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Rising Whistle Scholarship Awarded to Tahitian Rising Star

GOLD COAST (Australia) – Yee Gnuik Tai Apeang from Tahiti has been awarded the inaugural Rising Whistle Scholarship in Oceania following the intensive four-week online program.

Curated to identify and nurture female referees across the Oceania region, the Rising Whistle Program (RWP) will pave the way for aspiring female referees to achieve elite-level FIBA referee licenses by 2027, while underpinning FIBA’s Women in Basketball strategic objectives.

Yee Gnuik Tai Apeang has been refereeing for only two years, but in that time has evolved and developed an appreciation and passion for officiating.

“I started refereeing to help my club as they needed referees for the Tahiti Youth Championships,” Ms Apeang said.  “As a player I knew the rules, but not like a referee should, so I joined the Tahitian Basketball Federation Referee Department to learn more and then the opportunity to referee for my country at the 2023 Pacific Games was a great experience.”

Apeang’s Pacific Games debut underpinned her refereeing ambitions and built her confidence to take control of both men’s and women’s games.  “The Pacific Games intensity was more than what I’d experienced on-island,” Ms Apeang said.  “I learnt to push myself and to embrace the challenge, because it’s not always easy being a referee.”

Rising through the ranks of basketball officiating can feel like a daunting climb, but for Apeang, FIBA’s Rising Whistle Program has become a launching pad for more success.  This program, designed to empower aspiring female referees, proved to be an invaluable experience.

"Participating in the Rising Whistle Program was like winning every game," Ms Apeang said, acknowledging her relative newness to the world of officiating. "There's so much to learn, and being mentored by experienced referees is incredibly enriching."

The program offered a treasure trove of knowledge, but two sessions stood out for Apeang, James Boyer's workshop on ‘Quality Decision Making" equipped her with the tools to make clearer calls on the court, while Maddison Crowley-Long’s session on stress management and communication provided her with strategies to navigate the pressure-cooker environment of a basketball game.

But the true excitement lies ahead.  Apeang is thrilled about the scholarship opportunity that she received through the program.  "It'll be my first time in Australia," she said, "and I can't wait to learn from legendary FIBA referees, experience Australian officiating, and refine my own skills."

FIBA Executive Director – Oceania, Amanda Jenkins said the inaugural program has set the tone for developing female referees in the region.  “We have a number of female referees in the region aspiring to greater heights and we would like to further facilitate those high-performance opportunities,” Ms Jenkins said.  “Our collective target to achieve 10 female elite-level referee licenses in the region by 2027 is a lofty goal, and we want women to have the support and pathway in our region, to achieve and maintain those licenses.”

“Tai is a great up and coming referee from Tahiti and showed great promise in Honiara last year at the Pacific Games.  With Tahiti set to host the 2027 Pacific Games, this opportunity provides a great opportunity for Tai to further develop her capacity leading into what will be a huge event for all Tahitians.”

The Rising Whistle Scholarship Program is a significant step towards gender equality in basketball officiating within FIBA - Oceania.  By empowering aspiring female referees, the program paves the way for a more inclusive and diverse officiating pool at the elite level.