Unsung Hometown Heroes: Celebrating the Special People who Drive our Sports Community

Mathieu Fleury, City of Ottawa Sports Commissioner.

With City of Ottawa Sports Commissioner Mathieu Fleury

Welcome to the first-ever Unsung Hometown Heroes column! We’re very excited to kick off this new initiative to spotlight some of the amazing figures who help make our Ottawa sports community special.

In this space, we might highlight someone’s unknown achievement, or take a moment to recognize a dedicated local coach or volunteer – very important because they’re the engine that drives sport in our city and our country.

In my roles as a director for the Ottawa Sport Council, a third-term City Councillor, and now the City of Ottawa’s Sports Commissioner, I’ve been fortunate to get a unique view into our city’s diverse sports community.

I had a blast trying out 52 Sports in 52 Weeks in 2013, but what stuck out for me the most from that challenge, unquestionably, was the people I got to meet along the way.

There are so many exceptional characters who work so hard to allow members of our community to enjoy all the tremendous benefits of sport participation, and we’re thrilled to be able to share some of their stories here in this column, which will appear in each edition of the Ottawa Sportspage.

So that brings us to our first Unsung Hometown Hero – Nadine Crowley.

Nadine Crowley

Pioneering international referee builds grassroots officials

She’s been jeered by entire stadiums of fans and screamed at by countless more coaches. Referees don’t often get much love, but Nadine nevertheless doles out piles of love to her sport and her community.

Nadine’s second home since age 8 has been the basketball court. She played a year with the McMaster University Marauders, which is where she started officiating. With that, Nadine followed in the footsteps of her father (an Ontario Basketball Hall of Famer now in his 90s).

Nadine quickly rose up the refereeing ranks, calling men’s and women’s games alike. She’s officiated around the world, right up to the sport’s top international stages including the FIBA Women’s World Championship.

The Canada Basketball board of directors member is now one of only a dozen licenced FIBA referee instructors worldwide, and the first black woman to earn that distinction.

Nadine is truly a star in international officiating circles, but if you’ve ever watched a bit of high school or club basketball in this city, you’d likely recognize her instantly. She’s always kept connected to grassroots basketball in Ottawa.

She’s a role model whose achievements alone inspire others, but I still think what impresses me most about Nadine is that she’s really gone above and beyond to make an impact on the next generation.

In 2012, Nadine founded an officials mentorship program with the Boys & Girls Club of Ottawa. She says it was a great opportunity to give back to the community, to share her passion and ignite a passion in young kids.

Nadine notes that refereeing can provide employment – she’s proud whenever participants obtain their certification from the local officials board – and of course, referees make it possible for players to compete in their sport. But #1, she feels officiating provides a huge opportunity for self-growth.

Nadine applied skills learned on the court to run her “daytime” social work enterprise. She offers services such as counselling and mediation to families often engaged in child custody cases – “like refereeing without a whistle,” she says.

Nadine didn’t get into officiating, volunteering or mentoring for recognition or accolades (though she has received distinctions like the Ted Early Award – the highest honour in Canadian officiating – and a Lifetime Achievement Award for a Technical Official from the Ottawa Sports Awards). For Nadine, it’s very simple – she loves basketball and she enjoys staying involved, and it gives her the opportunity to help people.

Thank you Nadine for everything you’ve done to make our local sports community so special!

Do you know a local sports figure we should feature in the Unsung Hometown Heroes column? Let us know! Contact: 613-580-2482 or mathieu.fleury@ottawa.ca.

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