Sally Bell Retires

Last night many officials heard the news of Sally Bell’s retirement.  For those of us who know her, have worked for her, and possibly worked with her on the floor, we are deeply saddened to have such a wonderful person walk away from the position of leadership.  For those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting Sally, you are missing one of the greatest people in the game.

Sally is a living legend who continues to treat our game and our people with respect, kindness, and understanding.  It is a lost art it seems sometimes.  Sally is praised by  SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who said “Sally Bell has been an effective and tireless leader of the SEC Women’s Basketball Officiating Program, and she worked hard to ensure that the level of officiating in the SEC matches th excellence that is expect4ed for the premier women’s basketball conference in America.”  Many of Bell’s accomplishments are highlighted in this article from Hoopfeed.

What I wanted to share with my refwriter friends today is that Sally Bell rose all the way to the pinnacle of officiating both on the floor and off the floor.  And Sally is loved as much today as she was when she was just one of us, worked hard, trying to get more games, and traveling the country in planes, trains and automobiles.  I use Sally as my mentor and personal reminder to treat the game well, treat others even better, and be an everyday legend of kindness.

Thank you Sally for being a living legend for all of us to admire and strive to emulate.

If you know Sally – go ahead and tell me one of your memories of her or how she has helped you in life.

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Play The Role You Are Hired to Play

“This referee asked me to print out his paperwork for him and just have it for him at camp to sign.  Another referee emailed me just to tell me he’d been working out and running all summer, like they wanted me to congratulate them.  I just don’t think they understand,” the officiating assignor tells me this morning.

While I didn’t ask for a complete venting session, it is what I received.  Not only do I empathize, but I believe many assignors feel the same way.  I feel the lines have become unclear between boss/contractor when it comes to officiating, because generally the promotions come from within.  What I mean by that is that most assignors either were officials or are still officiating the game, which makes us feel like they are our friends.

We have seen her grow up.  We’ve seen her advance.  We know her.  She is our friend.  Well folks, she is now your BOSS.  You must communicate with her differently.  You must respect her new title, and figure out how to communicate with her in this new role.  The greatest officials, receiving the greatest games and assignments have figured out how to properly communicate with assignors, fellow officials, and other stakeholders in the game.

This morning a news story about one of the great NBA officials, reminds me of our duty to know our role, and then to be even better.  It is our role to know the rules, to workout, to do our paperwork, to keep our availability current, and to communicate effectively with our supervisor or boss.  These are the mandatory – no recognition or applause warranted – duties of being an official.  If you want to be recognized or you want to advance, don’t look for the applause in the little, totally necessary skills and requirements.  You must demonstrate more than the minimum job requirements I have listed below.  No supervisor is applauding your off season workout regime (unless of course you drop those unnecessary 40 pounds).


In the Quartz article, Danny Crawford is lauded for his communication skills, in addition to his excellence in calling games (the required minimum).

“Danny is good because he’ll talk to you,” one player told the Times. “If you’re asking a question, even if you’re questioning his call, he doesn’t take it like it’s an affront to his manhood.” 

Crawford, one of the NBA’s all-time greatest referees, made his 23rd straight NBA Finals appearance in 2017’s game one, as the Golden State Warriors drubbed James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. Quartz crunched the data: It’s the longest streak on basketball’s biggest stage by a referee since 1975.

That is greatness, Dannyboy, that is greatness.  Danny handles his business and knows his role, and people recognize.  They have recognized it for more than two decades.  Do you know your role?  Do you do the minimum or do you do more? noticeably more?

When you speak to your supervisor at camp, or you communicate with their staff, are you giving them all the respect they deserve?  Check yourself.  Check your communication with your supervisor.  Maybe she doesn’t need to hear about your exercise routine, and she for sure doesn’t need to be showing you how to use your online scheduling tools… that’s your role.  My encouragement to you this camp season is to know your role, excel at it, and know that it will be noticed, without you pointing it out to anyone.  Do your job.  Be kind.  People will notice.

Have a great camp – know your role.

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Last Game of the Season

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones.
A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”
Shannon L. Alder

Lets face it – people do like to talk about referees.  🙂  And while the press and ESPN may not always be kind in their words about us, our peers’ and friends’ words are often more personal.  It is often the praise of a peer or assigner that drives us to work harder and be better.  The “atta girl” pat on the back from a mentor can truly inspire us to reach the next level.

The “next level” for many of us is a post season tournament.  You may be wrapping up this season with your first state high school assignment, a conference tournament, the Junior College Nationals, or the NCAA tournament.  For whatever your post season assignment was – CONGRATULATIONS.  I am proud of you.

When you run the numbers on how many referees work in your area, and in your leagues, I hope you realize what an honor it is to work in the post season.  I also pray that you realize people are always watching how you handle this success.

While this topic is always relevant, at this time of year, I want you to reflect on how outsiders view your post season success.  When you walked off the court the last time – what did your partners think of you, speak of you, and what will they tell their friends about how you treated them?  Will coaches think you were respectful to them and their players?  These are serious questions to consider as we self evaluate.

I am just like you, I have good days and bad days.  I try my best to be professional, but sometimes lose my cool.  I honestly respect coaches and other officials, but sometimes I simply don’t understand their decisions and choices.  What I need to be reminded often is that I am not privy to all the reasons why decisions are made.  I may not understand why a coach doesn’t take the time out to advance the ball, or why an assigner advances an official over me, but it is my job to show professionalism regardless of the decision.

If we remember to always do the right thing, then at the right time the right person will notice.  I had the pleasure of receiving a note from a total stranger this year.  He found my name and sent me a message through social media.  This small note really made my day.  I was reminded that if I love my job (which I do) and I approach each game with my best (which I try to do) then people will notice.

In this case he noticed AND took the time to drop a nice note.  #MadeMyDay

“Hello ma’am. We met passively a couple of times here in xxxxx at the tournament. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed watching you work. As an official you had great judgement and awareness, obviously important qualities in the job, but your interactions with coaches and players really grabbed me. As a coach, I wish there were more like you out there.

I found you to be relentlessly positive regardless of environment, moment, or interaction.”

When you look back at your last game, could someone say this about you and how you interacted with your partners, the players, and the coaches?  If not, how can you better your game demeanor?

I hope my crew today will say that I was relentlessly positive regardless of the environment, moment or interaction.



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Crew Chief Qualities (part 2)

This post is a continuation from the previous post titled Crew Chief Qualities based on some of my summer presentations.  This is a topic I find so interesting because I believe great crew chiefs are always looking to perfect their leadership in pregame, heated situations, and post game.  In the last post we discussed how great crew chiefs create a safe environment.  Today, I will explore two more crew chief qualities that I find invaluable.

Great crew chiefs:

  • Inspire and motivate


  • Display integrity and honesty

I believe great crew chiefs who exemplify the aforementioned characteristics are the best of the best.   I love when I am in a pre-game with a referee who believes the game is bigger than us, the kids deserve our best, and the coaches have a job to do that we should respect and understand. When a crew chief expects us to serve the game our very best attention, rules application, and mental focus, we are all better and do a better job . I worked a game with a crew chief last year who began the game by saying, “tonight may not be the #1 and #2 of the conference but it is the most important game of the night for these two teams.”  That set the stage for us to give the game our very best!  We should be so challenged every game – every night!

What is one of those comments a crew chief makes in the pregame that just inspires you or motivates you?

Another key quality of a great chief is one who can be trusted to be honest and of high integrity.  We all know officials who we wouldn’t trust as far as we could throw them, right?  But what I have found over my 20 years of officiating is that those officials who are less-than-honorable don’t stay long.  I think back to the officials who were caught cheating the systems a few years ago and how their careers came to a screeching halt.  Once people find out you cannot be trusted they no longer want to work with you.  Assignors don’t want to hire officials whom they cannot trust.  Coaches don’t want an official who lies or cheats the game of their best.

Integrity is demonstrated long before you are hired.  Last weekend a man who had been working for years asked me he could get his break at the next level.  I told him what I tell all officials who ask me this question.  “Just keep doing the right things and hope the right person sees you at the right time.”  The truth is that many times we get our break when we least expect it, and we are being watched when we least expect it.  That is what integrity is all about.  This idea dates back to the early 1900’s with C. S. Lewis when he said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

Summer camps have come to an end, so what will you be doing for the remaining weeks / months until we are on the court again?  What will you do to become a better crew chief?  What are you doing to better your game, even while no one is watching?

If you have a story of “getting a break” when you thought no one was looking, please share below.  I would love to share your story.





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Crew Chief Qualities (cont.)

Crew Chief Qualities

A couple weeks ago I began a post on crew chief qualities and I explored the first quality of creating a safe environment.  Today’s post I want to expand and cover the next couple qualities of great crew chiefs that I admire.  And while I admit there are many more great crew chief qualities, the two I discuss today are qualities I believe people have and are not taught.

Great crew chiefs inspire and motivate.

Great crew chiefs display integrity and honesty.

I believe a crew chief who can inspire you to be your best self in a game is much more rare than you might imagine.  One of my greatest off court strengths is to inspire and motivate, but so many times in my pregames I neglect that skill.  I love a pregame that leaves you feeling like you are indeed the best team on the floor.  Do you know that one person who can pregame a rookie and a veteran both in the same room and make them feel like they are each the “R” and worthy to own the chemistry of our game?  I work with an official named Dawn Marsh who can truly make you think this game is the best game of your life and that what you call and how you handle coaches is inspiring, though she is doing a much better job at it then you.  haha.  She just motivates you keep working on your craft and your skills.  She inspires and motivates without judgment and critique.  I always leave a game wishing I was more like her.

What probably also makes someone like Dawn stand out to me is that she is honest and she upholds the integrity of the game.  You know we will all experience situations where we are with someone who does not treat the game with the utmost respect.  We have all worked a game with someone who “big-timed” us or made the game less important than their personal agenda.  I used to work with an official who I always suspected was more interested in his own career than anything else.  He was always working an angle in his relationships.  Yet he advanced.  He made his way up the officiating ladder to be the top dog in the region, and then one day his dishonesty caught up with him.

He was accussed of cheating the system and accessing documents, assignments, and information that gave him an unfair advantage over everyone else.  He was two faced and exposed his lack of integrity.  his career was quickly ended.  I tell you this because great crew chiefs are honest and uphold the integrity of the game and the crew.  If someone is not honest, they will not remain the crew chief for long.  Their secrets will not remain hidden forever.  It is better to


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