Mak­ing the calls as baby makes three

Holtkamp-Ster­ling set to be the first mother to of­fi­ci­ate in the league

The Peterborough Examiner - - SPORTS - TIM REYNOLDS

TAMPA, FLA.—Lau­ren Holtkamp and Jonathan Ster­ling first met a few years ago at a meet­ing of col­lege bas­ket­ball ref­er­ees in Vir­ginia, and when the group went out that night she asked him to dance.

He de­clined. The refs now agree: That was a bad call.

They even­tu­ally be­came the NBA’s first hus­band-and-wife ref­er­ee­ing duo, and now an­other first awaits this sea­son when Holtkamp-Ster­ling — she goes by the hy­phen­ated name now — is plan­ning to be­come the first mother to of­fi­ci­ate in the league. The cou­ple be­came par­ents to a daugh­ter, Stoan, this year.

“It is a dif­fer­ent story,” Ster­ling said. “But for us as a cou­ple, I think it’s just work.”

It’ll be a lot of work. NBA ref­er­ees get their sched­ules about a month in ad­vance, spend the bulk of their time on the road and when Holtkamp-Ster­ling re­turns to the court she and her hus­band will be run­ning in op­po­site di­rec­tions be­cause there are no plans for them to be as­signed to work on the same of­fi­ci­at­ing crew for a game.

Hav­ing a baby at home only adds to the jug­gling act. The NBA has cer­tain pro­grams to make lives eas­ier for new par­ents, such as pay­ing for the ship­ping of breast milk when a mother is on the road for work. But the cou­ple knows they’re em­bark­ing on a chal­lenge, one sim­i­lar in some as­pects to what many other “reg­u­lar” fam­i­lies have to ad­dress. In look­ing for ideas, they have re­searched what the mil­i­tary does for par­ents with new fam­i­lies, as well as the poli­cies uti­lized by the WNBA, the LPGA Tour and the PGA Tour.

“I think in nav­i­gat­ing this, what it means to be a mar­ried cou­ple who are par­ents and NBA ref­er­ees to­gether — to­gether and apart, right? — there’s just such an op­por­tu­nity to fig­ure it out and be cre­ative,” Holtkamp-Ster­ling said. “I don’t want to overuse the word in­no­va­tive, but I re­ally think that is what it’s about … be­ing able to find a path that works.”

The last time Holtkamp-Ster­ling worked a game was in the 2017-18 sea­son. She missed last sea­son with a knee in­jury that re­quired surgery and she won’t be ready for the start of the reg­u­lar sea­son this year fol­low­ing ab­dom­i­nal surgery. She wants to be back as soon as pos­si­ble.

“If you think about what all this means for fam­ily plan­ning, that’s a unique chal­lenge,” Holtkamp-Ster­ling said. “We’re trav­el­ling all over the United States and our work hap­pens at night, which cre­ates so many more ques­tions. And as this process, know­ing we have the sup­port of our league and our union, goes along we’re just go­ing to keep mov­ing for­ward and see what hap­pens.”

To the cou­ple, it’s just life. It’s their new nor­mal.

“We’ve gone two, three weeks with­out see­ing one other dur­ing the sea­son,” said Ster­ling, who made the full-time NBA ref ranks three years af­ter Holtkamp-Ster­ling did. “It’s like two ships pass­ing in the night. But we try to get to­gether when we can on the road. And I think just be­ing the first mar­ried cou­ple on staff … it’s been very good so far.”

CHRIS O'MEARA THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

NBA ref­er­ees Jonathan Ster­ling and Lau­ren Holtkamp-Ster­ling hold their daugh­ter, Stoan. Both plan to call games this sea­son.

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