How Any Official No Matter their Age or Experience Can Bring Value | with Mark Wunderlich

We can all remember being in our first few years of officiating. Whether you’re in your rookie season right now or you’ve been a veteran official for some time; we can all remember what it was like to go out on the floor for the first time.
For myself, I remember two major concerns that affected how I officiated:
  1. Being afraid to blow the whistle with complete confidence
  2. Not feeling worthy compared to my fellow crew member(s)

Going into a game with anything but a clear head can be problematic in terms of having a clouded mind that can affect your judgement and decision making skills. Hearing Mark Wunderlich discuss how he officiated in his early years can shed some light on how younger and less experienced officials can add value to the game and their team every game.

Hearing a former NBA official and someone who now develops the best officials in the world discuss how he earned his rank and provided value in his younger years is extremely valuable. It will definitely help me, an official who is often paired with officials with more experience than me, contribute and serve the game in a different way than I’ve been accustomed to.

Wunderlich says (in regard to his earlier reffing days),

I tried to get really good with the rules. I felt like I could always ben an asset to the crew if I had rule knowledge… felt like I always brought something to the table every night… something they could rely on, as my play calling was improving.

In being the Director of NBA Referee Performance & Development and Referee Operations, Mark’s role includes:
  • Oversees officials
  • Understands how particular mechanics operate
  • Works closely on plays that are trending
  • Studies and analyzes mechanics that we can change in order to improve official performance

Since the game is always evolving, Mark always has to be adapting and evolving how officials process the game to get people in dependable positions to serve the game and make correct calls. This has been especially vital in the past decade as the game continues to change to a league focused much more on three pointers.

Jackson Ingalls has been refereeing since he was 10 years old. (Courtesy Ingalls family)
That being said, Mark gives some pointers on how to not only impress every game, but also how to improve every game.
Wunderlich says that it helps to ‘be a participant for the game.’
His crew would rather have you go 12/13 compared to 7/7 in your primary coverage area. Don’t be afraid to blow your whistle! Be sharp and be confident.
People willing to participle and do the intangibles every night is what we’re looking for… We look for officials with courage and disciple and those who do what is asked because there is a lot asked of those we hire.
This doesn’t mean you should be blowing your whistle all the time, but it does mean you should be confident out on the floor. See a foul – call a foul. See a violation – blow your whistle and stop the clock.
Although Mark informed us that he went into every game as the ‘rules guy,’ this doesn’t mean you have to do the exact same thing as Mark. Understanding the rules and bringing that knowledge to the floor every night did assist Mark to get to the highest level. However, if you have other strengths that you bring to the table every night, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!
For example, if you’re an excellent communicator and enjoy talking to players and coaches, have that be ‘your thing.’ If you are skilled with letting your partners know if they’re out of position, have that be your thing. If you are a stickler for mechanics and want to ensure you’re doing your job using correct mechanics at all times, have that be your thing.
For me, my mechanics are the area of the game I need to improve the most. So, I am going into every game with the mindset to be conscious of that and look to improve every possession.
That being said, I’m bringing my rules knowledge and communication skills to the floor every night because I know my crew can rely on me for those two areas of the game.
What is your one or two things your crew can rely on you for every game?