By BACT Media Unit – 25 January 2024

When we hear the word “referee”, we all have our own opinions and thoughts on what it means, but one thing we can all agree on is that it’s a tough gig at every level of the game. Recruitment and retention of officials has been a challenge for many sports, including ours, so a change in how we perceive the importance of the role is ever evolving.

To this end, Basketball ACT’s Referee Department has adopted a new term over the last 12 months, that will change the perception of referees, highlight the opportunities and pathways available in the area, and look to attract junior referees who want to aim for the top. That term is:

Athletes who Choose to Officiate.

Have a little think about that term and let the words roll around your mind.  Think on the meaning of the words, and what they conjure up:

  • Athletenoun
    • A person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise;
  • Chooseverb
    • To decide on a course of action;
  • Officiateverb
    • To act as an official in charge of something, especially a sporting event.

Along with the new term, Basketball ACT has also developed and bedded down high-performance pathway programs, such as the Willyama Services Performance Officiating Academy (POA), Junior Development Panel, increased opportunities at state competition levels, as well as greater attendance at National Championships across the country.

Adam Aly, Kelsey Welfare and Izaah Lee are three young referees who have definitely made the step up to being an Athlete who Chooses to Officiate, after getting the opportunity in late 2023, to officiate at the Participation Division of the Footlocker Australian Schools Championship on the Gold Coast. Seasoned referee, Kevin Poulton, who was selected to officiate in the Championship Division, rounded out ACT’s referee representatives on the Gold Coast.

ACT Referee Representatives – (L to R) – Izaah Lee, Adam Aly, Kevin Poulton and Kelsey Welfare – 2023 Footlocker Australian School Championships.

For Adam, a 2023 graduate from the POA pilot program, it was the next plank in laying the foundation for the 16 year old to continue his on-court progression.  The 2023 event was Adam’s second opportunity at that level. When asked about the experience, Adam said: “It was a lot easier this year – I was a little naïve and not as advanced as a referee last year.  But it really helped having that experience, as I was familiar with how it all worked, and I was able to focus on what I needed to do, and compete for the medal games and put in place what I needed to do to get games at that level.”

Adam, who started his referee journey in Year 6, was rewarded for his hard work on-court with appointment to the Division 4 Boys U20 Gold Medal match. “It’s always an aim to get a Div 1 medal game, but I was pretty happy with Div 4, as I realised that the level of experience of the appointed referees in Div 1 was above where I currently am, and it gives me something to aim for in the future”.

Adam Aly, in action – 2023 Footlocker Australian Schools Championships – Gold Coast, QLD. (Photo courtesy of Basketball Australia and Taylor Earnshaw)

For Kelsey and Izaah, the chance to get on-court at the Australian Schools Championship was a taste of what lays ahead of them, as they gear up to enter the POA program’s 2024 intake.  Both referees were selected to head to the Gold Coast, for their first national Championships, and both came back with a rejuvenated focus for 2024.

When re-capping his experiences on the Gold Coast, Izaah said “I really enjoyed the championships and I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given to participate in this spectacular event. I really enjoyed the games I was refereeing, making a lot of new friends, tightening existing relationships, and being around such experienced referees that have a lot of feedback to give and knowledge for me to take on.”

Kelsey also enjoyed the opportunity to share notes with colleagues from around the country. “I really enjoyed the experience and meeting referees on a similar pathway.  Having access to so many different ref coaches, who have such a wide range of experiences was also really helpful, and having the chance to do a medal game was amazing. I had taken a bit of time away from refereeing prior to the Championships, so to get the U15 Boys Div 3 Bronze medal match was a big surprise.”

Kelsey Welfare (centre, third row from top) was part of a strong female referee contingent for the 2023 Footlocker Australian Schools Championship at the Gold Coast, QLD. (Photo courtesy Basketball Australia and Taylor Earnshaw).

Off the back of the 2023 Australian Schools Championships, all three referees are focussed on taking their refereeing to the next level in 2024.  Kelsey and Izaah will use their POA opportunity to build their skills and fitness, and implement feedback received into their officiating, with aims of returning to the Championships space in 2024, while Adam will use his experiences to gain more exposure at a higher level in the Premier League space, and put himself in contention for an opportunity at higher age championship levels.

With strong role-models across the ACT refereeing space, and structured and supported opportunities for young referees to grow their skills, the sky is certainly the limit in terms of what our region’s young referees can achieve.

Take the step to becoming an Athlete Who Chooses To Officiate by registering for one of Basketball ACT’s 2024 Refereeing Courses.  Details about upcoming courses, can be found by clicking the below button:

2024 Basketball ACT Referee Courses