West Philly native Natasha Camy breaking barriers in basketball as women's NCAA Division I referee

ByCheryl Mettendorf, Nydia Han, and 6abc Digital Staff WPVI logo
Wednesday, June 26, 2024
West Philly woman breaking barriers in basketball as NCAA referee
Natasha Camy is breaking barriers for women in basketball all while lifting up others right along with her through her Referee Ready Academy.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- If you are looking for inspiration, look no further than Natasha Camy.

Camy is breaking barriers in basketball and lifting up others right along with her.

"I got into basketball because my family gave me no choice," said Camy. "I mean, just everyone loves basketball, right? So I mean, my mom, my grandma my uncle's like everyone, literally everyone."

As a girl growing up in West Philadelphia, Camy loved the game, too.

"I'd get out of church and I just be playing in my white dress right after. I loved it - literally loved it," she said.

Camy played at Archbishop Carroll High School and Widener University.

She also played for the Comets, an Under Armour League team as well as the Philadelphia DBL, which was an all-Black women's team.

"Everything about basketball I love," she said. "I love the process. I love the hard work."

But, it was her grandmother who got her into refereeing.

"She got tired of me begging her for money and she was like, listen, it makes $30 a game," she said.

And it turns out, Camy was a natural.

"Of understanding when to blow your whistle and when not to, that's a play that we can pass on. That's a play that we need right this moment," said Camy.

So she quickly decided to become a ref for a living and is now an NCAA Women Division 1 official.

"The travel is what kicks your butt. No one talks about that," she said.

According to career site, Zippia, only 16.7% of all basketball referees are women and 83.3% are men.

The most common ethnicity is also white at 68.6%, followed by Hispanic or Latino ranking in at 11% and then Black or African American which ranks at just 8%. Statistics also show only 5% of all basketball referees are LGBTQ+.

"For me having a family, having a daughter, having a wife like that shows people like hey, there's a balance to this thing and you can still do it at high heights and you can have fun doing it," she said.

To further inspire, Camy founded and runs the Referee Ready Academy which is a catch-all learning experience for new or aspiring officials.

"For me, it was like, why don't I build a community that can allow people to have resources, access to mental health, access to training, access to a community of other officials who are doing the same thing all over the world and say, Hey, this can be done," she said. "I think for me, I've represented so many little pockets for people, not even just Black women, like queer women, young women, players, whatever. And they're like, Yo, I could do this."

But another barrier to entry is financial as tryout camps cost money.

"Financial support is everything for referees because there's so many things we have to pay for out of pocket before we get paid," she said.

That is where the Referee Ready Foundation comes in by providing scholarships, not just to cover camp fees, but also gas and uniforms.

"I want to find more ways for Referee Ready to help everybody in every sport internationally globally, wherever we're at," said Camy. "There is no limit, women like us. There is no limit!" she said.

The Referee Ready Academy's next event is virtual in August.

For more information, visit RefereeReady.com.