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July 6, 2010

A moving pick is a technical foul

by Paul Quill/

Gold is moving the ball around the box and finishing its substitutions. The coach calls out instructions, and soon the ball makes its way to No. 25, an attackman, positioned behind the cage at “X.” Gold 12 sets a pick near the goal-line extended. As Gold 25 drives the cage, his defender turns upfield, sees the pick and dips his shoulder and deliberately blows up the screening No. 12. Flag down!

NFHS RULE 5, Section 8, Unnecessary roughness; article 2: Deliberate and excessively violent contact made by a defensive player against an offensive player who has established a screening position.

Red’s goalie stuffs the shot by No. 25, I blow the whistle to stop play and run to the table to announce the foul. The Red coach gives the palms-up head shake and mutters a terse “C’mon ref.”

Later in the game, a similar play develops with the roles reversed. Red 9 has the ball at X and starts running hard to GLE. Red 21 sets a pick for his teammate with the ball. The Gold defender bangs into him as he tries to keep up with No. 9. The screener, No. 21, falls to the ground, and the coach loses his mind when no flag is thrown.


“Hey ref! Call it both ways! … My guy can’t run through?”

 I understood the coach’s frustration. Both plays looked similar, but there was one big difference. Red was flagged because he deliberately hit the screener; he was looking right at him. The hit was excessively violent because he dipped his shoulder before making contact.

 The Gold defender never took his eyes off his man; he never saw the pick coming. The contact was hard, but not excessive. He didn’t dip his shoulder, his hands never came up, and he never made a move to initiate contact, beyond trying to stay with his man.

 It’s always difficult for an official when two plays look the same but do not generate the same call. The coach always feels like the officials aren’t paying attention or that he is just getting “homed.” As always, a brief explanation to the coach helps defuse the situation.  He didn’t like the non-call but, at least knew that I was paying attention to what is going on out on the field.


Remember, when setting a pick, you must remain motionless. A “moving pick” or an illegal offensive screen is a technical foul. If the player setting the pick moves, the official will blow the whistle and give the ball to the other team at the spot of the foul.


If the pick is still and legal, the ref will be watching for contact to keep the screening player safe.