BY JEFF FALK
Cover Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
What if women were in charge? How would it have changed human history to this point?
Ashley Moyer-Gleich isn’t a woman in a man’s world. She offers a glimpse into a world that could’ve been, a world that will be.
That’s the very big picture. Compartmentalize Moyer-Gleich’s life just a bit, and you’ll discover a story that’s just as astonishing.
From humble beginnings at Cedar Crest High School, the former Ashley Moyer has gotten caught up in the NBA’s think-outside-the-box initative towards women referees. Through hard work and a dedication to her craft, Moyer-Gleich has reached the pinnacle of her sporting profession in six short years, a feat rivaled locally only by players that go by the names of Reich, Bowie, Odrick, Beyerle-Cornish, Collins, Shiner and Tran-Swensen.
Moyer-Gleich, 31, is one of only three full-time female referees currently officiating NBA games. She is also one of only five full-time female NBA officials ever.
And no major male-dominated sport in the world has taken same approach to female officials as the NBA has.
“Yes, I do feel like a woman in a man’s world, but not in a negative way,” said Moyer-Gleich, in an exclusive interview with Lebanon Sports Buzz. “In this arena, all the players are men, most of the coaches are men and many of my partners are men. Do I feel like a woman in a male-dominated world? Absolutely. But I don’t feel like I’m treated any differently. They’re (players, coaches, colleagues) probably rooting for me more than I am for myself. People tell me I belong here, I deserve it. That gives you a sense of confidence.
“I definitely think up to the point where I’m at – eight games – that I’ve earned respect,” continued Moyer-Gleich. “Respect is earned through your work. Up to this point, I’ve given respect. When I’m wrong, I have no problem saying I messed up. Respect is a two-way street. I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that I’m a female.”
In the middle of November, Moyer-Gleich was promoted by the NBA to a full-time referee. This season, the 2006 CCHS graduate has worked eight NBA games thus far.
Prior to that, Moyer-Gleich had been officiating in the NBA’s developmental league – the G-League – WNBA games and select college games.
“What intrigues me most is that for my whole life, since the age of four, I’ve loved basketball so much,” said Moyer-Gleich. “It’s part of who I am. It’s helped develop the person I am. What’s most intriguing is the transition from player to official and re-learning something I’ve known my whole life. I got to love it again. It’s like falling in love all over again.
“It’s a huge honor. It’s a blessing,” Moyer-Gleich continued. “At times, it feels like there’s more pressure than on my male counterparts, just because there’s more of them. They’re (Violet Palmer, Dee Kantner, the first full-time female NBA officials) such inspiring women. What it means to me is that when the next females come into the league, hopefully they can looking at me like I do the women who came before me. I’m trying to help foster a legacy of inspiring women.”
After starring for the Cedar Crest girls’ basketball team in the early 2000s, Moyer-Gleich took her talents to the hardwoods of Division Two Millersville University, helping the Marauders to the Division Two Sweet 16 in 2010. She began officiating varsity and JV high school games in 2012-13.
In her third year, Moyer-Gleich started reffing college games, and it wasn’t too long after that that she got notice by NBA referee scouts.
“Probably the experience that sums it up came in the spring of 2016, while I was doing a college game at Lancaster Bible College,” said the former Falcon. “I never even thought officiating in the NBA was a possibility. I’m from a small town. I didn’t realize it was a job or that people made a living at it. These scouts came into the locker room after the game and told me they thought I had what it took to be an NBA referee. I looked at them like, ‘Have you lost your mind? Are you talking to me?’
“It sums up this journey for me. I’ve been very blessed,” added Moyer-Gleich. “I just try to take it in stride. But if I’m given an opportunity, I’ll just prepare for it the best I can. For me, it’s worked out pretty well. It’s pretty incredible. But I like to hear it said. I’m an NBA referee.”
There’s an old adage that goes something like this: ‘Those who can’t play, either coach or officiate.’ It would seem that Moyer-Gleich’s experience and love for the game have helped get her to this point of her unexpected career, but make no mistakes about the fact that her job is a difficult one.
It has also kept her connected to the game she loves.
“When I graduated from college, I was trying to figure out where I was, in terms of school,” said Moyer-Gleich, who majored in biology at Millersville and minored in coaching. “I was thinking, ‘If I’m not going to medical school, I have to figure out what I’m going to do.’ I thought maybe I could coach. But officiating took over my life. I caught the bug.
“They’re (NBA players) incredble,” Moyer-Gleich added. “It’s one thing to see them on TV. It’s one thing to see them in an arena. But it’s a whole other thing to see them when you can reach out and touch them. They’re so strong. They’re so fast. The game has evolved so much. They are the best athletes in the world, across any sport. But at the end of the day, they’re great people. A lot of these players are great individuals.”
Working in three-person crews, NBA-officiating is also a team sport. Each referee is responsbile for a section of the court and the action that goes on within it.
Officials are trained to trust their eyes and look for specific infractions, as opposed to watching the entire game all at once.
“It boils down to mechanics,” said Moyer-Gleich. “The court is divided into three section. You break it down. It’s not like you’re refereeing ten people at one time. When I go out, I want to watch my own primary area. Anything that illegal that happens there, that’s my responsibility. And there are always two or three points of reference.
“We’re trained by video assessment and breaking down plays,” continued Moyer-Gleich. “There’s learning tools for us to calibrate. In the heat of the moment, there’s split-hair decisions you’ve got to make quickly. What we’re taught is that the longer you can focus on a defender, the more likely you’ll be able to see what he’s doing. We’re trained to sequence with our eyes. It gives you the ability to see an entire play.”
Throughout her meteoric rise to officiating stardom, Moyer-Gleich has remained poised and humble. That is quite an accomplishment in itself, given the fact that she is accutely aware of what she is doing and where she is doing it.
“I never really thought about it that way,” said Moyer-Gleich, to the notion that her rise to the top of her sporting profession rivals that of any of the professional and Olympic athletes that Lebanon County has ever produced. “It’s hard to believe, I know. To be mentioned with those guys is a huge honor. I take a lot of pride in the work I do, but there’s still some things I’m striving for within the league. It’s been a difficult journey.
“Just a couple of years ago, if you would’ve told me I was going to be an NBA referee, I would’ve said, ‘You’re out of your mind’,” Moyer-Gleich continued. “It’s amazing how things have changed. Some day, I’d like to be a female crew chief. Maybe I’d like to be the first female to referee the finals. I’m addicted to this new career. I hope this is my career for the next 25 years.”