Basketball Passion Behind the Whistle
From a young age Jacqui Dover loved everything about basketball.
Growing up on the Gold Coast, Dover spent most of her days around the court, playing and sometimes refereeing before moving to Townsville to pursue her dream of playing professionally.
With an injury forcing her to reconsider her future, Dover found her passion for basketball once again ignited by the action on the court as a referee and inspiring the next generation of players, coaches and referees.
A Family Trait
“The love of basketball was a family thing, mum and dad used to run Gold Coast Basketball and we would spend all our days there.”
There was never that one moment or memory that Dover can recall that sparked her love for the game but rather a childhood looking up to her older siblings and wanting to follow in their footsteps.
“It’s playing basketball because your older sisters are doing it. I think for me looking up to my sisters like Cassie who is a coach, I was like ‘that’s where I want to be’.”
The constant exposure to the game helped Dover make up her mind early on, taking a leap of faith to move to Townsville as a teenager to chase her dream of playing professionally.
“I moved out of home when I was 15 to try and make it through the QBL and WNBL up in Townsville, and that was a decision that I made as a player.
“My mum and dad were cool enough to support me and let me do it. I enjoyed the whole experience, it made me grow up a lot faster when you’re looking after yourself. You’re living with one of your sisters away from home and trying to be an adult.”
“Refereeing is how I can Stay in the Game”
After suffering a shoulder injury during a game that required surgery, Dover’s playing career was effectively over. It wasn’t the first time Dover had doubts about her future but the injury forced her to look outside of playing to stay in the game she loves.
“A couple of years before the injury I realised that the WNBL wasn’t where I could be as a player skill wise, but the injury took me out of the whole QBL season. It happened in the first few minutes out on the court and it’s not fun being a bench player straight away.
Heading straight back into refereeing after giving it up to play QBL as a junior wasn’t the first option to come to Dover’s mind. Instead it took a trip to the State Championships helping Townsville Basketball out to push her down that path.
“I just went to fill a spot for Townsville because I was injured and couldn’t play and I ended up working the Grand Final there. During the game I thought ‘this is pretty cool’ and I haven’t had that enjoyment from the game for a few years. I started to remember what that felt like.
“I’m in my fifth year as a referee and I think that passion I’ve gained from it has replaced what I used to get as a player from the game. For me the thrill of refereeing comes from those close games and having the best seat in the house for QBL and WNBL games where you’re right on the floor with those athletes.
“For someone who’s played basketball for 16 years, I still appreciate the game in terms of what goes into it for the players and the coaches and I just love being involved in it.”
Finding Strength from Within
The past year has been a whirlwind for Dover, from moving back to the Gold Coast after spending 10 years in Townsville to take on a full time position as Referee Development Manager to then heading to the States to experience the US National Referee Try Outs in Chicago.
“It’s kind of been surreal, particularly since August with going to the States and being back on the Gold Coast but there are some awesome people here supporting me.
“It was a very different environment [in the States], definitely a more elite environment that I’ve been involved in, in terms of how they were treating the athletes there and the education [for referees]. It was a different system of how they call the game and all the mechanics and signals, so it was a very big learning weekend for me trying to adapt to a different system.”
“I was very much out of my comfort zone but it was very cool. By doing something completely different I think I realised that I’m able to adapt on the run and take in feedback, just proving that I could be there.”
It’s that ability and her drive to self-reflect that has enabled Dover to keep moving forward and not let the pressure and criticism that gets directed towards referees get to her.
“I think it’s something I’ve learnt of Vaughan [Mayberry]. We’re never there to be loved, we are there for the love of the game.
I think for me if I’ve put in all the work behind the scenes before the game or before a particular call I’m being booed for I can trust within myself that if I’m wrong I have the self-analysis ability to go back and learn from it. But if I know it’s right and I know it’s right in the rules then I’m happy I can walk away and say I did the right thing.”
Developing the Next Generation
Now working with Gold Coast Basketball, Dover is striving to help develop the next bunch of referees in the making.
“I think the opportunities that are available are growing rapidly. For me it’s working with the next generation of officials coming through and trying to get that passion [for refereeing] into them and help them realise it can be a long term career rather than just pocket money each week.
“That’s the idea behind some of the programs that we’ve started up and giving emerging referees a clear pathway into the NBL 1 North and the QSL. For me that’s it, seeing the talent we have here on the Gold Coast getting onto that pathway.
“The culture here is Queensland is amazing especially with our leader referees and helping us out. My advice to young referees is to just find what you like about it and enjoy yourself when you’re out there. Don’t be hard on yourself when you’re starting out and just be doing it for the right reasons.”