Sarwar Qureshi has refereed games across Canada, from Edmonton to Toronto and Iqaluit (Photograph by Remi Theriault)
I grew up in the ’90s watching NBA basketball—Michael Jordan’s heyday—and loved it. I came from a lower-middle-class family, so basketball was an easier sport to get into than, say, hockey. We had a basketball net in front of our house and would just play and play and play.
WHO DID YOU PLAY WITH?
I played on my school teams. My position was guard, usually point guard. I was on the smaller end of the height spectrum, but I was good at passing and dribbling, and tried to bring some basketball IQ to the team. I started some games, but I was a support player coming off the bench. I understood my limitations [laughs].
HOW DID YOU GET INTO REFEREEING?
When I was in high school, we needed 40 volunteer hours to graduate. I thought, “What do I enjoy doing?” I asked my old coaches if I could help out with practices, and they said: “We always need referees for our scrimmages.” When the team started playing in tournaments, they were required to bring a referee with them to games, and I offered to do the job.
Refereeing was a way to stay involved and remain in touch with the game. I’ve met great people. One of the senior referees, now retired, was a mentor figure to me and also happened to be a CPA. We first connected because we could talk both basketball and accounting lingo.
WHAT’S BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT?
I love the sport, and you can get a good run in and get to know a lot of the people in the local basketball community. For me, it was a double-win: make some money and be involved in basketball.
DO YOU HAVE ANY CERTIFICATION?
As my interest grew, I learned that Ottawa has a referee certification program. From there you can get access to club basketball, as well as college and university level. I became certified in 2005 and refereeing became a source of income for me at university. A high school game back then would pay around forty bucks. Now that I’m a CPA, it may not seem like much, but at the time it did.
WHERE HAS REFEREEING TAKEN YOU?
I’ve travelled to referee games in Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Sudbury, Ont., and other places across Canada. The coolest trip I did was in 2012 for a high school tournament in Iqaluit, Nunavut. The atmosphere was amazing. It was a small gym packed with people—maybe 40 people—but they sounded like a crowd of 200.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU REFEREE GAMES?
With refereeing, you can do as much or as little as you like. There are competitive recreational leagues in Ottawa that take place at night, so I can still get those games in outside of my core accounting work hours.
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