Next Level Officials Association: Officiating and Appreciating 

By Nehemiah Rivers


Photo via Phyllis Pearson


The profession of being a referee is one that involves a vast array of knowledge in a given sport. One must know all the ins and outs of the sport while having a keen ear and an open eye to every detail so fairness can be maintained.

Next Level Officials Association is a Chicago organization that specializes in providing careers for aspiring basketball officials. Since its founding in 2002, Next Level Officials Association amassed a substantial following and even began officiating for Chicago Public Schools since 2015. “We have a great network with several NBA officials who we work with now, we’re doing pretty good so far,” said founder Marvin Sykes.

The organization notably offers training camps referred to as Next Level Officiating Camp for those interested in officiating basketball games. During this training, participants will be taught the ins and outs of officiating under the core values of knowledge and positivity.


Photo via Phyllis Pearson


In many ways, referees can be considered the underrated heroes of the game, as they are very studious individuals. As an expert of the game’s rules, they understand a team’s application of teamwork and strategy while observing the game under a critical lens. “All you’re doing is providing service of your expertise so they (athletes) can achieve their goals the way you achieve your goals,” said Sykes.

One of the most important factors of the game is fairness, so one of the many challenges that comes with being a referee is how well one can pay attention to detail of the game so the appropriate calls are being made and avoiding biases to ensure games are not one-sided in another teams’ favor. These monitors of the game must commit to honesty making sure the teams themselves play fairly and intervene when they don’t so the game’s rules are being followed properly.


Photo via Phyllis Pearson


Next Level Officials Association strives to help both officials and athletes alike, grow as people and for them to educate one another on what it truly means to be a team player. “It’s not about me it’s about we, when you fail we fail,“ said Sykes.

For more information about Next Level Fitness Association visit,