Hearing-impaired Officials inspiring our Community

This week, September 19 – September 25, is National Week of Deaf People for 2020 and Basketball Australia have been celebrating those in the Australian basketball community who have impaired hearing and make a significant contribution to the sport.
Victorian official Jackson Lakey from the Nunawading branch, can only hear 100 decibels of sound, which is considered profound deafness. Despite his hearing impairment, Lakey has been involved with the basketball community as a game official since he was a young teenager. “When I was 14 or 15, my dad suggested that I should have a go as a referee because it’s good pocket money after school and on the weekend. I had a lot of passion for basketball, I wanted to become a basketball referee,” explains Lakey. Although his hearing loss has posed difficulties for him through his journey, his love for the sport and passion to achieve his refereeing goals has seen Lakey progress through the ranks and he is now officiating in Victoria’s senior and junior leagues. When I was a trainee referee, I had a lot of challenges. It was difficult to communicate with my referee mentors, players and coaches. I didn’t know how to deal with them because I was still new in a hearing world,” states Lakey. From Hobart Tasmania, Andrew Bradshaw is a retired official who also lives with a hearing impairment caused by nerve damage and the condition is hereditary within his family. Bradshaw who refereed the SEABL, Australian National Championships and at Chemist Warehouse WNBL levels, also recognised that communication was a common challenge to overcome during refereeing, particularly for someone with a hearing impairment. “As much as you try not to show it, the communication side of it and particularly at elite level can be difficult to interact with the coaches during play, especially if you’re on the other side of the court and don’t know what they’re talking about. That limits you a little bit,” explained Bradshaw. However, trying to work with hearing aids was equally as challenging for Bradshaw, “The first time I refereed with hearing aids was at the Australian Under-20s Championships in Ballarat back in 2006. I chose to wear them on the first game, and it threw me. It changes your whole mindset and how your brain operates from when you are not wearing them.”
(Left to Right) Nigel Bradshaw, Michael Mundy, Andrew Bradshaw and Ross Brockman. Image courtesy of Basketball Tasmania

Both successful in their respective careers as officials, Lakey highlighted that National Junior Classics in 2015 was a memorable moment in his career thus far and looks forward to partaking in the event again next year. Lakey also aspires to continue his development as an official, undertaking further programs and courses. I definitely want to be doing the level two courses. I also want to referee a deaf basketball game in the Deaflympics in the future. I want to inspire everyone with a profound deafness or hearing loss,” said Lakey. Bradshaw, who hung up his refs’ uniform roughly eight years ago, also reflects fondly on his career which began when he was 14-years old. Upon completing his second year as a player in Under-16s, Bradshaw decided to pursue officiating as his primary focus, and attended his first National Championship at the age of 17. “I reckon there are so many highlights it’s hard to pick one. Being able to referee elite athletes that played for the Opals or Boomers and being around that elite talent, and all the people that you meet within the sport, there is some strong bonding. “A game that sticks out was when I refereed at the Australian Under-20 Championships in 2007, the bronze medal game against ACT and WA. The game went into double overtime and WA won by a point,” laughed Bradshaw, reminiscing about the game. Both Lakey and Bradshaw advocate for those with a hearing impairment to chase their dreams in the sporting and basketball world. “Go for it, just find a way to meet with and overcome the different challenges that you face,” stated Bradshaw. “You can challenge yourself and overcome the barriers including cultural, language, and communication barriers. If I can referee for Big V games with a profound deafness, you can do the same” concluded Lakey. To learn more about Technical Officials and how to get involved click here.

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