Referee with Ponoka County roots eyes NBA career

A high school basketball player and referee, now reffing gold medal games broadcast by TSN, was one of two Albertans to win an award

Josh Carothers was the only representing Alberta referee at the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke

A high school basketball player and referee, now reffing gold medal games broadcast by TSN, was one of two Albertans to win an Award of Recognition at the national level last month.

Josh Carothers, who grew up in Ponoka County, officiated at the Canadian Summer Games, held in Sherbrooke, QC in August, and recently received the award during a provincial basketball clinic.

The unexpected award both surprised and honoured Carothers. “I had some guy come up and say ‘you better stick around tonight because I think you’re winning an award’ and I was like, yeah right.”

Carothers applied to ref the gold medal game that was broadcast by TSN and spent a year being watched and judged to see if his skills matched what the game needed.

“It was kind of up in the air . . . There was quite a few of us who wanted to go,” said Carothers.

“Alberta is known across the province for having the top referees in Canada,” he added.

Because the games where held in eastern Canada, this year Alberta could have only one representing referee.

“The coolest part, besides being on TSN and the honour, was that my nieces and nephews got to watch Uncle Josh on TV,” said Carothers, who is entering his ninth year of reffing and won the provincial Award of Recognition two years ago.

Central Alberta is a geological disadvantage, says Carothers.

Since there are already many referees in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge, when he signed his first contract to ref at the university level last year, Carothers knew that by being chosen and paid to ref in those cities, he had reached a milestone in his career.

Alberta has 550 reffing officials. “It’s a very tight-knit bunch, especially in Alberta . . . It’s a home away from home as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Now that he’s a national referee, Carothers’ next goal is to reach the international level.

Applications and tryouts for an International Basketball Federation (FIBA) card are hosted every four years, and Carothers’ next opportunity is 2016.

By 2016, he will be 33 years old and running on a tight timeline to achieve the status.

“They won’t even consider you if you’re older than 35.

“So I only got a one-shot deal,” he added.

Last summer Carothers also attended a Division 1 Basketball Hiring Camp in Sandy, Utah.

Refs apply to the camp and, if they impress the director, are hired and given the opportunity to referee in the United States.

While Carothers wasn’t hired, he did ref with WNBA referees during the course of the camp and he hopes to return to the camp in the future but doesn’t expect to go this summer. Each camp and clinic refs attend, they have to cover their own expenses.

“It’s just a lot of time and energy and effort. Especially in Alberta and Canada because we sure don’t referee for the money,” said Carothers. In the United States basketball refs can make a living officiating games alone.

“I just do it because I love it,” he explained.

Carothers felt the pressure to perform on the court, but he says it was nothing compared to reffing. “Being a referee is way harder. You got fans yelling at you, you got coaches yelling at you and you got players yelling at you.”

The key to dealing with the demands is patience and experience, “learning from your mistakes and learning from others’ mistakes.”

Although he sometimes still plays men’s league basketball, Carothers isn’t playing as much as he did in high school and uses refereeing to stay active and keep in touch with the game. “The social aspect is really good. Especially at the national level, I’ve got friends in pretty much every province.”