Jacqui Dover Tells of Her Experience at the US National Referee Try-Outs
For Jacqui Dover, being the only Australian selected for the National Referee Try-Outs in the United States was an incredible opportunity. The time she spent with NBA officials honing her skills and building connections was an invaluable experience for her, officiating games in front of scouts and attending WNBA matches. We sat down with Jacqui as she shares her thoughts and feelings about her trip.
National Try-Outs Selection
Jacqui Dover was one of 40 referees selected out of 400 applications to attend the National Try-Outs, which is one pathway into the NBA for referees. Over three days of scrimmages, players competed in front of NBA and G-League scouts and Jacqui had to adapt to a whole new set of rules, with different processes, calls and signals.
“It was mentally a constant adjustment on court. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by such a welcoming group of officials who allowed me to pester them with close to a thousand questions across the weekend!”
While at the camp, Jacqui had the opportunity to network with players, coaches and fellow officials, including familiar face Matt Nielsen (former Wildcats assistant coach).
Performing Under Pressure
Being the only Australian, and one of only 5 international referees, Jacqui worked hard to stand out. The intensity of the players trying out for a spot in the G-League or the NBA was next level, and Jacqui revelled in the challenge. However, adjusting to a new set of rules tested her ability to adjust and think on her feet.
“In my first game at the try-outs I had a held ball situation. Looking for the possession arrow won’t work in the pro league for America (luckily for a great crew on court to remind me at the time) – that difference was one of the many changes to my refereeing I needed to adjust to on the run.”
“My biggest focus was to be myself and work to the best of my ability, focusing on the aspects of the weekend I could control – my preparation, my interactions and my professionalism on and off court.”
Meeting NBA Finals Referee Eric Lewis
“I don’t think I’ve met a more relaxed, easy-going person before. To give up his time in his offseason to catch up and to come along to the games in Daytona, was very generous of him.”
Eric Lewis is a veteran NBA ref, with almost 900 games notched on his belt, most recently this year’s finals series against the Warriors and Raptors.
“The biggest take away from Eric was to keep it simple. Referee what’s in front of you, work hard, study the game and ensure you’re a good person on and off the court.”
Lewis’ professionalism and mild on-court demeanour have made him a role model for all up-and-coming refs.
Experiencing The World of American Sports
Officiating wasn’t the only thing Jacqui got up to while over in the states. She also got the chance to catch a few WNBA games in Chicago.
“It didn’t matter who was on the court, the physicality was the same. We have a great league in the WNBL, however in the WNBA everyone seems to be as physically and mentally tough as Suzy Batkovic!”
Jacqui also caught former WNBL now WNBA player Rebecca Allen with her team, New York Liberty. Although she didn’t know her personally, Jacqui relished in being able to watch a fellow Australian at the peak of her game.
The Journey to the US
It was an exhilarating road to the States for Jacqui Dover, only seven weeks ago she was refereeing QBL games, hoping to get noticed enough to officiate the finals. She only had two weeks to prepare after being accepted into the program.
“My trip to America has been my best experience as a referee. The biggest thing I learned was that when an opportunity comes knocking, you have to be ready to smash down the door.”
From becoming a referee as a junior to earn some cash for lollies with her friends to rubbing shoulders with American Pro-League athletes, her experiences while officiating basketball games turned into her passion.
“We’re in a great place in Australia for basketball at the moment, which means more opportunities are available as referees.”
“My advice is to put all of your energy into the things you can control: your work ethic, your professionalism, your calling, your development and most importantly, being a good person. When the opportunity presents, be ready to show who you are and what you can do!”
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