For the first time in U.S. girls high school athletics, the four state championship basketball games held recently in Grand Rapids were officiated by all-female crews. April Martin, a specialist for DTE Gas, was one of 12 female referees selected as the most qualified in the state of Michigan to make history at this event.
“It was such an honor to be selected. It was even sweeter, when I learned all four games in the State Finals would be officiated by an all women crew,” said Martin. “This is a time when young people need to see more women in athletic roles. I hope to inspire them to advance in any sport they love.”
Where did you get your love for the game?
I started playing during my school years and my daddy would encourage me – on and off the basketball court. Later, when he was coaching a boys’ team, I would keep score and was interacting with the referees. I liked it.
With my Dad’s support, I went to a referee camp at Wayne State – 20 years later, the rest is history! I earned my certification and started officiating summer league basketball at St. Cecilia in Detroit. Since then, I mostly referee girls high school varsity and women’s college basketball games – but have also worked boys high school games.
What do you like most about refereeing?
I enjoy interacting with people and it’s toughened me up. You deal with a lot during a game – coaches questions, fans yelling and players with attitudes – all while supporting your referees. It’s about managing people – and that’s a challenge.
Any interesting moments you’ve had while refereeing?
It’s funny, when players see us on the court they are sometimes surprised to see women referees – but to me it just makes sense. I love the game and love participating in it. The best is when I return to a school and a parent says to me, “I knew when we saw you, we’d get a fair game.”
What are your hopes for the future of refereeing?
Refereeing is a male-dominated profession. My hope is that more young women become referees. I have an advantage as a woman to encourage players to do the right thing – from handing them a pony tail holder to how they behave on the floor. For now, I want to devote my time to helping them get to this level. I want to give back and pull others up and along.