Officials Lezley Smith (left-right), Judy Dybing and Leslie Tidball prepare for a girls basketball game Tuesday at Edmonds-Woodway High School. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Officials Lezley Smith (left-right), Judy Dybing and Leslie Tidball prepare for a girls basketball game Tuesday at Edmonds-Woodway High School. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

All-female officiating crew hopes to inspire others

Just 6 of 120 local referees are women, and 3 recently officiated together at a varsity girls game.

EDMONDS — Some say the mark of a quality officiating crew is to go unnoticed.

It’s not often that referees draw the attention of fans, players and coaches for making the right call. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

But there was reason to notice the crew working Tuesday night’s girls varsity basketball game between Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds-Woodway at Edmonds-Woodway High School. It had nothing to do with the calls themselves, but rather who was making them.

Leslie Tidball, Lezley Smith and Judy Dybing combined to form an all-female crew to officiate the game, a rarity in Snohomish County.

“I think it’s nice for girls to see females officiating their basketball games,” Smith said. “There aren’t enough of us doing it. A lot of people ask me why I still work girls high school basketball? It’s because there aren’t enough women doing it. So I think it’s great to be a role model (for other women).”

Snohomish County Basketball Officials assigner Jeff Mattson said just six of the 120 referees (5%) on his roster are women and not all have reached the experience threshold it takes to officiate at the varsity level. So putting together an all-female crew requires “all the planets kind of having to align right.”

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Officials in 2017, just 6.28% of 17,847 officials across all sports identified as females while 71.64% were male and 22.08% were undisclosed. That makes for an 11.4-to-1 male-to-female ratio.

“To get three females that are quality, varsity-level officials, it’s just taken awhile,” Mattson said. “It’s just the whole recruitment process of getting more females in general. It’s just been tough. What’s really cool for me about this is it’s a really good opportunity to showcase three really quality female officials that can be a role model to some of these girls in the game and in the community.”

Tuesday’s game was actually the second time the planets have aligned right this season for Mattson and the Snohomish County Basketball Officials. Tidball and Dybing joined Carol Dvorak on Jan. 7 to work a varsity game at South Whidbey High School between Granite Falls and South Whidbey.

“It was super well received and everybody loved it,” Mattson said. “The girls that were playing loved seeing an all-female crew. So I was able to work it out again.”

Dvorak was originally scheduled to be a part of Tuesday’s crew, but an injury has her sidelined. That led to Smith, president of the Seattle-area-based Pacific Northwest Basketball Officials Association, volunteering to fill in and keep the opportunity for an all-female crew in tact.

“I enjoy helping out,” Smith said. “This is something Jeff had set up. I thought it was really a great promotion. There’s a shortage of officials, and it’s great to show girls that this is something they too can get involved in.”

It also didn’t stop Dvorak from checking in on her peers after Tuesday’s game. Mattson exchanged text messages with Dvorak throughout the event, sending pictures and videos of Dybing, Smith and Tidball in action.

“It’s really that camaraderie and tight-knit group when you get into the officiating world,” Mattson said. “Really its a unique experience.”

Tidball has been officiating in the area for over 15 years and said this is just the third time she’s been a part of an all-female crew at a varsity basketball game. She said the first time was eight or nine years ago.

Before games, Tidball often looks to the gymnasium walls where banners and plaques hang honoring state-, district- and league-title winning teams. There’s a noticeable absence of recognition for girls teams before the 1970s. A reminder of a time when women in sports were an afterthought to most.

“To be a part of something like this, it’s just important,” said Tidball, a 1972 high school graduate. “It’s maybe not a personal mentoring thing, but it’s important that those girls and their moms and dads and the other kids see that this is something that you can be involved in and be real positive. It’s just good.”

Dybing joined the Snohomish County Basketball Officials this season after being a part of the Peninsula Basketball Officials Association. She echoed the importance of being visible to young women at games.

“The more that they see us, the more that they may think about officiating also,” Dybing said. “And we just don’t have enough women officials here, and we need more.”

It wasn’t just the three women officiating the game that were a part of the momentous occasion. Watching closely from the sidelines was Dana Senders, a former NCAA Division I women’s college basketball official who has reffed an NCAA tournament Elite Eight game. Senders serves as an observer for Snohomish County Basketball Officials and uses her expert knowledge to provide advice and critiques to the officials postgame.

After the game, Dybing, Smith and Tidball gathered in a small office inside the Edmonds-Woodway locker room to receive feedback on their performance from Senders.

“I think it’s just fabulous. Her information, her wisdom, is just amazing,” Dybing said. “It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been officiating. There’s always room for improvement. So I can’t wait to get on the court again to implement her information for us.”

And Mattson would love for his officials to get to implement Senders’ valuable feedback as a part of another all-female crew in the near future.

“I’d love to get to a point where we have a good number of female officials in our association,” Mattson said, “and we could make something like this happen more often.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

White line on Green grass sport field for sport concept
Prep results for Saturday, May 21

Prep results for Saturday, May 21 (Note for coaches/Scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Kamiak’s Koll Pehlivanian’s charge is halted by Skyline’s Vishnu Varadhan Saturday afternoon at Goddard Stadium in Everett, Washington on May 21, 2022. The Knights lost 5-2. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Skyline adds on late to oust Kamiak boys soccer from state

The Knights kept it close for the first 60 minutes of a season-ending loss in the state quarterfinals.

Edmonds-Woodway’s Gibby Marshall-Inman, left, and Jacob Gabler make up the Warriors pitching core. Photographed in Edmonds, Washington on May 19, 2022.(Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Golden arms: Edmonds-Woodway pitching duo is a lethal one-two punch

Senior aces Gibby Marshall-Inman and Jacob Gabler enter the state regionals having allowed just 7 earned runs over 102 innings.

Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, centert, celebrates his fifth inning home run with Enrique Hernandez during a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Saturday, May 21, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Sturggling Mariners can’t hold on to early lead, fall to Boston

Seattle blows a five-run lead and loses for the 18th time in its past 24 games.

Lakeside’s Thiago Ausland stops a shot at goal with Edmonds-Woodway's Isaac Parreno charging with Lakeside’s Joshua Koch, left, and Uriel Lopez Friday afternoon in Seattle, Washington on May 20, 2022. The Warriors lost 4-0. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
E-W soccer’s state run comes to an end with loss to Lakeside

The Warriors finish the season 14-5-2 after a 4-0 defeat in the round of 16.

Lynnwood’s Jace Hampson yells in celebration after winning the district semifinal game against Meadowdale to send them to state at Funko Field on May 10 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State baseball preview: A look at the state regionals for local teams

Lynnwood, Edmonds-Woodway, Stanwood and Archbishop Murphy are playing in Saturday’s state regionals.

Jackson’s Allie Thomsen delivers a pitch against Lake Stevens during a 4A matchup Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Phil Johnson Ballfields in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Jackson softball beats Lake Stevens to claim state berth

The Timberwolves qualify for state for the 6th straight time.

White line on Green grass sport field for sport concept
Prep results for Friday, May 20

Prep results for Friday, May 20: (Note for coaches/Scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Most Read