The Maritime Women’s Basketball Association hit paydirt when Jennifer Lloyd agreed to join the organization.
Well recognized and well respected, Lloyd is the officials and minor officials coordinator for the six-team circuit that launches in April, 2022.
When she was approached to be a part of the MWBA by vice commissioner Lezlie States of Halifax, it didn’t take long for the Nova Scotian to say yes.
‘I was honoured and thankful Lezlie and others wanted me to part of this amazing opportunity,’ said Lloyd, a Truro native. ‘So many of us are looking forward to all of this unfolding.’
Lloyd, whose officiating career has taken her from local leagues to professional men’s play, said the idea of a Maritime women’s league was always bandied about, especially during summer tournaments.
Tournaments such as the EastLink Classic in Halifax (Basketball Nova Scotia), Saint John’s Summerfest (Basketball New Brunswick) and Red Rock (Basketball Prince Edward Island) always drew teams of former teammates, getting together for maybe a (pre-Covid) weekend or two of play.
Following those games, which could be very competitive, talk of a league would usually surface.
Then it would go away until the next summer.
‘There have been many informal conversations during tournaments where different groups would talk basketball like we always do and there was always the wish there was something for women when they finish college and university,’ said Lloyd. ‘The talent in the Atlantic provinces has improved exponentially over the last few years. The athletes are stronger, faster, creative, and want to play and compete against the best. We’re going to see that in the MWBA.’
Lloyd is a staple at the Atlantic University Sport and Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association levels. She also coached in the former National Basketball League of Canada.
Basketball has been an enormous part of her life. A multi-sport athlete, she played with Acadia University Axewomen before playing at the professional level in Belgium and Australia.
Lloyd turned to coaching in Nova Scotia before opting to become an official.
Known for her commitment to excellence and strong command of the game, Lloyd is excited the MWBA will showcase competitive basketball for other officials.
‘The MWBA will be received positively and the opportunity to be on the floor with these elite athletes, receive feedback and evaluation on a regular basis will improve every level of basketball in our region will help our officials improve,’ she said. ‘These officials will have opportunities to be leaders within their associations and encourage and model the work ethic, feedback and professionalism that will be a trademark of officials in this league.’
Lloyd said officials from all three Maritime provinces know each other and often work together at AUS or ACAA championships.
‘We are each others biggest cheerleaders, supporters and critics, continuously sharing clips, scenarios and situations with each other to help each other improve and give our top effort every night on the floor,’ she said. ‘We are always sharing numerous scenarios and talking about continually improving.’
The MWBA is designed to promote women in sport. Whether it’s playing, coaching, managing, working game clocks or handling public relations and marketing, there are opportunities to remain involved and gain experience.
Unfortunately, the region does not have many female officials, but Lloyd also said there is a need for more referees to join the force.
‘We are always looking for great officials, regardless of gender, but in the past there has definitely been a push to identify more female officials,’ she said. ‘The MWBA would be a great opportunity to showcase the female officials in our region and offer opportunities for younger female officials to receive feedback and evaluations during clinic and live game settings.’
One area Lloyd is also involved with is minor officials.
It is critical for any game to have quality individuals on the scoreclock, shot clock, statistical sheet and other areas.
Perhaps the term ‘minor’ does not apply as the roles have major impacts on the game.
Lloyd has even travelled to New Brunswick to be an off-court official at Canada Basketball age-class championships.
‘ A solid, well prepared minor officials table crew who have received training and are treated by the officials as a member of the team are invaluable to the success of a game,’ Lloyd said. ‘Rule knowledge, focus, and taking pride in a professional table are keys to being a great table official. Plus, you get the best seat in the house. What could be better?’
As the calendar continues to clip toward April, 2022, Lloyd knows there will be challenges with the MWBA.
She likes the way the league has developed slowly, beginning in 2020 and working its way toward finding its niche.
‘Finances are always a challenge with leagues, finding stakeholders who believe in the league and have the same passion as all of us involved,’ she said. ‘Making stakeholders known, celebrating them through strong marketing, signage and frequent mentions and visibility on all social media platforms is key.’
Yes, there have been numerous challenges with the MWBA.
From finding individuals and groups committed to operating franchises to ensuring players the league is real and is designed to be competitive to finding financial partners, there have been plenty of tasks to tackle.
But promoting women in the league remains the No. 1 key.
‘I remember finishing university and wishing there was something next to aspire for,’ Lloyd said. ‘Don’t get me wrong, our senior leagues in the Maritimes, are great, but having elite players competing on a regular basis will be a win-win for all involved. There is plenty of talent to satisfy all these teams, and we will be inspired by the work ethic of every player, coach and team personnel, and their desire to improve, compete and present a professional product on and off the floor. ‘