Refereeing can be harder then it looks, but it is still a valuable and enjoyable learning experience, something which Lenny and Lauren Tham, a mother-daughter referee duo from Vancouver, have been learning as they don the black and white stripes together.
Mother-daughter referee teams are rare, as can be female officials. A 2013 Canada Heritage publication (Sport Participation 2010) states that while the number of women officiating amateur sports in Canada increased from 1992 to 2010, male officials still outnumber female officials by 3 to 1.
However, a mother-daughter referee team has been written about before. Back in 2015, CBC shared the story of Shelley and Kylee Knowlton from St. Albert, Alberta. Both the Knowltons and the Thams have enjoyed their shared experiences, and see lots of value in refereeing.
Lauren, who is in her second year of Bantam, was the first to start refereeing, and her mom Lenny got on board a year later after attending an information session.
“I actually take Lauren to practice almost all [the time], like all her games and practices and her reffing stuff, so I’d watch, and I noticed emails that went out asking for female adults to do it as well,” explained Lenny. “So I decided to attend an info session, and I kind of got excited and hooked from there.”
At the start it was difficult to get used to calling penalties and dealing with angry coaches, but while working together Lenny and Lauren build each other up and benefit from their mother-daughter connection.
“I like doing it with Lauren because she’s good, I’m confident she’ll make the right calls,” said Lenny. “There’s more communication … I guess because we’re mother-daughter, we have that connection.”
Still somewhat new to refereeing, the Thams are in a constant mode of learning, discussing rules with each other, asking their referee mentors questions, and paying attention to NHL referees when watching games on TV. They have both noticed their referee experience impact their gameplay as well.
“I can understand what the refs are calling,” explained Lauren, who plays for the Vancouver Girls Ice Hockey Association.
“Now I have much more respect for [referees],” said Lenny, who plays for an adult recreational league. “For me, playing as a player now, I am more really aware about what’s going on and the calls.”
While Lauren and Lenny usually referee female Atom games, they hope to maybe referee at higher levels (like Bantam and Midget) in the future, as as Lenny has pointed out, “They need more females [refereeing] at the higher levels for the girls.”
The Vancouver Girls Ice Hockey Association has been very active and successful in increasing the number of female referees in the city, which has been promising for the future of female hockey in the area and has provided important role models for younger female players.
“We have girls at the Atom age who say they want to [referee] too,” said Lenny. “It’s good to see more girls do it, I notice that for Lauren’s games, it’s a lot of men … But it would be good to see more female officials at that level [Bantam]. They can grow the sport and do it into their young adult life, even when they’re older too.”
Throughout this past season, Lenny and Lauren have had memorable experiences refereeing at tournaments and special exhibition series together, and as the 2016-17 season comes to a close, they are starting to look towards other opportunities to keep learning and getting experience on the ice.
“This is my first year so I kind of want to come out next year and be better and stronger,” said Lenny. “There’s always something you can learn, because every game is going to be different. For me, sometimes I get really nervous going to a game, but when I’m on the ice, I’m fine … I just have to challenge myself and go out and do it.”
Photo courtesy of Lenny Tham