Referee Tips

There is a written test you need to take to become a certified referee in the IVL. The test consists of true-false and multiple-choice questions. There are two ways in which you can take the test:

Some hints for the new referees

  1. The referee should be positioned on the side of the net that is serving and the umpire should be positioned on the opposite side of the net, on the side that is receiving. Make sure the umpire watches the net and the center line for you. That way you, as the referee, can follow the flight of the ball, which is your primary responsibility. Remind the umpire to look for overlaps on the team receiving serve. Even when teams are not running a setter out of the back row, there quite often can be an overlap in a 4-2 offense. Watch carefully when a front-row setter is setting from either the left front or right front position since their middle back can easily overlap with the center front.

  2. Have two linespeople who will give a hand signal on every play, no matter how obviously in or out a ball was. What is apparent to one person may not be as easily seen from the other side of the court with half a dozen bodies in the way. Remind the linespeople to help on touches, etc.

  3. In the recreational leagues, concentrate on the basics:

    1. Calling a net,

    2. Calling someone for going under and

    3. Calling someone for lifting the ball. (A lift is when the ball visibly comes to rest on some part of the player's body.) Scrutinize someone closely if they play the ball with open palms face up. That generally would be a lift.

    For calling a mishandled ball on a set, use either the signal for a lift or a double hit. In the recreational B leagues, as long as a setter is squared off (facing the target either directly forward or back) the set generally will not be called. If you don't face your target, the set better be clean. In the upper levels, set the ball cleanly or bumpset. Watch the other teams and get a feel for the level of officiating. Ask your supervisor to watch you ref and give you some feedback on whether you're being too tight or too loose. Most likely, the teams you are reffing will give you some instant feedback.

  4. It's recommended that the umpire mimics the referee's hand signals. It keeps everyone mentally in the game and helps players/spectators see what the call was.

  5. It's important for a referee to blow a good, firm whistle for service and to stop play. A tentative whistle is just asking for people to question the call. Remember to blow the whistle every time something happens that affects the play. For instance, if a ball from another court interrupts the service or a server tosses the ball and lets it drop, blow the whistle and signal a replay, then when both teams are ready, blow the whistle again to initiate the serve. Always blow the whistle and show the proper hand signal, even if the call seems obvious. The play of the ball, easily seen by you, may not be so clear to others on the court obscured by blockers, etc.

  6. Only the captain may speak with the referee. If you're the ref, and 4 or 5 people start asking you something, politely say "Just the captain, please" and this will make the situation much more manageable for everyone.

  7. If anything happens that you're not sure of, call a time-out and get the supervisor. That's what he/she is there for. However, it always is a good idea for referees to have read a copy of the rulebook in addition to the IVL rules. USA Volleyball has the rules listd in PDF form at its website.

  8. Make sure you give clear hand signals and hold them up for the players to see. Not everyone instantly looks at you when you blow the whistle to stop play, so show the hand signal (say a net call) for a few extra seconds so people will see what you're calling. Always signal the point on the side of the net that won the point. Many people question a ref's call not because they disagree, but because they didn't see what the ref called. Then the referee assumes they're arguing with the call and the situation snowballs. You can save everyone a lot of grief by being very clear and precise with the hand signals.

  9. At the end of a play, look at your scorekeeper to ensure that a point has been recorded. Before you blow the whistle for service, look at the serving team to see that they're ready, then look to the receiving team, then look back to the serving team and blow the whistle as you give the hand signal. Your job is not just to call the fouls and keep the score, but to ensure that both teams are ready for the ball to be served. They may not pass it well, but at least they'll be ready.

Smart Referees Always . . .

Sometimes the mark of good referees isn't what they do, but what they don't do. The following are some things for both referees and players to be aware of:

  • When a net foul occurs, touch the side of the net that the foul occurs on. If the team on your left touches the net, touch the net with your left hand and signal point or sideout with your right hand. That way, there's no question of which side netted.

  • During a play, there may be a question of whether someone was over the net, or a back row player attacked in front of the 10 foot line, etc. A good referee will subtly signal okay or good by showing a palm face down while play continues. (Players looking to see whether there was a foul or not can see the ref's signal and know that the official was watching and ruled no foul.) For instance, a ball is set far outside and the hitter manages to keep it in play. The other team may question whether the ball hit the antenna or whether it passed outside of the court on its way to their side. If a linesperson shows this "good" signal, players will see that the linesperson was watching and saw the ball as in or good. Players will get frustrated when they think the officiating team missed a play, or don't understand what the question is about. By using this good signal, you can save yourself a lot of questions and the players will usually back off. They may not agree, but at least they know you didn't miss the play.

  • A referee can always overrule a linesperson or an umpire, but don't do it unless you're very sure.

  • You don't generally see an experienced referee blowing the whistle when a ball gets hit into the net. The ref should wait until there is a 4th contact or the ball hits the ground since it is not a foul to hit a ball into the net on a spike attempt.

  • An experienced referee uses the correct terminology and correct hand signals.

  • In the IVL, we are currently using the one direction, one motion rule on an open-handed dink. A smart ref doesn't explain a call by saying "You broke your wrist on the play," or "He didn't break his wrist on the play." A smart ref says "There was more than one direction or motion," or "the ball visibly came to rest," or "The dink was one direction, one motion, so it was okay."

  • If you want to get a match started, and the players are not cooperating after you announce "Last hit," go over and subtly stand in the way of the setter. Get the setter to walk back and line up. It's difficult for a hitting line to continue if there's not a setter. You can do this in a friendly, but very effective way: Stand partway between the setter and the hitting line and say to the setter "That was the last hit, let's play."

  • In the IVL, if an experienced referee sees a potential foul (possible overlap, server standing on the endline, etc.) he/she will warn the team before they blow the whistle for serve. These are not the Olympic Trials. People want to play, let's let them. Don't call the dead ball fouls; warn the players ahead of time and correct the situation. Teams will appreciate your effort. The umpire can watch for overlaps, especially on the receiving team, and the referee can watch for overlaps on both teams, especially the serving team before he/she blows the whistle for serve.

    For a further discussion of playing rules, see the IVL rules.

    Online Referee Test

    The IVL offers an online test to become a certified referee for our leagues. The test consists of true/false and multiple-choice questions. To pass, you must answer every question correctly. But don't worry! There is help when you need it. After completing the test, you must print it out and bring it to your league supervisor to be recorded on our list of referees.

    To begin, please give your name, and the name of your team below. These are used for the online test only, and are not retained or distributed in any way after the test is complete.


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