The purpose of this article is to breakdown the costs of becoming a basketball referee. I'm assuming that the starting point is high school. Younger ages may not need as much, higher ages might need more. I've split it into two major sections: equipment and other start-up costs.
Basic Equipment Required to Become a Basketball Ref:
$20-$60 for 1-3 shirts. The hallmark sign of the basketball official is the black and white striped shirt. Most online referee shops will offer several versions. The more expensive ones are usually a better material, if you plan to work a lot, I'd splurge a little. Pay attention to whether it has a "side panel". This is a fatter black stripe that runs vertically under the arms. Generally, you want to match your partner. I own 2 side panel mesh shirts, and one standard non-mesh shirt.
$50 for a pair of pants. There's mixed consensus for pleated or not. Whatever you do, don't just use a pair of dress slacks that you can get at any store. The appropriate pants for a basketball ref don't require a belt.
$60-$100 for shoes. You are looking for all black, no-marking tennis shoes. The specialty ref shops I mentioned before offer standard shoes for refs like NewBalance. You can find similar shoes online or in some sports stores. Find something comfortable and durable.
$50-$75 for a black pullover jacket. Not much to say here, just that you want it to be all black and without prominent manufacturer logos.
$5-$20 for whistles. The whistle of choice for referees is any Fox40 series. The whistle that your gym teacher used won't work. Fox40 whistles don't have that little pea that bounces around in other whistles. They are plastic, not metal, which is better for your teeth. I choose to buy the type that have extra teeth guard material on them. Some whistles will come with a lanyard, others may have it separate. They are $5-$10 each, and the type of lanyard is up to personal preference.
$50 referee bag. I use a standard gym bag. Other refs will use a small rolling suitcase.
$30-$80 (optional) compression shorts or moisture wicking undershirt. These keep your muscles warmer and if you sweat a lot, the water wicking material is your best friend.
Other Start Up Costs:
$50-100 for dues and registration costs. I have to apply to be a ref through the state high school league. I am a member of an association that helps me acquire games.
$0-$50 for books and materials. The National Federation for High Schools will send registered officials a copy of rules books. But, these aren't designed for easy reading. Other published guides can really help. I prefer High School Rules Simplified and Illustrated and Mechanics Illustrated.
$0-$100 for training camps. Camps and clinics range from free camps for entry-level officials, to high exposure camps designed for officials looking to move up in their career. Check with your state high school league for options.
$20 for miscellaneous odds and ends. I also have a notebook to make notes of the games I work. I have a shower kit. Some refs use a whiteboard to diagram situations. You may need a knee or ankle brace depending on your physical condition.
Other Thoughts on Costs of Becoming a Basketball Ref:
Expect to spend $50-$100 for transportation costs. This includes gas, meals, and miscellaneous things like parking garages. Some contracts reimburse you for travel, so make sure you check in on that. You also might want to check into insurance (liability or health if you don't have a policy) but I won't get into that here.
Keep your receipts and track your mileage (if you aren't reimbursed) since you can declare all the expenses I've discussed when you file your taxes.
Minimum expected start-up cost: $185 = $20 (1 shirt) + $50 (1 pair of pants) + $60 (shoes) +$5 (1 whistle) + $50 (dues)
Maximum expected start-up cost: $805 (based on max prices of listed items above)
There are plenty of ways to budget and save money. Shop clearance or see if an official you know can lend you some gear or books to start. Try to buy everything as a package. however, you don't have to get everything all at once. You can expect to recoup the minimum expected start-up cost in your first few games. Some of these expenses you'll have to pay each year, but others you will only have to pay once, and the rest you'll have to spend every few years as things wear out or get outdated.
Either way, becoming a basketball official won't break the bank, and it sure is a lot of fun.