Article by Olerato Keegope
It’s always refreshing to see women playing a leading and active role in today’s complex and modern-day sport hence our excitement when we interviewed Dorothy Okatch this week, a 34-year-old woman who has been involved with basketball since her teenage years. Okatch also holds a fulltime job, is a consultant for various international organizations and is Botswana’s first International Referee for Basketball wholly licensed by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
Just recently, Okach was part of the referees at the just ended 2017 Zone VI Basketball Africa Club Championship Preliminaries held in Gaborone where she was happy to officiate some of the games. In between her hectic schedule, we swiftly stole a moment and discussed all things basketball and sport…
How did you choose basketball over other codes?
As a child in primary school, I engaged in as many sports codes as possible. I played netball, cricket, soccer, tennis, and was a track and field athlete. I always made the school’s athletics team right up to senior secondary school. In my last year in senior secondary school, I was introduced to basketball. I started playing at Ledumang Senior School, and at that time we had no basketball coach so it was just for fun. I fell in love with the sport. When I moved to Namibia to do my tertiary studies, I joined the University team, “Wildcats” and abandoned all other sports and the rest as they say is history.
How would you describe basketball?
Basketball to me is life. During varsity, I underwent phases of depression and nervous breakdowns. Basketball was my escape, my happy place, my source of life. It rescued me and I made new friends. They introduced confidence in me I never knew existed. In general, basketball is a game of 10 players on court at a time, 5 per team, with the overall objective being to score the most baskets and hence win the game. The sport has been associated with the hip hop culture or way of life. I find this funny because personally I have and still remain an avid kwaito fan. I don’t like hip hop at all and as such I’ve never really appreciated the association to hip hop. Basketball is also generally seen as a sport for rich people, I don’t know why though.
A lot of players would do sport because they’ve idolized a certain international player, who was your player?
Confession time. I don’t actually watch NBA or WNBA. Reason being that the FIBA basketball rules are not the same as the NBA rules. It’s confusing for me and I was always afraid of adapting to their rules. We play FIBA basketball in Africa. However, if put in a corner I would say I love Steff Curry. I think this is however because he has sneakers in my current favourite label, Under Armour.
And you left playing to becoming a referee, which international games have you officiated thus far?
I have done quite a few of the 2014 – U18 Africa Championships Cup in Egypt, 2015 – Afrobasket Men and Women qualifiers for Zone 6 in Zimbabwe, 2015 – U16 Africa Champions Qualifiers in Botswana, 2015 – All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville, 2015 – Africa Club Championships Qualifiers for Zone 5 in Rwanda, 2015 – Africa Club Championships in Angola, 2016 – U18 Qualifiers for Zone 6 in Zimbabwe, 2016 – Club Championships Cup in Mozambique, 2017 – Afrobasket Qualifiers for Women in Mozambique, 2017 – U16 Afro Basket Games in Mozambique and the 2017 – Zone 6 Club Qualifiers in Botswana.
Botswana is not really big in basketball, how did you go about becoming the first accredited FIBA referee?
In 2013, I attended the first stage of licensing in Zimbabwe. I had to pay for myself as the Botswana Basketball Association (BBA) was unable to fund the trip. I was successful and became the 9th Zonal referee in the country. Eight months later there was a licensing clinic for the international license to be held in Madagascar. FIBA required at that time that you were a Zonal referee for two years prior to becoming international. We wrote a letter to FIBA and they waived this requirement for me. I was then sponsored by the BBA to attend the clinic in Madagascar with my colleague. We were about 12 at the clinic and I was one of the few who became an International referee at the clinic.
It’s definitely hard work to be a referee in basketball, what advice can you give to budding referees…
I identified a gap, a niche, a sport where I could get an opportunity to travel the world and do something I love. As a player, I would never have been able to travel as much as I have. But, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I push myself daily to do what needs to be done so I can become better. I watch clips of referees in the European leagues and other international competitions so I can learn from them. I read the rules continuously.