Welcome to the website of the Ottawa Valley Board of Approved Basketball Officials!

OVBABO is the governing body for recognized basketball officials within the Ottawa Valley.

All games in the Ottawa Valley from Brockville in the south, Vankleek Hill in the east, Perth in the west and the National Capital area are officiated by members of the Ottawa Valley Board of Approved Basketball Officials.

Our partners include: OABO, CBOC, Canada Basketball, Sport Canada and FIBA.

The objective of this website is to make general information available to interested parties and to provide support services for registered members.


An Extraordinary Athlete, An Extraordinary OVBABO Referee

Heather Simpson grew up and went to high school in Windsor, Ontario, and as an accomplished athlete, played numerous sports, including basketball. Heather began her winning ways while being a member of her high school basketball team which won a WOSSA (Western Ontario Secondary School Association) championship. (see the picture below)


Windsor High School Senior Girls Basketball Team WOSSAA Champions 1954 (Heather left front holding banner)

According to Heather, she doesn’t remember a full “OFSSAA” type provincials at that point in time, so WOSSA was the highest level championship. Upon graduating from high school, she went to Western University and played many varsity sports (note: in this era, you could play more than one varsity sport at that time), including basketball, volleyball, tennis and track and field. Heather was awarded the Elfrida Bergins plaque for sport excellence, was a “letterman” and decorated athlete during her tenure at Western University.

After graduation, she became a high school physical education teacher in Windsor, London and finally, Ottawa, where she coached numerous teams, including basketball.

Heather initially started volunteer refereeing as a student in high school because they needed referees for scrimmages/practices and no one else would do it. Ian Allison, Heather’s father, had been a guard on the silver medal winning Canadian men’s Olympic basketball team in 1936, and with that pedigree, how could she not volunteer to referee?

Heather was initially certified as a basketball referee in the 1964-65 season, while living in Moncton, N.B. This was the first time she refereed for money. Between 1965 – 1968 she did not referee, as she was busy teaching and raising a family.

In 1969, after a move to Ottawa, Heather’s sister (who was a teacher at the old Laurentian High School in Ottawa) told her about a basketball referee’s
meeting. Heather went and was the only woman present at this meeting of the Ottawa Valley Board of Approved Basketball Officials (OVBABO). She was re-certified and began working as an active official.

Heather, thus began her career with the OVBABO, and refereed all levels of basketball from high school, house leagues, club and college. It was then a “different time, and a different place” in the basketball officiating world, and she felt that many of the male referees and coaches were a bit “leery” of a female basketball referee, and it should be pointed out that at this time, girls played using different rules than the boy’s

teams. “Regular” boy’s rules were not introduced to the girl’s teams until the late 1970’s, so referees earlier than that time had to learn different rules for girls and boy’s teams.

Another issue was the referee uniform. There was no female official’s uniform and the long pants were hot and uncomfortable. Heather began wearing a navy-blue tennis skirt with her jersey, and her sneakers were the smallest size men’s Chuck Taylor Converse high tops. She wore this version of her uniform from 1969 to 1997 when she finally retired, almost 30 years later.

Heather loved her time as a basketball referee. It was a way she could stay involved and give back to the basketball community that had given so much to her. And Heather had become iconic within the small basketball community in Ottawa, respected as tough but fair, and instantly recognizable in her tennis skirt and high tops. Our Ottawa basketball community, and the Ottawa Valley Board of Approved Basketball Officials in particular, are very fortunate to have such a valued trailblazer as Heather Simpson in our midst!

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