Blues forward Marti Chambers talks about her experience officiating Men’s League
Marti Chambers began working as a referee in the Capilano Basketball League (CBL) last semester. Learning the rules was never a problem for the charismatic 18-year-old Blues forward, who has been playing basketball since the second grade.
What took some time for Chambers to get used to, however, was enforcing the rules without second guessing her own judgement.
As a first-year student, Chambers balances basketball practices and games, full-time courses and a food service job. Like many other student-athletes, some days she’s on campus from 8:30 am to 11 pm. But when Blues athletic events and sports development officer Chris Raeside asked her to fill in as a referee for a men’s league game last semester, she saw it as a good opportunity to pick up some extra work on campus that’s related to basketball.
“I refereed girls’ basketball and some guys’ basketball in high school but going from that to men’s league was really hard,” Chambers explained. “They’re all a lot bigger than me and they’re faster so I’m sprinting across the court just to make sure I don’t get run over.”
“At the beginning, I was kind of concerned with how they were going to treat me compared to the men,” Chambers admitted. She knew the men’s league was used to having male referees and that it would take some adjusting for her to enter the league as a referee. Thinking back to some of her first games, she remembered initially not knowing how to react when players got mad about calls. “They yelled at me, they got mad… I [wondered] ‘do they talk to everyone like this?’” she recalled with a lighthearted laugh.
Chambers had worked as a referee for women’s tournaments, but the environment she observed in a competitive league was different. “I’m not saying that girls are not aggressive. Girls definitely do swear sometimes, but not to the point where you could probably kick them out of the game,” she said. With the men’s teams, she felt the players were more competitive, even if the stakes weren’t very high. “They want to win. If you call something they don’t agree with, they’re probably going to say something to you about it.”
Most of the players understood that she was new to refereeing, but Chambers recalled one game when a player became so angry at her that he was swearing at her throughout the game. Even though he’d been given the call he wanted, he continued to yell and insult her judgement. “I should have told him to settle down but the entire time, I was actually scared. There was another referee and he was a guy, so I let him deal with it,” she explained. Since the players had already become close with the male referees at that point in the season, she knew that they were more comfortable discussing calls amongst each other.
With her coming into the league as a new referee, she could see that a lot of anger was being directed towards her, but she didn’t take it personally. When a player got too aggressive towards her at any point in a game, she would just take a step back and disengage.
After every game, Chambers asked the players and the other referee for feedback. She knew that if she constantly learned and improved on her own weaknesses, she would be fine to deal with anything that came her way during games. “Getting to know the [players] has helped me a lot,” she stated, reflecting on how she’s learned to improve as a referee. “I know a lot of guys on the team so it’s easy for them to give me criticism.”
Chambers feels things have settled down now that she’s become more experienced, and she’s even developing a new perspective on the game, which she has considered when she’s playing basketball herself.
“It’s really hard to see some calls,” Chambers said, adding that her experience as a referee has influenced how she reacts in game situations with referees. There is no way for referees to feel what the players are physically feeling – calls can only be made based on what is actually seen.
It took Chambers some time to build up trust in her own judgement, but she’s comfortable now enforcing the rules without being dependent on others. “Now, whenever I see something I just learn to blow the whistle and call a call,” she said.
“No matter what, one team isn’t going to be happy with the call,” Chambers said, reflecting on the lessons she’s learned since her first game. “I think it’s confidence. You just have to be firm with your call.”
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