The road to FIBA World Cup selection for Australian Officials

The number two ranked Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals are assured entry into the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney as the host nation.
However, there are several Australians who are still vying for a chance to represent their country on a global stage at the prestigious competition. While there are no World Cup medals to be won, being selected to officiate at the highest level of basketball in one of the sport’s pinnacle events is a coveted honour, reserved for some of the world’s best scoretable officials and statisticians. Elizabeth Woods, who serves as Chair of Basketball Australia’s National Scoretable Committee and has previously officiated the 1994 FIBA World Championship for Women and the Gold Medal game at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, said to be selected to officiate a FIBA World Cup is a meaningful accomplishment. “It is the culmination of many years of dedication to reach the highest level of the game and the closest someone like me can get to a World Cup or Olympic medal,” said Woods. “If you are not going to make it as a player, officiating lets you still participate and make a valuable contribution to an elite competition where the stakes are at their highest.” “You get to take pride at the end of the game when everything matches perfectly and the athletes are rushing over to see how you’ve interpreted their performance basically.” “You have the best seat in the house with the eyes of the basketball world on your work, but with the best seat in the house comes a great deal of responsibility and pressure.”  Like the world-class athletes who will take the court in 2022, technical officials hoping to be part of a FIBA World Cup must earn the opportunity through intense commitment and investment in excelling at their craft. They share comparable pathways to national and international representation.  After receiving training and accreditation from their local or state association, technical officials must work their way up the ranks by logging in hundreds of hours of training and game officiating to hone their skills. After progressing from local association and state competitions, interested officials can eventually advance to working national competitions such as the Australian Junior Championships, the National Wheelchair Leagues, the Chemist Warehouse WNBL and the NBL. From there, the most talented officials seeking international representation are put forward for consideration for one of a limited number of FIBA licences by their respective basketball federation, which is a requirement to work at an international competition. Out of thousands of licensed FIBA referees from 213 member countries, only ­56 will be chosen for the Sydney event, based on their performances at international and elite competitions. While FIBA handles the selection of World Cup referees, Basketball Australia will get to determine the approximately 20 statisticians (four per game) and 24 scoretable officials (five per game) from the country’s local pool who will work the event in 2022. “Providing officials from across Australia with the invaluable experience of working with the world’s best players and coaches in a high-pressure environment on a global stage will ensure our country’s technical official programs continue to flourish in the future,” commented Woods. “The experience gained from working a FIBA World Cup will help Basketball Australia deliver this calibre of service to other levels of our sport, which will help enrich the knowledge of our coaches and players and add more sophistication to our game, all the way through to the grassroots level.” Woods said these appointments are likely to take place following the conclusion of the 2021/22 Chemist Warehouse WNBL season, where scoretable officials and statisticians will be further evaluated for World Cup selection. To be shortlisted for consideration, candidates will need to provide evidence they have been active in their local and state associations, and domestic pro leagues like the Chemist Warehouse WNBL and NBL over the last 2-3 years. Additionally, they must hold a level 2 classification for stats or a level 3 classification for scoretable, and have the endorsement of their state coordinators. Woods said the keys to success at the highest levels of technical officiating are working as one unit and earning the confidence of players and coaches by demonstrating your understanding of the game. “It takes self-confidence to earn their confidence.  We have to know as much about the rules as the referee does and have to be able to concentrate intently despite all the craziness that is happening around you.  If you miss a sub request at a Thursday night recreational game no one cares.  If you miss a sub at the Olympics, you’re in trouble.” Lauretta Claus, Chair of Basketball Australia’s National Stats Committee and FIBA Oceania’s Lead Stats Instructor, says hosting a World Cup on home soil is significant for local officials because of the limited opportunities that exist to experience international competition. “One of the challenges we’ve faced, particularly before the creation of the World Cup Qualifiers, is that we have many people keen to be involved, but there has been a dearth of opportunities for our local officials to touch and taste international basketball compared to our European or North American counterparts.” “We’ve seen the power of major events held in Australia like the 1994 FIBA World Championship for Women, the 2000 Olympics and the two Commonwealth Games to generate substantial interest in technical officiating.  We were overwhelmed by the enormous amounts of applications we received.” Claus added that the fact that up to 50% of these officials can come from interstate presents a tremendous opportunity for a broader cross-section of the Australian officiating community to get involved. “We are excited about the chance to spread the love to officials in other states and upskill as many people as possible.  The more Australians we can get enthused about these types of opportunities, the greater the positive flow-on effect will be for the WNBL, NBL, Junior Championship competitions and the entire basketball community.” “We’re not just capturing the history of the sport, we are helping tell the story of the game media can run and fans can debate.  TV broadcasts and livestreaming rely critically on the info we’re capturing and as a result of the data driven world we live in there is so much more attention on what we do now, which makes it even more exciting.” Woods said that with interest in sports statistics and in-game data greater than ever, she expects hosting a FIBA World Cup on home soil will help attract a new generation of officials. “We want to raise awareness amongst younger Australians that if you can’t be a player because you don’t have top-tier talent or can’t play because of injury, there are other pathways to making an important contribution to the game you love.” “We can’t have a vibrant game played by fantastic athletes and have a bunch of 80-year old’s sitting on the sideline scoring.  We need to attract younger officials to the game who are inherently tech savvy and have quick reaction times, and hopefully that will be one of the legacies from this event.” In 2022, while the Opals are displaying their incredible talent on the court in front of millions of people around the world, expect Australia’s officiating community to be working hard behind the scenes to show that Australia also has one of the best programs and pathways for technical officials in the world.   FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Thursday 22 September – Saturday 1 October Sydney Olympic Park Sydney, Australia   To learn more about how to become a technical official in Australia, click here.

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