The Family Jewels and Elbows Too

Ref meeting this afternoon–floor mechanical.  Nothing too surprising, with one exception.  Our assignor told us to watch out as C in transition…apparently boys running upcourt in the throng have taken to punching each other in the groin.  It led me to wonder…

if I actually caught somebody attempting a groin-punch, what do I do?  What if it lands?

Seems to me that, by rule, either one is a flagrant foul and an ejection…but if the attempted groin-punch-in-transition DIDN’T  land, it’d be an awfully tough sell.  (If it lands, then it’s easy.)

Any refs have an opinion?

We were also told to watch elbows.  We’ve been getting  lax at calling the elbow violation (toot the whistle if an elbow is swung excessively, whether it lands or not).  Call it, they say.  Okay.  Also, any elbow that makes contact with a head needs to be called either intentional or flagrant.  Again, okay.

But more interesting (yet logical) was our assignor’s statement that it’s the smack-on-the-arm after a defensive rebound that causes this.  Kid gets rebound, opponent reaches in and smacks a forearm.  We’ve all passed on this in the past (I know I have) since it doesn’t affect possession or the run of play.  But assignor says we now have to make that call because, when the smack happens a few rebounds in a row, the kid gets pissed off and throws an elbow.

Not sure I’ve seen this happen, but the logic is there.  So we’re told to call that smack now, and it looks like we’ll be communicating that with coaches at scrimmages (assignor has already told the ADs about it).

No problem.  It’s my job to call what my higher-ups say needs to be called, so I will call the minor-smack-on-the-arm-that-doesn’t-affect-possession-after-a-rebound.  Consider it done.  But I’d better not see any elbows after that, since there will be no excuse, and if you make contact with the head, it’ll be an intentional or a flagrant.

About Paul Hamann
I am a basketball referee in Washington State, working mostly high school games.

3 Responses to The Family Jewels and Elbows Too

  1. MassRef says:

    1) As soon as you use the word “punch”, it’s flagrant. A poke, a nudge, a push, a squeeze can all be common fouls. But as soon as you say “punch”, there’s no latitude. Even if the punch misses, it’s “an attempt to strike” an opponent and is flagrant. Just as an illustration, a fist to the nads is flagrant, IMHO, while a poke to the belly of an airborne shooter is not.

    2) Your assignor must have a heavy NCAA influence, because all of the comments about elbows are very familiar to me. We have started pre-gaming exactly what you talk about regarding little swipes at the rebounder. While we used to pass on this because we could also then pass on the elbow if it accidentally connected (because after all, the defender had it coming, since he shouldn’t have been in there in the first place), we can no longer pass on that accidental elbow so we have to prevent it from happening by getting the defender first (and quickly).

  2. Kyle Wescott says:

    Ya… the groin shot has been missed in the 2 person system since I played in the 90’s… and I was glad when I started officiating that now there was a third person watching after players’ “jewels”… I would say that if you saw the attempt, it’s def a malicious act and it could be easily sold as an intentional foul. I don’t think too many coaches would disagree when you tell them you saw his player take a swing at an opposing players “jewels.”

    As for the elbows, the new NCAA rule is that it’s atleast an intentional if it’s to head… but IAABO hasn’t made gone there yet… but looking quickly in the IAABO member book, it looks like you’re using the NCAA rules for high school, I’ll try to remember that as I read your blog! As for the hit that causes it, I don’t know if I agree. I was taught when I get a rebound to be big and put my elbows out, that’s gonna happen whether I got hit or not, I’m just protecting the ball and making sure no one is grabbing for the ball. Now, as officials we have to realize there is a difference between turning my body and hitting someone with my elbow, and EXCESSIVELY swinging my elbows.

    Thanks for letting me read Paul!

    • Paul Hamann says:


      Anytime! I want to have as many people here as I can, especially refs. Be sure to click on “How To Access Password-Protected Posts” above, since I’ll be doing those for my game logs starting on Friday.

      We use NFHS rules. I think the “has to be an intentional” is an interpretation, and I think MassRef has it 100% right above–our assignor does DII ball ’round these parts, and it makes sense that he’s passing that on to us (especially since it’s a sensible interpretation).

      He also said–I think reasonably–that “excessive” swinging of the elbows means that the pivot point of the swing is the shoulder rather than the hips. If you rebound and keep your elbows out and turn your body at the hips or tilt the ol’ torso, and your elbow doesn’t hit anyone, that’s a no-call. You’re not swinging your elbows. But if the pivot point is the shoulder, that’s a violation.

      Now, if there’s contact…the pivot point is the body, I think I have an intentional (if it makes contact with the head). If it’s from the shoulder, it’s an intentional, and it’s a flagrant/ejection if it looks like he wanted to knock the guy in the chops.

      Do you guys have anything different?

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