Sarah Carey is set for further international duties

SARAH Carey is ready to take on the world.

Recently returning from international tournaments in Italy and France – Carey, who has been refereeing for 19 years, is now well and truly on the world stage.

However, not unlike many other young basketball lovers, Carey began her career behind the whistle at domestic level during her youth.

“When I was 14 I was playing and honestly, I just started as a way to make pocket money,” Carey said.

“I was involved in basketball and was really active and I just loved running around and being around a basketball court, so I just thought I’d pick up a whistle and give it a go.”

Top-tier refereeing wasn’t always on the agenda for Carey, who admitted she had no intention of furthering her career when she started.
But in the end, she was grateful she did.

“Refereeing really helps you develop a thick skin,” she said. “It helps you deal with many different people, it helps you empathise with a lot of different people, it helps you in conflict situations.

“It definitely helps the way that you can deal with people in day to day life.”

The 2017 FIBA under 19 Women’s World Cup, hosted in Italy, provided Carey with the next step in her development as a world-class official, and an experience she described as ‘unbelievable’.

“Getting to referee international basketball and referee teams from all around the world was just incredible,” she said.

“And also having the instructors from Canada, instructors from Lithuania, just getting a different perspective and a next level perspective on the game of basketball and on your refereeing.”

Another international tournament Carey was proudly appointed to was the 2017 FIBA Under 16 European Championship, held in France.

It was a unique and rewarding experience for Carey, who hadn’t previously officiated an exclusively European tournament.

“I’d been to two world tournaments where there are many different styles of basketball,” she said.

“The Americans play different to the Europeans, who play different to the Asian countries.”

“Going to a European tournament in France that was just European basketball and {where} they play a certain way, it was just that style of basketball, and I had to adapt to the style they play and change my refereeing a little bit again.”

As a referee who has already officiated at multiple international tournaments, the World University Games, and a WNBL grand final series, Carey is still driven by the challenges of her industry.

“It’s just about challenging myself, seeing what I can achieve,” she said.

“It was always like ‘let’s see what I can achieve next’, setting that next goal rather than this huge imaginary goal.”

“It’s just about having that goal and having a purpose and working towards something.”

Basketball Victoria Referee Development Officer Tim Mills has overseen Carey’s progression from the domestic level all the way up to international refereeing.

Mills describes Carey as someone who is dedicated, hard-working, and has the right attitude to succeed at all levels of refereeing.

“She certainly fast-tracked her way through the state program on to what we call the national program and then on to the international programs,” Mills said.

“The thing about Sarah is that she’s a very hard worker but she’s very critical of her own performance.

“When you’re someone who self-assesses their own performance, she looks for that edge over other referees, it’s the main reason why she’s been successful.”

Mills, who understands referee pathways in Victoria as in-depth as any, believes Carey is making a significant difference for young women aspiring to follow her footsteps.

“Sarah’s an inspiration to all female officials in Victoria, a lot of people look up to her… she’s certainly an icon as far as helping to inspire other referees,” he said.

Carey gave a glowing assessment of the opportunities and experiences available to anyone who is willing to ‘put in the hard work’ as a referee, especially females who are striving to reach the higher echelons of the job.

“Refereeing has given me so many opportunities that I never even thought were possible,” Carey said.

“It’s given me the chance to travel Australia, it’s given me the chance to travel the world, I’ve been to countries that I never ever thought I’d get to go and see.”

In addition to the spectacular personal experiences, Carey has made friends all over Australia and the world as a result of her progression through the ranks.

In a sport that now has hundreds of thousands of regular participants playing each and every year across both Victoria and Australia, referees are required more than ever, a sentiment Carey relayed.

“Referees that are coming up now are really lucky, we have great opportunities in this country to really go far and achieve some great things if you want,” she said.

“Opportunities are there, go out and work hard for them and if you do it will reward you back tenfold.”

In regards to the next step in her esteemed career, Carey hopes to achieve an appointment for next year’s Commonwealth Games, as well as officiating at the Olympic Games.

“I never thought this would ever be a goal… but now I would honestly say Olympic Games, that’s my long-term goal,” she said.

These aspirations are well within her ability, according to Tim Mills, who believes her youth will allow her to achieve her dream.

“She’s quite young… her chances of refereeing at or getting to the Olympics or a World Cup are still well within her capabilities,” he said.

Sarah Carey was the recipient of the 2016 Wally Pattison Award, awarded by Basketball Victoria to the Technical Official of the Year and she looks set to add plenty more accolades to her trophy cabinet.

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