If you have ever received a “T”, or witnessed a player or coach penalized with this violation and thought it was unwarranted, chances are, you have never been a certified (solid) basketball official. Many players, coaches, and especially fans are unaware of the truth behind the technical foul. Basketball is a highly emotional game, as it should be, and many times these emotions run negative. However, basketball is a sport that, to the surprise of many, has a strong sense of etiquette. It is not the WWF, where you can lash out at an official, cheap shot or taunt your opponent, or beat a spectator bloody. Furthermore, as a fan in attendance at a game, you are not allowed to say whatever you please to opposing players and coaches, or make things personal with an official. Whatever your role in basketball competition, should you decide to cross the line (whether you are aware of the rules or not), you may easily be penalized, and rightfully so. Basketball is a lot like life. If you have experience, chances are, you have witnessed quite a bit of random crazy behavior by just about everyone. That is human nature. Men and women are instinctively reactive. That is normal. When a player, coach or fan breaks the basketball code of conduct (regardless if they are even aware of these rules), it is time for the officials to step in and make the controversial call known as the technical foul.
But the truth is the “T” is no different from any other call in the game, such as traveling or 3 seconds in the lane. Many view it as punishment, as if the person committing the violation was in trouble. Of course there is a limit to which these infractions can occur before one is disqualified, but that is no different than the common personal foul. So many times the “Tech” is associated with wrongdoing, often because tempers flare, and emotions are at an extreme, but that is basketball. It is part of the game.
As a matter of fact, many coaches and even players will cross that line on purpose. There are a number of reasons many great minds in the game agree with this line of thinking, such as getting their team fired up and refocused after a run of sub-par effort, or possibly they feel the officials need to do better, which could be laziness by a certain referee by perhaps not getting in correct position to make a call, or demanding the officiating crew pay more attention to the details that ultimately determine the game’s outcome. Perhaps even if it is a very experienced player or coach that carries a high status in the league with a psychological edge on referees, knowing they have a valid point to be made, they will test the officials, knowing should they get popped with the “T”, the officials will not want to issue a possible second technical foul later in the contest (which would result in an automatic disqualification). Of course, when an experienced player or coach chooses this action, they usually know how to keep themselves in the proper respectful mindset the rest of the game. It is not recommended anyone who is not at least at a big-time level of college basketball think they have achieved this status. Should someone that has not earned the respect of their peers at a high level of the game try to manipulate an official, they will only be exposing the fact they are not in the elite class of basketball’s legends. They will not just receive 1 technical, but be very prone to being ejected from the game, because they will not be on the officials’ good side. It is usually this type of person that tries to control an official that can often not even control themselves.
Whether it be a 2 man crew or 3 man crew, every official (even in the same game) is different. He or she has their own reasons for drawing the line that the participants in the game are not allowed to cross. This is a judgement call. It is no different than views on why a particular play was a block or a charge. Some referees have a quick trigger. Others are slow to penalize someone who crosses the line.
Many of you by now have made the careful observation, basketball’s officials are much the same as an everyday police officer. There are experienced rule enforcers, and there are some that have not reached where they need to be. Regardless of their imperfections, it is not citizens job to tell law enforcement officers how to do their job, despite how you evaluate their performance. The men and women that hold us accountable in society are not perfect, nor will they ever be. The officials that are put in charge of our basketball games are no different! It is no surprise there has never been a perfectly called game on any level, anywhere in the world, at any time in the history of the game. But basketball officials are respectful enough not to come to players’, coaches’ and spectators’ jobs and harshly critique them, and degrade them if they disagree with how they perform.
On the opposite side, many other great coaches (and a few players) think differently in terms of psychology when it comes to communication with the officials. A select group of coaches will tell an official they are doing a great job. Coaches have even gone as far as telling the officials they made a good call when they do not agree with the ruling at all, as the call goes against them! Just imagine, the game is getting intense, and there is a big block/charge call, the crowd is going crazy, and as the official reports the foul to the scores table, the discouraged coach stays calm and lets the referees know he still has respect for them, as he makes sure the official hears him say, “Good call”. This positive attitude keeps the coach and his players on the officials’ good side. Many believe this will even influence the game in their favor, not necessarily directly on the next call (or throughout the game), but psychologically it suggests the officials will be more inclined to give the respectful coach the benefit of the doubt on a very tough 50/50 call (even without thinking about it).
Many officials (when a judgment call is needed) will err on the side of caution to keep the game under control by giving a technical foul early in the game. This sets the tone (for both teams) the entire game suggesting the officials will not put up with foul play or disrespect. If they can maintain their professionalism, this usually sets a good tone for the game, while still allowing physical play where it is considered good sportsmanship, and positive communication from coaches to officials and back, as well as, players to officials and back. At the same time, when officials start handing out “T’s” left and right because players and coaches become dissatisfied, the game tends to have no flow to it, because some officials feel the need to control the game. This quickly results in things going from bad to worse with fans getting out of control, and even participants potentially getting ejected.
The best thing a player or coach can do if he or she is popped with a “T” is to make the necessary adjustments so it does not happen again. The best players and coaches know how to adjust to the way common fouls are being called. This allows them to maintain smooth flow in the game without a whistle being blown every 5 seconds, or worse, no fouls being called at all, and the game turning into a rugby style blood sport that ends poorly for both teams. Likewise if players and coaches are mentally tough enough, they can remain calm, stay focused, and have a positive impact on the game.
Officials will make mistakes. That is inevitable. They even sometimes (for whatever reason) hit someone with a technical that did not deserve one, when even that official will later admit was unwarranted. Regardless you must maintain your composure. Calmly express your concerns with the referee, politely ask the necessary questions, make the proper adjustments, and move on.
You must ALWAYS remember, the technical foul is nothing personal! However, if a player, coach, or even a fan, makes things personal with an official, they will be penalized.
Players are not perfect.
Coaches are not perfect.
Officials are not perfect.
Basketball is a Lifestyle.
We can all improve from our mistakes.
Continue to learn, continue to improve, and continue to grow.