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Spotlight: Lisa Romero, basketball official, New Mexico Activities Association

By Dana M. Pappas, NMAA Commissioner of Officials on October 09, 2020 officials Print

The following Ralph Waldo Emerson quote is the embodiment of the officiating career of New Mexico basketball official, Lisa Romero: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.” Lisa first joined the New Mexico Officials Association in 1995 and was in a very small minority of female officials in the Land of Enchantment.  Fast forward 25 years and Lisa is still officiating and continues to blaze a trail, although she has never felt like she has really done anything special as a basketball official.
Last month, Lisa received the 2020 NMOA Distinguished Service Award for her years of service as a basketball official, local association leader, mentor and clinician.  Her reach extends beyond her local association – the Albuquerque Basketball Officials Association (ABOA) – however.  Lisa has been a role model, sounding board and advisor for female officials across the state and is a trusted partner of her male and female officiating colleagues alike. 
During Lisa’s tenure with the NMOA, she has worked four combined boys’ and girls’ NMAA State Basketball Tournaments (2006, 2009, 2015 and 2017) and has been a leader within her local association. She has served as a clinician at the NMOA State Clinic and works closely with the Future Veterans group of the ABOA.  Lisa also worked Division II basketball in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference for a number of years.
Lisa has never given much thought to being termed a “trailblazer” within New Mexico High School officiating.  She loves refereeing, has always worked hard to be a good official and, as she progressed throughout the years of officiating, she fell in love with it.  In particular, Lisa loves the challenge it takes to improve from year to year and game to game. She enjoys the interactions officials get to have with the players and coaches. Lisa loves being on the court, no matter the game, because is an intimate experience that spectators do not have. She relishes the ability to work with young officials and revels in the opportunity to watch them improve and reach the goals they set for themselves.  What does Lisa cherish the most about officiating?  She states, “I love the relationships I have built over the course of my officiating career. Many of these people will be lifelong friends. They are family to me!”
When asked about her role within the NMOA and what the prevalence of women officiating in New Mexico meant to her, Lisa stated, “It has been very satisfying to see the number of women basketball officials in New Mexico increase over the years. It brings so much joy to me. I was so happy to have had a courtside seat to watch the first all-woman crew officiate a state championship game in 2016.  Most recently, this past season, I also watched an all-woman crew officiate a boys’ district championship game in the largest classification. We are fortunate in New Mexico to have VERY good officials and some of them just happen to be women and, for that, I am very proud! It is my hope that we continue to increase the number of female officials in our state. I believe I have played a small part in that. As my parents would say, ‘You want to leave something better than what you found it.’ I am excited about the future of female officials in New Mexico.”
One of Lisa’s greatest assets to the NMOA and the ABOA is the advice she has given officials within the Association.  She has five main points she would share with new officials who are trying to build a strong foundation in their officiating journeys: 

  1. If you want to improve as an official, you must be willing to put in the time to hone your skills relative to knowledge of the rules, court coverage and mechanics.  You should find a mentor who will help you improve.  You should watch basketball games through the lens of an official to see how the referees on the court work.  Make sure to attend basketball referee camps because the information you will learn in these settings is invaluable. Most importantly, learn from your mistakes.
  2. Respect each game assignment you are given. No matter the level, respect that game. We owe it to the players, coaches, and the fans. Do your best to give your best every time you walk on to the court. If you respect the game you have been assigned, it is a step toward ensuring the integrity of the game and the avocation of officiating is upheld.  This will keep you humble.
  3. Control what you can control.  Ensure that you are physically fit to officiate the game, that you are open to constructive criticism and that you have a positive attitude. 
  4. Enjoy it! Have fun out on the court. Even in moments of adversity, find something that will sustain you. The years go by quickly, so have fun!
  5. With basketball being a sport that can be officiated just about year-round, be sure to take time away from it to allow your body, mind and soul to recuperate. Trust me, you need it, and your future older referee self will thank you for it!

Lisa’s advice to female officials is the same as the advice she gives to all officials but she does encourage women to find a female mentor or other female referees to talk to, even in other sports.  She encourages women to connect with other females in the avocation, since they may have experiences that male officiating counterparts may not have.  Lisa states that, if basketball refereeing is what you desire, note that: “You will be challenged at times, differently than your fellow male partners, so embrace it.  Allow it to fuel you to strive to be the best official you can be and know that you belong on the court no matter who is playing and who your partners are.”
Words used to describe Lisa Romero are humility, integrity, passion, dedication and commitment.  She is a true advocate for interscholastic officiating and embodies those characteristics that make individuals effective guardians of fair play for the student-athletes with whom she works.  While in Lisa’s mind, she has just been doing something she loves, it is clear to officials throughout New Mexico that she has left an indelible mark on the Association and on the many officials she has helped throughout her career.