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Don’t Forget Your Shoes

Creatures of habit

Basketball referees, all sports officials, are creatures of habit.  We tend to do the same thing the same way each time.  It is a big part of what we do.  This applies not only to what is done on the court, but to preparation as well. . .

One of the little things about officiating that you won’t learn from any rule book is packing your equipment bag.  I would say it is one of the most fundamental aspects of being a basketball referee.  Seriously.  If you can’t your stuff together, get organized, and get to a game on time and with a professional appearance, you’re gonna be in trouble.  Every game night starts not when the ball is tossed, but when you pack your bag.

You wouldn’t believe all of the different strategies, techniques, and gadgets that basketball referees use to get packed for a game.  Granted, we dont’ have nearly the amount of stuff as a baseball umpire, but there is stuff to be packed, nonetheless.  Because you have all this stuff that MUST make it into your bag for a game, referees are meticulous about how they pack.

All packed and ready to go

I learned early from a veteran referee to pack, unpack, and repack my bag before I left for any game.  I start with an empty carry-on (the black rolling carry-on is the bag of choice for most refs), and I lay out each component of my uniform, and each one goes into its place in my bag– shoes first, then pants, then shirt, then socks and undgergarments, then jacket, then whistle.  Then, I take them all out, and then put them all back in.  The end result is what you see in the picture on this post.  That is a picture of my bag, all packed and ready to go.

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Notice that I start with the most important things first– shoes, pants, shirt.  Those are the three items, that, if forgotten, are very difficult to replace.  They are the most important, basic, fundamental components of a referee uniform.  They are absolutely necessary.  Remember that. . .

Every Ref’s Worst Nightmare

One of the reasons that refs are so meticulous about how they pack is because we lead hectic lives during the season.  Between family, regular jobs, and officiating, things can get crazy.  You don’t want that craziness to cause you to make a mistake and forget something. . .

I had a game on my first night back in Virginia after Inman Connect NYC ’09.  It was a Monday night.  Because I had gotten back in town on Sunday, and had been out of town all week, my ref bag wasn’t packed.  I worked all day, and then ran home to get my bag before I left for the game (about an hour from my house).  All my officiating gear had been washed, so I grabbed my stuff out of the dryer, threw it in my bag, and headed out the door.  I didn’t take the time to go through my packing ritual.

When I got to the game, I met my partners in the locker room, and started unpacking to get dressed.  I took everything out of the bag, and when I started to change, I noticed I was missing something.  I looked through everything I had unpacked, I searched under the chairs in the locker room, I went through my bag again. . .  awww F$#@!

I looked at my partners and said, “You’re not going to believe this, but I forgot my shoes.”

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Not cool.  Not cool at all.  My partners helped me double-check, to make sure I didn’t have them.  Neither of them had an extra pair.  So here I was, at a school, 15 minutes from game time, 1 hour from my house, and 40 minutes from the nearest sporting goods store– AND I HAD NO SHOES.

Lesson Learned

Kari and I drove at a rapid pace to the nearest Dick’s Sporting Goods, I ran inside, and bought the first pair of all-black, size 13 sneakers I laid eyes on.  Then, we drove back to the school, and I made it in time to jump into the last half of the JV game, and do the Varsity game.

It was incredibly embarrassing, and I endured a copious (but appropriate) amount of harassment from my fellow officials during that game, and in the weeks that followed.  But I learned a valuable lesson–

Don’t get so caught up that you forget the fundamentals.

Packing correctly is fundamental to what I do as a basketball official.  I forgot the fundamentals.  I let one busy day get in the way, I lost concentration, and I paid for it.  That should not have happened.

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Concentrate on your fundamentals

Don’t let it happen to you.  Right now, things are pretty crazy out there.  Don’t get distracted.  Keep that laser focus.  Concentrate more than ever on the fundamentals that have brought you success.  Always concentrate on those fundamentals.  Doing that is the best way to ensure continued success.

Basically, don’t forget your shoes.

Written By

I'm a REALTOR, basketball referee, happy husband, and Community Manager (in no particular order). I have a passion for the real estate industry and officiating, a passion that I try to turn into inspiration on my blog, The Real Estate Zebra. I am also the Community Manager at Inman News. When I'm not blogging here on AG or the Zebra, you can usually find me on Twitter.



  1. ines

    March 22, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Wow Daniel – I have to tell you that the analogy is good, but the message is even better. I especially think that with social media, we get so focused on certain aspects that many times we forget why we’re doing what we’re doing to begin with.

    As for the shoes…anyone that knows me KNOWS that shoes are da’bomb (although you will find me barefoot at home 90% of the time)

  2. BawldGuy

    March 22, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Hey Daniel — You brought back an almost forgotten baseball umpiring story, similar to yours.

    I was doing 1st base in a Div I game between a local university and one of their main rivals. I noticed in the first inning the plate umpire didn’t look like he usually did when he got into position to call a pitch. That’s when I saw what was wrong.

    Just as he lowered himself into position, he very carefully (and sneakily I might add) placed his left hand over his, uh, well, you know. 🙂 I jogged in to ask him the obvious question after the third out was made. Yep, he’d forgotten his cup — not a good thing when 90+ mph baseballs keep comin’ your way.

    Talk about embarrassing. Fortunately the home team’s head coach figured out what the deal was, and offered him a brand new cup — “No charge” he laughed.

    Needless to say, my buddy gratefully accepted the offer. The players kept mentioning it all through the game.

    Come prepared.

  3. los angeles lofts

    March 22, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Daniel – Great posting. With all that is going on in today’s market many have lost sight of what has worked for them all along. Sometime we have to take a step back and remember the routine we once had. As I have stepped back into some familiar shoes at my office I have seen that I had forgetten what I could be doing to help the office and the company as a whole. I have brought back my old routine and it has made a great difference. Thanks for reminding me to retrace my steps.

  4. Daniel, The Real Estate Zebra

    March 24, 2009 at 8:15 pm


    As I was writing this post, I just knew that you would have a story of your own to share.

    I knew a baseball ump who was working a double-header during a Virginia summer. Two-man crew, and he had the bases for game one. Game ends, they go back to change, and he realizes he has locked the keys inside the locker room, along with all of his plate gear for game two.

    He had to wear his partner’s sweaty gear for game two, and learned a valuable lesson in the process. . .

    Officiating teaches me something new every season.

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