SHE has two children, she works and she is a successful basketball referee both in the SBL and WNBL so spare time isn’t something Nicolle DiConza has a lot of, but ahead of ID Athletic Women’s Round, she’s a great inspiration to many.
DiConza grew up playing basketball in Bunbury and started refereeing just to make some extra pocket money, so the sport has always been a big part of her life.
But it wasn’t until she moved to Perth that she truly thought she could go a long way with it and it’s hard to argue with the results given she’s now a regular in the SBL and WNBL despite having to continue to forge her work career and having two sons with husband, and fellow referee Steve.
Juggling the two sons, a husband, working as a physio for Disability Services Commission and then being a referee in her own right all-year round on top of referee coaching in the D-League and involved in development programs means that DiConza has quite the full life.
But she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I work part-time and I’m lucky that I’m pretty organised in my life I guess. I’m also lucky that my mum helps us out a lot and then being organised is a big reason why I can keep track of everything going on,” DiConza said.
“I’m a physio and work for Disability Services so I get to help people in my job and make a bit of a difference in their lives.
“Then I get to do basketball on top of that because that’s what I enjoy, and then we are heading into the boys starting to play sport and everything too. It’s pretty full on but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
What makes DiConza all the more remarkable is that while she has plenty on her own plate, she is still focused on helping the next generation of referees as well.
The desire to help fast track their development was why she was back on the court just weeks after giving birth to her second son, and she sees plenty of good signs that the future is bright in terms of basketball refereeing in WA.
“When I came back from having Ollie, my second boy, that’s why I came back. I came back pretty early after I had him and that was because I was so keen to help out and ref women’s games with our lower panels to try to develop them as quickly as we could,” she said.
“That was a big part of coming back so quickly for me and then obviously I realised that I could have that dream myself of getting to the WNBL and stuff as well.
“At the moment I think we are pretty lucky that there’s quite a few younger female referees that are coming through.
“There has probably been a big gap in the past where there hasn’t been that many, but it’s good to be in Panel 1 and be able to give them something to look forward to and show them that they can get there themselves.”
DiConza always enjoyed playing basketball, but by the time her junior career was coming to an end she began to realise her playing days might not extend too much further.
So she dedicated herself to refereeing and while having her two sons along the way changed things slightly, the fact that she’s got to live out her dream in the SBL and WNBL means that it’s all been well and truly worth it.
“It was in under-18s that i realised that I was probably a better referee than I was a player,” DiConza said.
“Then when I moved to Perth for uni because I was playing for Bunbury, I had already developed some referee friends and connections up in Perth so that made it easier to slot in and get started, and the rest has just gone on from there.
“Before having the kids, my goal was to up to the WNBL and get to the highest level I could. But then once I had the kids I was content with doing this just because it’s what I enjoy and that it is fun.
“But i also realised I could still set myself those sort of goals and I’m pretty proud of everything I’ve been able to achieve as a result of that.”
Helping DiConza juggle having a family with refereeing and working is no doubt the fact that husband Steve is also a well-credentialed referee as well.
She has no doubt that the fact that they understand exactly what goes into and the commitment required, and often have the same time commitments mean that some of the other problems that could come from being on the go all the time doesn’t become a problem in their marriage.
“It’s pretty unique that Steve and I both understand what the other one is going through and what is required,” DiConza said.
“Neither of us get upset with the other one not being at home because we are both out, and we both know what we are going through. To have the kids there at our games too is pretty cool and they enjoy it.
“They run around even with whistles in their mouth at home sometimes too and they get involved in the pre-game and I think they really enjoy being involved. There’s not many things you get to do that you can do as a family so that makes it pretty special.”
That family that she has married into also helped to create one of her great career highlights this past WNBL season when she shared the floor alongside husband Steven and his brother Adrian.
“This year getting to ref WNBL with Steve and Adrian was pretty amazing,” she said.
“The first game that I got to referee with Steve was a pretty special moment and then with the three of us, there wouldn’t be too many people that get to step out on a national league floor with their husband and brother-in-law. That was a pretty cool moment.”
DiConza couldn’t be more content with the way things have panned out for her since committing her life to being a basketball referee despite the juggling act it requires alongside a family and work.
She would certainly recommend to anyone else considering it as a legitimate pathway because just like her, it was wanting to be involved in basketball that was why she took it on in the first place.
“Apart from the fact that I met through Steve through refereeing and have made a lot of good friends who are likely family to us, which is a big part of it, being involved at a level in the game that I never would have played at makes it pretty special,” DiConza said.
“None of us do it for any other reason than because we enjoy being involved in the game and we enjoy the people we are around, and get to interact with. It’s such a good way to stay involved at basketball at such a high level of the game.
“I always played up to Division 1 before moving to Perth for uni and then I just reffed when I was a kid for a bit of extra hobby money. The thing that now keeps me into it is just the people involved and the love of the game, but more so that camaraderie that we have as a referee group.
“When I took time off to have the boys, it’s the people involved that you miss and that’s what makes me enjoy being involved so much.”