For Eustacia Smith, it all started with refereeing a primary school game in 2017.
Fast forward to June 2022 and Smith is now running up and down the basketball court at the regional level. She was one of the referees chosen for the FIBA Americas Under-15 (U15) Centrobasket Championships inside the Coliseo Fernando ‘Rube’ Hernandez in Gurabo, Puerto Rico, last week.
A teacher in Grand Bahama, Smith completed the referee course and got her FIBA (International Basketball Federation) refereeing license last year. She said she is ecstatic to be nominated as a female, to be a referee at the tournament. She is looking to continue to make inroads for females in that aspect of the sport.
“Being nominated for this tournament has been an accomplishment, seeing that it is my first year as a FIBA official,” Smith said. “It feels good to be nominated. The experience was a good one. It was an eye-opening experience and being around other FIBA officials, I was able to learn more about the organization itself as well as improve and receive advice on how to advance to the next level.”
Another Bahamian referee at the tournament was Christian Wilmore.
As for Smith, she helped call the Turks and Caicos versus Costa Rica, Turks and Caicos versus Mexico and the Dominican Republic versus Costa Rica games. The Bahamas also played in that tournament.
The former St. Augustine’s College (SAC) basketball player said she has always admired refereeing when she was on the sidelines as a table official.
“I travelled with and scored for the senior boys team, and by doing so, I was able to become acquainted with the official scorers. Working playoff and championship games, I became the official scorer when an official was not available, and I got better at it. Eventually, they invited me to Hugh Campbell and other tournaments and I earned my FIBA certification as a table official. Sitting at the table, I would make comments about the game and commissioners like Frederick Brown and Norman Humes would say I could make a great official some day and now here I am,” Smith said.
Smith is one of four females who were called to referee the tournament, and for her, it has been an honor to serve on the court as a female.
“It is a boys’ tournament and it says a lot to be a female referee here. I know that FIBA is working to make women in the sport more visible so it was an honor to be one of four women in Puerto Rico. It feels good to know that women are now getting that opportunity and are being present in male dominated sports. On a regional level it is a good experience. In speaking to the other female referees, it is our first tournament. It is definitely a new experience for all of us and we all are here to work on our game and advance to the next level. We hope to have more females at the top level to be able to referee at not only the youth level but at the senior level as well.”
There are other female referees in The Bahamas and Smith wants even more to take advantage of the opportunity.
“I do want to see more females involved in the sport as referees and with FIBA opening the doors to women right now, I think the opportunity is there. I know of students and other women who have asked about my journey in refereeing. They are interested. I look forward to encouraging them and hopefully having more women join the referee aspect of the game.”
The boys’ tournament is over and Smith’s focus will shift toward the under-15 girls regional tournament at the same venue which got underway yesterday.
The Bahamas played host country to Puerto Rico in the featured game last night, but the result of that game was unavailable up to press time.