What Should The Referee Do Prior To A Basketball Game?

Being a basketball referee can be mentally taxing on top of being physically demanding. It doesn’t matter what league you are in; there is so much pressure on you to make the right calls and to ensure that the game goes smoothly. Well, what about before the game? What should a basketball referee do?

Giving yourself enough time to run through your pre-game duties is essential, so arriving early with the checklist is advisable. Some of your duties include checking the equipment, court, and player cards. Have a briefing with your assistant referees to ensure that you are all on the same page.

For upcoming referees or those that hope to make a career out of it, finding enough information to make your life easier is tricky. That is why I want to give you all the help I can, and in this article, we will discuss in depth the necessary pre-game checks that every basketball referee needs to do.

What Should A Referee Bring To A Basketball game?

Basketball referees do not need much equipment to officiate a basketball game. However,  this is what you do need:

  • Wear your referee attire, typically a striped v-neck shirt and black pants.
  • Referees should have a whistle
  • It is advisable to have a stopwatch

Some leagues might ask you to use more equipment, so check with the relevant authorities.

7 Things A Referee Should Do Before A Basketball Game

Before we get into it, it is always good to remember that not all basketball games are the same, so it is better to use this list as a guideline, as it will help you prepare for your next basketball game. I highly recommend bookmarking this page so that it is easier to find when you need it.

That said, here are seven crucial things that every basketball referee should do before the game starts. So let’s get into it.

Mentally Prepare

For referees, one of the most important things to do before refereeing a basketball game of any level is to prepare mentally. Doing this will help you prevent being late, and it will help you better understand what you need to do on game day.

Familiarise Yourself With Both Teams

Please note that this section primarily applies to high-level basketball leagues.

Referees need to be unbiased, so you can’t take what certain players do in previous games and base your decisions on that or even allow them to influence your choices. However, at the higher levels, most referees familiarize themselves with players, coaches, etc. You can do this by reading up on them or watching previous games.

Get To The Court Early

When refereeing a basketball game, you want to get to the court at least 30 minutes early. Being there before everyone else will give you time to ensure you can carry out your pre-game duties without worrying about time.

Some coaches, especially in lower league basketball, such as high school, get to the game 15 or 20 minutes early. However, they might have more experience than you, and they can carry out their duties much more quicker.

When arriving at the court, you want to ensure that you come with the following:

  • Your referee outfit
  • Your equipment
  • A checklist that includes your pre-game and post-game duties

You can use this article to create a list for yourself.

Inspect The Court

Inspecting the court doesn’t take much time. In fact, you can do it within five minutes unless, of course, you find any problems with the court, in which case you might have to wait for one of the staff members to fix it before reinspecting it. Here are a few crucial things to look out for:

  • Ensure all the markings are correct
  • Check for wet marks
  • Remove any hazards
  • Inspect the integrity of the court

When inspecting the basketball court, you need to remember two things: Not only do you want the court to meet regulatory standards, but you also want to look out for the safety of the players. Also, your safety is important.

Inspect The Equipment

Faulty equipment can impact the experience not only for the players but also for the people watching the game. That is why it is of utmost importance that you inspect all the equipment thoroughly and ensure it is ready to be used. Here are a few things to look out for when inspecting the equipment:

  • Check that the balls are up to standard and properly inflated
  • Inspect the nets and ensure that they are appropriately attached to the hoops. Also, check the integrity of the nets.
  • Backboard
  • The hoops

Get The Lineup Cards

Next up, you want to approach both coaches, as it is crucial to get the lineup card and inspect them. Finally, you want to ensure that all players are registered with the relevant team and are allowed to play.

When getting the player cards, you can use this as an opportunity to introduce yourself to both coaches, learn a little bit about them, and discuss anything you feel is necessary.

Have A Meeting With Assistant Referees

Basketball games consist of quite a few officials; it does depend on what league you are in but for now, let’s assume that all the officials will be there at your game, so what do you do?

You want to have a pre-game briefing with your referee crew. Doing this allows you to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and if you work as a team during the basketball game, the outcome of the game, not only for you and the players but also for the fans, is a lot better.

While you can ask your assistant referees to help you with your pre-game checks, it is still your responsibility to ensure everything goes smoothly. So, it is better to ask them for help while still doing all the inspections yourself.


Before the basketball game starts, you must stretch and ensure that you are doing everything possible to minimize the chance of injury. Remember, referees run around quite a lot on the court, and many people tend to forget this when offering advice to prospective referees.

While stretching before the game, you don’t have to go overboard, and you don’t have to spend too much of your doing so; just a nice and easy five-minute warm-up should be more than enough.

Editorial credit: Pavel Shchegolev / Shutterstock.com

Is It Hard To Be A Basketball Referee?

By this point in the article, being a basketball referee might sound like a lot of work, but is it?

Being a basketball referee at any level is fun. While it does entail some pre-game work and a lot of responsibility during the game, it is a tremendous character-building activity.

Refereeing any sport is easier when you are at least somewhat fit, so it is advisable to do some cardio training whenever you can.


The pre-game duties for referees are different depending on the league. However, the guidelines in this article apply to almost any level. If you want to be a referee, the best thing to do if it is something you are serious about is to find out from your local high school or even contact the NRBA.


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