The way she sees it, Sharon McGregor knows it's just a matter of time before she gets what she deserves.
The boos. The taunts. The name-calling.McGregor knows because she used to be one of those moms.
"Are you blind, ref?"
"That was a bad call!"
She was such a heckler at her son's basketball games that her husband at the time was too embarrassed to even sit with her.
Now McGregor, who's in her second season as a youth league basketball referee, sees the game from a different perspective.
"I was one of those terrible parents who made it hard on the refs. I was bad at yelling at the refs," she said. "Looking back on it, sometimes, I didn't know what they were calling. All I knew is that they were calling it against the team."
McGregor never played basketball, but her son, Stephen, 17, played with the High Point Hurricanes, an Amateur Athletic Union team, for four years. It was at one of Stephen's AAU games four years ago that McGregor first thought about becoming a referee. There were two female referees at the tournament held at Bennett College.
"I had never seen female referees before. They were good," McGregor said.
Her other son, Fredrick , 9, also plays basketball. He goes to Morehead Recreation Center after school, and McGregor asked one day if there were ever any clinics there for basketball officials. It turned out that there was a clinic that very night.
McGregor said she doesn't know what instigated her query, but that it must have been fate. If the class hadn't been that same night she asked about it, she might have brushed it off.
"But I was on the spot," she said.
Her husband, Vincent, was surprised by her news.
"I kind of laughed. I didn't know she was serious," he said. "I just kind of looked at her and said, 'Have you ever played ball?"'
McGregor took classes for nearly eight weeks, then refereed scrimmages before she was certified to officiate a game. She spent hours practicing her hand signals in front of the mirror at home. She even practiced blowing her whistle - something her husband tired of quickly.
McGregor said she was "bit by the bug" from her first game. She was nervous, but veteran officials are paired with new ones and her partner was supportive. "He said, 'Blow your whistle. Call your fouls. Just don't take any junk."'
It was an adult church league game, and one player seemed to give her a hard time because she was new. Toward the end of the game, she called a foul on him. He threw his shirt on the floor and she gave him a technical foul, punishing him for his quick temper.
McGregor even had to officiate one of Fredrick's games last year. This usually doesn't happen because of conflicts of interest, but there weren't any other referees available. So, she pulled him aside before the game and gave him this message: "I'm not your mom. I'm not your friend. I'm your ref."
She even called a foul on him.
To which her husband yelled from the stands: "Bad call, ref!"
Fredrick admitted to being angry about it at the time.
"I didn't feel happy about it," he said.
But Fredrick said he's proud of his mother.
"It was good having your own momma reffing your game," he said. "I've never heard of a woman refereeing."
McGregor hopes to advance to high school basketball games in a few years. But her ultimate goal is to one day officiate women's college basketball.
"If I had the opportunity to do men's college (games), I would. But I think there is a great demand for women referees in women's college basketball," she said.
She is one of five or six female referees in a group of 25 to 30 in the High Point Basketball Association. Fellow official Gerald Moyd said because of this, McGregor may have more opportunities to advance, especially at the college level.
"There's room for her up in the college level if that's what she really wants to do," he said.
Another fellow referee, Tony Pate, believes McGregor will achieve her goal because of her work ethic.
"She's a person willing to learn. She wants to be a student of the game and she's not afraid to ask questions," he said.
McGregor said she's not sure if it would ever become a full-time job. It would depend largely on the level she reaches and whether she is required to travel a lot.
"I'm really a long way from being ready for that, though," she said.
McGregor said becoming a referee has changed her life. She's always been assertive, but now she feels more confident. She feels a sense of pride when she puts on her uniform. It's even made her more healthy. On occasion, she may have to officiate several games in a day, so she exercises regularly.
"The women referees that I saw were slim and small. By being a full-figured woman, I thought I couldn't do it. But I could," she said.
As for those heckling fans, McGregor said she's so busy concentrating on the game, she doesn't even hear them. "When you're in the zone, you hear noise, but you don't hear what they're saying. You're focusing on the plays," she said.
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