Women in Refereeing: Caitriona White
October 17, 2020
Over the coming weeks – and as part of our ‘Dream Big’ #SheGotGame women in sport campaign - we will be featuring a host of female referees who are currently (or have recently been) refereeing here in Ireland, to learn about their background, their refereeing careers and any tips and tricks they have for new referees. This week’s feature is on Catriona White.
Check out our Q&A with Catriona below.
What type of games do you currently referee?
I currently referee schools, local league (DOA), colleges and National League. I also have experience refereeing Special Olympics as a volunteer hosted in the National Sports Campus. I have had the opportunity to referee international preparation games for various Irish teams preparing for European competitions.
Can you talk us through your playing background?
How long do you have? J I have been playing basketball 32 years. I started my journey in Waterford with Wildcats Basketball Club and I have been very fortunate to play with and against the very best players with many have remaining lifelong friends. I have had a wonderful and successful playing career winning a lot of league and cup medals along the way. I have taken part in a number of European Championships at International level and been coached by the best coaches. I came to work in Dublin in 2002 and I was quickly adopted by Killester B.C who made me feel at home. I have been playing with Killester along time and again have been fortunate to win two National Cup medals with them and numerous local accolades. I played a season with Liffey Celtics in 2010 – 2011 and had great success winning both the Dublin and National League that year, helping Liffey Celtic gain promotion to the Super league.
How did you get involved in refereeing?
After the birth of my youngest daughter and many years of playing, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in regard to basketball. A teammate of mine at the time Alanna was attending an Intro coaching course and suggested I tag along. There were some shocked faces when I walked in from the organisers and the saying ‘poacher come game keeper’ was suggested more than once. I enjoyed learning the different aspects of the rules and challenging myself to do something different within basketball.
What kind of games have you refereed over the years?
I started off refereeing local league games. I am lucky to be located where there are hundreds of games monthly and lots of opportunities to practice. There is a large volume of school games to be covered and with shift work I could be off for three days mid-week and have a flutter of games to officiate. I have refereed some wonderful schools’ finals in the National Basketball Arena where you don’t want anyone to lose and the atmosphere is electric and also deafening! I have progressed to National League games and have enjoyed the challenges and learning experience. I have participated in the ‘showcase weekends’ which are the pinnacle of the Irish Basketball calendar. I know how much it means to play in these weekends, so I take my role in them very seriously. Neptune, The Parochial (The Hall) and National Basketball Arena… give me Goosebumps when out on the floor!
Who would you say was a role model for you as a referee and why?
Without hesitation. The one…. THE only…..Mr. Tony Burke! He is a refereeing Messiah. Tony’s love, knowledge and enthusiasm for refereeing is infectious. He can relate to seasoned stalwarts and young referee’s alike. He is respected by teams and coaches far and wide. He has been my basketball mentor since I joined the National League panel and has supported me 100% on my journey. I still enjoy taking to the floor refereeing with Tony, celebrating being 78 years recently!
What is the most important thing for you when refereeing younger/teenage boys and girls?
Being able to adapt to the ability of the players. Some young teams have lots of talent, Irish internationals, are well coached and know the rules and fundamentals. Other young players maybe starting out or are dual sports players where basketball may be not be there ‘first choice’ and may need guidance, patience and communication to enjoy the participation. Good communication skills and smiling goes a long way to encourage younger teenage boys/girls.
Have you any tips you'd like to share on keeping girls engaged in sport - particularly at the 14-18-year-old age group?
Being and staying involved in sport is so important. I can honestly say, I have met my best friends through sport. Sport keeps you mentally and physically fit. There are opportunities to travel within your own country and abroad. It teaches so many life skills that you don’t even know you’re learning e.g. Time management, communication, teamwork, commitment, loyalty, trust, focus, fun, laughter, memories! The list is endless….
Any tips you would like to give to young referees who are starting out?
Be willing to get involved. Understand there will be mistakes. Listen, Learn, Practice and be patient!
When you first stepped up to National League/International level, were you nervous about the step up and how did you deal with that if so?
I was nervous, for a number of reasons. The level of expectation I had and continue to have for myself and the level of expectation I felt players and coaches had knowing I had been involved in Basketball for such a long time. I eased myself into games by listening to the more experienced members of my crew, letting the game come to me, not looking for calls but calling what presented itself. Adjusting during the game following time outs where crews could discuss situations that would occur in games.
What would you say to other female referees who are considering moving up a level in their refereeing careers?
I would say ‘Do It’! It all very much depends on the individual and what they wish to achieve and how much work they are willing to out in. I am all for challenging myself and there are a lot of support that can be drawn upon to help female referees make that decision!
How do you measure the success of a game?
I measure the success of a game by the consistent calling of a game by the crew that has been agreed in a pre-game following a set criteria. All crew members having an active mind-set, being sharp, communicating appropriately, occasionally smiling and having fun while remaining professional.
How do you measure success in broader terms?
I measure success in broader terms by goal setting. How can I be the very best version of me?
Short, medium and long term goals help achieve this. Seeking advice from more experienced people. Be willing to work hard, assess and reassess how things are going and be willing to adjust if necessary. Be open to learning and be honest with yourself.
How important do you think it is for referees to keep learning and developing regardless of level of experience?
It is extremely important. The game is continuously changing, the rules, the athleticism of players, the speed of the game and we as referees must keep learning and developing at all levels of the game.
Have you noticed many changes in Ireland in referees over the years? If so, what?
There has been a lot of changes over the years. Diversity being one. We have been very lucky to have some wonderful, experienced referees come to Ireland which they now call home. They have brought the standard of refereeing to a higher level and I have learned a lot from working alongside them. I have noticed the age profile has dropped which is very welcome. I have noticed, like myself, several referees in recent times have taken up refereeing and have played both at National and International level which gives for a greater understanding and feel for the game. The introduction of live streaming, social media etc. makes the level of expectation of referees higher and there is more scrutiny and accountability which I welcome.
What changes would you like to see in basketball refereeing in Ireland in the future?
I would of course welcome more female officials to take up refereeing and aim to referee at the highest level of the game. I would like to see equal opportunities for development country wide for interested parties. I would like to see a centralised, agreed syllabus for development and learning across all associations.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned as a player?
As a young Wildcats player, our coach had this saying ‘the will to win is common, the will to prepare to win is rare’. This has resonated with me throughout my playing career. Practice the way you play on game day. Challenge your teammates. Bring the intensity. Leave it all on the floor and have no regrets!
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned as a referee?
Learn to be resilient. There has yet to be a perfectly refereed game. If you make a dubious call. Don’t dwell on it. Learn to get back in the present and get the next call correct and build from there. Sometimes you can be disappointed with your performance, be willing to self-assess, be self-aware, review the game, see where you can improve and adapt for the next game.
If you know a referee who should be recognised in this series, please contact Jenny on email@example.com
The Dublin Officials Association are holding introductory referee online courses over the next two weeks. The first course will commence on Monday 19th and Tuesday, 20th October and the second will be hosted the following Monday (26th) and Tuesday (27th). The courses will run from 7pm to 9pm each night and will be presented by FIBA National Instructor Paul Dempsey and FIBA Referee Emma Perry. Anyone interested please contact DOA Development Officer Pádraic Caden at firstname.lastname@example.org