Earning the Stripes

NBA Refs Train Too

How NBA Referees Train to Keep Up with World’s Best Athletes

For the most part, understanding how NBA players train is pretty simple.

Lots of weight training, explosive work, and ultimately just doing what normal human beings just cannot due. That is essentially how anyone can train to get on the level of a LeBron James, a James Harden, or a Russell Westbrook.

But while NBA players get all of the attention, they are not the only players on the floor. Alongside the ten freakish, out-worldly athletes are the referees, and their main job is to try to keep up with the greatest athletes on the planet for 82 regular games each season, as well as preseason and playoff contests. And too keep up with the LeBron’s and the Westbrook’s, the referees too must hit the gym.

“The pace has certainly increased a lot—as referees, we’re running four to five miles a night,” Longtime NBA referee Mark Davis tells Men’s Fitness. “It’s our job to be in the best athletic condition that we can be. Our players are just so athletic—their movements and their ability to explode with power and speed—and we have to adjust with that and how we officiate. I focus on mobility in my training; I do a lot of bodyweight squats, and I sprint in the off-season at least a couple times per week.”

Running up and down the floor, looking out for fouls, and making sure they keep up with the pace of the game, referees must take training extremely single.

“I attack my workout based on the amount of the time that I have, whether it’s 15, 30, or 45 minutes or longer,” Davis says. “Kettlebell work is great because you can use it for a lot of different areas, and it helps you stay mobile through your entire body. Being in shape, being physically ready, and physically able to perform at all times is a big part of being a successful official.”

Of course with travel, different time zones, and other external factors, finding time to hit the gym is difficult for NBA refs, but it remains vital for each referee to incorporate mobility, flexibility, and lower-body strength exercises into daily lifestyles.

“The days can morph into each other,” Davis says. “We can be up until 3 a.m., finishing the game from the night before, then be on the first flight in the morning to the next city. It’s a physically demanding job—traveling between time zones, different hotel rooms, and still having to perform that evening. Nobody really cares about how much sleep you got that night—you still need to call the game.”

NBA referees may never get the credit they deserve, but similar to NBA talent, these guys put in the work as well!


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