great interest in the game on the part of spectators. Today’s basketball players are quicker, more explosive, and unpredictable and this has certainly captured the imagination of the spectators. The official rules are changing slightly to keep up with the modern players. Every four years FIBA approves new modifications of rules and mechanics and every year it approves new interpretations of some rules. All of this makes the job of referees ever more complicated. We need to be up to date with all changes in order to be the best officials.
One of the important aspects of basketball officiating that gets little attention is the physical preparation of a referee. Every professional basketball player knows that being physically well prepared allows him a chance to best maximize his abilities on the court. Well, the same applies to a basketball referee.
Our two and three-man officiating teams have to run almost as much as the players on the court. In addition, we have to quickly take positions that allow us to see the spaces between players, and pick up on the holding and grabbing and other sorts of personal fouls being committed that may not always be visible to spectators. We also have to be the first down court on fast breaks in order to correctly analyze the situation. We are always on the move during a game. One of our most experienced referees, Mikhail Davydov, FIBA referee and member of the FIBA World Technical Commission, once noted: “Poor feet – poor officiating.” And he is correct. If you are not able to run quickly and get to your spots on the court throughout the entire game, you will never be able to officiate effectively.
In analyzing the topics at national and international basketball referees’ clinics, one of the most important subjects that is always covered is the physical preparation of the referees. But, is it really that important that you improve your physical skills? Isn’t it enough to have the speed and endurance achieved during the pre-season preparation?
Actually, it is not enough. There is much more to be done, and it all happens before a game begins.
Like every physical exercise that starts with warming up, the preparation before the game for a referee should also start with a good warm-up. It is very important to prepare your body for high physical stress by stretching the muscles and loosening the joints. Stretching helps to prepare muscles for lengthy physical activity and can prevent injury. This warm-up phase should be no less than 10 to 15 minutes, with 5 to 7 minutes spent running to different parts of the court at varying speeds. If possible, the referee should run 2-5 10-meter sprints just before the game starts. All the players are well warmed up, eager to start the game, and they are quick and fast. The pre-game sprints will get you ready for the fast-paced game that is just about to start.
What do many referees do while players are warming up? They stand on the court watching the players. They are standing still, not moving. They certainly won’t be ready for the first quick attack made by a team. And this is not a good start to a game for the referees, and certainly not for the players.
A small research study recently carried out during the Russian Championships with 60 referees showed the importance of physical preparation. Each referee was outfitted with a heart rate monitor to measure heart rate throughout the game. Every game was recorded and the distance covered on the court and the speed of the referees was measured.
According to the study of three-man referee teams, a referee usually runs distances of 5, 8, 15, and 20 meters. The maximum distance a referee runs is 20 meters, which he runs 127 times for an average of 4 seconds. The total distance covered is 2,540 meters for 8 minutes. The referees run 21-15 meter sprints at an average of 4.3 seconds. They covered approximately 315 meters for 90 seconds, and it basically entailed running from the court to the scorers’ table to note fouls.
The 8-meter sprints were typically covered by a referee in 3.5 seconds and they did this 54 times, on average, during a game. The 5-meter runs typically consisted of fast walking in order to get a good position on the court.
On average, every referee on court covered 2,985 meters for an elapsed time of 11 minutes. During the warm up, heart rates were 140 beats per minue on average, with heart rates that went as high as 180 beats per minute during the game. Referees also used one or both hands when officiating to show what is going on the court.
This small research study points out that the referee is on the go during a game and that being ready to move at full speed at the start of every game is necessary in order to best officiate a match.