AMBASSADOR – BASKETBALL
After 157 games and 13 years as an NBL referee, and 10 years as the only female official, Toni Caldwell leaves the league as a pioneer and role model amongst the referee fraternity.
Toni recently announced her retirement from basketball, but her legacy will live on forever, especially in the minds of aspiring female referees.
Toni believes that mindset is such a vital element of being a referee. It can often be a thankless job, with pundits quick to highlight your mistakes and slow to celebrate your achievements.
As a young female rising through the ranks, Toni faced some unique challenges, one of the prime ones being told no.
However, two moments helped Caldwell not only overcome, but smash, any preconceived ideas that a female couldn’t become one of the most well-respected officials in Australian sport.
The first came when she was still in her refereeing infancy, when she wouldn’t let the word no stand in her way.
The second came when an icon of Australian basketball delivered a message that has stuck with her ever since. “My first game, I wasn’t even on the panel, I was a development referee,” she said. “I filled in for Scott (Butler) because he was sick. She remembers walking out onto the court, and I turned up and I was like, hi, I’m here to ref. “Phil Smyth from Adelaide grabbed me and said Toni, don’t listen to a word they say, it’s all bullshit and you’ll be great. Those words kind of stuck with me for the rest of my career.”
It’s a message that inspired Caldwell to thrive as a referee in a career filled with memories and highlights.
She now hopes her story can be used to help other young female officials who are looking to make it to the elite level and welcomes the challenges and successes that await her as part of the Officiating Collective.