Kayla Herdman was a student at Northern Collegiate when she realized she enjoyed keeping score more than she did scoring baskets.
“I played junior and travel basketball, but started scorekeeping in senior and thought I would give [refereeing] a try,” said the 31-year-old teacher, coach and globetrotting basketball officiate.
“My high school coach, Shelly Pretty, was a female referee at the time when I was scorekeeping at Northern, and seeing her on the floor gave me some encouragement in what was a male-dominated profession.
“I now have the opportunity to coach with Shelley (at Northern) so it’s inspiring how things in life come full circle.”
After high school, Herdman continued to referee in Waterloo and Ottawa while earning her Bachelor of Science and Masters of Education degrees.
“I started climbing the ladder, being selected by the province to officiate boys and girls OFSAA basketball championships,” said Herdman, adding college assignments and a few CCAA National Championship games followed.
“I had the opportunity to referee the Indigenous Games in Iqaluit, which was one of my favourite refereeing memories.”
Last year, she was one of two individuals from Canada selected to attend a certification clinic in the Dominican Republic, where she received a FIBA 3×3 referee’s licence. That was her ticket to last summer’s Pan American Games in Lima, Peru — where she refereed the men’s gold medal game and women’s bronze medal game.
Then earlier this month she travelled to the U23 World Cup in Lanzhou, China, where she refereed the women’s gold medal game, as well as men’s and women’s quarter-final matches, and a men’s semi-final match.
“Workouts, breaking down game film, studying rules and interpretations, has become a way of life for me,” said Herdman, noting she spent months preparing for her latest international assignments. “And there’s always room for improvement. It’s a never-ending craft that continues to challenge me.
“It has strengthened my patience and communication skills,” she added. “I’m often working with referees and volunteers whose English may be limited, so you find other ways to communicate.”
Now, she’s hoping her own young players will inherit some of the lessons the sport has taught her.
“Basketball has taught me more than I can ever give back to the game,” she said. “It’s remarkable how a couple of nets and a ball can bring together complete strangers from all over the world and instantly make them family.
“Stepping onto the floor as strangers and having to support and trust one another, creates a strong and quick bond that I hold dearly.
“It’s taught me the power of perseverance and humility,” she added. “Something I try to pass along to my students and players.”