No Ref, No Game.

That is the new slogan adopted by Basketball BC, the Provincial governing body that is making a strong push this fall to recruit referees in a time of scarcity.

Merritt Secondary School has been no stranger to the drop in available refs throughout the province. That is why, with high school basketball season soon to be upon us, MSS Vice Principal and Athletic Director Gian Cavaliere is putting out the call for tournament referees.

“It’s been our biggest drop in years provincially,” Cavaliere told the Herald.

For years, the MSS and Princeton association has ran with approximately seven referees for basketball. This year, with high school sports now returning, they are down to four, two at each school. 

The hope is to add one more in Princeton, and approximately three more in Merritt.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the available pool, with reasons ranging from anxiety over distancing restrictions, to simply having found other hobbies through the months and months of no school sporting events.

“I want to increase our numbers, because we’re getting more teams who want to come play here with all of the tournaments we’re hosting,” said Cavaliere, adding that Merritt is beginning to become a hub for basketball tournaments due to the central location.

Merritt will be hosting three basketball tournaments early in the new year:

– Jan. 7-8, Junior Boys/Girls

– Jan. 21-22, Senior Boys/Girls

– Feb. 4-5, Grade 8 Boys/Girls.

The call for referees is open to anyone interested. Cavaliere said that he hopes that high school-age students and recent graduates will be willing to get involved, and training is available through Basketball BC to get up to snuff on how to perform the task.

“And of course, there are already many great basketball minds in Merritt, but any high school kid, young adult, or adult who wants to give basketball a try, there are sessions in place through Basketball BC to become a referee.”

Within the Basketball BC system, there is an especially large push for more female referees. Cavaliere mentioned a pair of grade ten girls who are already involved, that could have a long future in the profession.

“If they want to stick with it, they could be doing college basketball within the next five to seven years, if they’re keen and they stick with it.”

Not only does refereeing give you some extra pocket money and exercise time, but it can also open paths to meet new people and expand your athletic horizons.

“I’ve only been reffing for 15 years, but it’s provided like a whole new family of people that I’m a part of now,” said Cavaliere. “A really supportive group, aside from also making a few dollars.”

He added that there is also the non-tangible positives that come from donning the stripes, in giving back to a community that is in dire need of officiating.

“It’s the best seat in the house.”

Safety protocols are still very much in place in all gymnasiums – all referees must be vaccinated, masks are to be worn at all times by spectators, and social distancing measures are implemented.

Anyone looking to get involved can contact Gian Cavaliere at [email protected].