MacKinnon: Veteran women’s basketball ref sets sights on Olympics

 

 
 
 
 
Referee Karen Lasuik of Edmonton is trying to earn her stripes to work the Olympic Games basketball tournament next year before she becomes ineligible at age 50. She is shown officiating a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship game between Puerto Rico and Chile on August 13, 2015 at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
 
 

Referee Karen Lasuik of Edmonton is trying to earn her stripes to work the Olympic Games basketball tournament next year before she becomes ineligible at age 50. She is shown officiating a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship game between Puerto Rico and Chile on August 13, 2015 at the Saville Community Sports Centre.

Photograph by: Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - Karen Lasuik is a veteran basketball referee who, like a clutch shooter at crunch time, wants to bury a career buzzer-beater, one of Olympian proportions at that.

The Edmonton native has fashioned an impressive cross-border career, working NCAA women’s games all over the Pacific Northwest, which has led to a rich portfolio of major international assignments from the 2007 Pan American Games to Universiade to two FIBA Americas Women’s Championship gigs, the 2012 junior world championships and the 2014 world championships, just to name a few.

Lasuik wants to punch her ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as the capstone to an impressive international career.

To that end, she has strengthened her officiating resume at an accelerating rate even as the career clock has been ticking down to international officiating end-game.

“That door is starting to close,” Lasuik said this week on her mid-week day off from calling FIBA Americas games at the Saville Community Sports Centre.

You see, she is 49 and FIBA’s age limit for international assignments is 50. She turns 50 next April, a few months before the Rio Games, which go from Aug. 5-21.

That’s cutting it close, but she is, in fact, eligible for that plummiest of plum FIBA assignments. She checked, you bet your life she checked.

“It has been a little bit of a slow process for me (earning an Olympic assignment),” Lasuik said. “I was starting to wonder, ‘Is it ever going to happen for me?’ ”

Friends in the game have reassured her the pattern of recent assignments, in particular, suggests she is being groomed for an Olympic berth.

“The (2007) Pan Am Games was sort of a little bit of a spark of a start for me,” she said. “But it really took off for me when I got the women’s world championship assignment in Turkey in 2014.”

She worked the 2012 junior world championship followed by the 2013 FIBA Americas championship, which led to that 2014 world assignment. At that tournament, Lasuik worked the championship game, a feather in her cap and, she hopes, a signal that the big one — the Olympic assignment — just might be in her wheelhouse.

This year, she was the only non-European referee among the 28 assigned to Eurobasket, the European women’s championship in Budapest, Hungary.

“That came out of the blue; I had absolutely no idea how it came about,” Lasuik said, “but I was absolutely over the moon.”

Even as the important assignments accumulate, Lasuik is trying to think positive without jinxing the process. And it is a process. The 14 referees working the FIBA Americas competition sat through two days of classroom sessions before the tournament, for example. Their work is meticulously evaluated, game-by-game, with post-game debriefing sessions, including video clips of good calls, bad ones and those they missed.

They don’t keep awarding major assignments if your work is sub-standard. The quality control is exacting.

Lasuik also is encouraged that Carl Jungebrand, installed in 2014 as FIBA’s head of referees, shares a philosophy about the craft similar to that in the NCAA, her regular officiating milieu.

Sitting in pre-tournament classroom sessions led by Jungebrand, Lasuik said: “It almost felt like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is home for me now.’

“I’ve always felt a little bit (unsure) that I’m what they look for in a FIBA referee because I’m so Americanized, meaning that I have personality on the floor. A lot of referees are very quiet on the floor and that’s how we worked when I first started (with FIBA). You just showed signals and you don’t really speak.

“But I have a lot of personality on the floor and I thought, ‘I don’t know if they like that style.’ I thought, ‘Maybe I’m not what they look for. I’ll get tournaments, but maybe not the big one.’

“So now that has changed. They want you to be strong and assertive and, of course, very professional. They want you to command the floor and connect with people — connect with the players, connect with the coaches.

“That is something I’ve really learned to do quite well because of my NCAA training.”

Lasuik, a part-time junior high school teacher, juggles that three-day-a-week job with travel to the U.S. for four- or five-day working weekends from January through March. In November and December, when U.S. college teams roll through non-conference games, Lasuik can be away for anywhere from five days to two weeks at a stretch.

“I have the best of both worlds, two professions I absolutely love,” she said. “I am probably the most fortunate person on the planet.”

Balancing the two officiating areas — NCAA and FIBA — will come to an end after 2016, but Olympics or not, Lasuik wants to keep on refereeing NCAA games for several years to come.

“At the end of the day, I want to max out my (U.S. immigration) green card,” she said. “It lasts 10 years and I have eight years left.

“I want to know in my heart when it’s time to step away before someone has to say, ‘You know what, Karen, it’s time.’ I want to be able to make that decision myself, not anybody else.”

jmackinnon@edmontonjournal.com

Twitter.com/@rjmackinnon

Check out my blog at edmontonjournal.com/Sweatsox

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Referee Karen Lasuik of Edmonton is trying to earn her stripes to work the Olympic Games basketball tournament next year before she becomes ineligible at age 50. She is shown officiating a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship game between Puerto Rico and Chile on August 13, 2015 at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
 

Referee Karen Lasuik of Edmonton is trying to earn her stripes to work the Olympic Games basketball tournament next year before she becomes ineligible at age 50. She is shown officiating a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship game between Puerto Rico and Chile on August 13, 2015 at the Saville Community Sports Centre.

Photograph by: Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal

 
Referee Karen Lasuik of Edmonton is trying to earn her stripes to work the Olympic Games basketball tournament next year before she becomes ineligible at age 50. She is shown officiating a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship game between Puerto Rico and Chile on August 13, 2015 at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Referee Karen Lasuik of Edmonton is trying to earn her stripes to work the Olympic Games basketball tournament next year before she becomes ineligible at age 50. She is shown officiating a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship game between Puerto Rico and Chile on August 13, 2015 at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Referee Karen Lasuik of Edmonton is trying to earn her stripes to work the Olympic Games basketball tournament next year before she becomes ineligible at age 50. She is shown officiating a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship game between Puerto Rico and Chile on August 13, 2015 at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Referee Karen Lasuik of Edmonton is trying to earn her stripes to work the Olympic Games basketball tournament next year before she becomes ineligible at age 50. She is shown officiating a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship game between Puerto Rico and Chile on August 13, 2015 at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Referee Karen Lasuik of Edmonton is trying to earn her stripes to work the Olympic Games basketball tournament next year before she becomes ineligible at age 50. She is shown officiating a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship game between Puerto Rico and Chile on August 13, 2015 at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
Referee Karen Lasuik of Edmonton is trying to earn her stripes to work the Olympic Games basketball tournament next year before she becomes ineligible at age 50. She is shown officiating a FIBA Americas Women’s Championship game between Puerto Rico and Chile on August 13, 2015 at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice