Skyla Sisco Goes From Griz to Zebra


Me: “A Guest Blog, sure, about what?”

Krista: “Whatever….. you, sports, something people don’t know about you.”

Me: “Well, according to my friends, I can’t publicly admit I’m a Broncos fan AND a Jazz fan. How about officiating?”

Krista: “You were a referee?”

Me: “Kind of.”

Krista: “Perfect.”

If you are willing to date your tenure in Missoula and admit you’ve seen me play in my college days, you would agree that I was definitely the passionate, competitive type. I played with emotion and heart and, though I think a lot of people appreciated the spirit, I guarantee the referees were not part of that crowd.


Skyla's basketball card from her Lady Griz playing days.

I’m still certain I only committed perhaps four or five legitimate fouls in my career as a Lady Griz, but upon graduating, I had this aching suspicion that perhaps a self-imposed penance of officiating was in order. Let’s call it karma. The idea was one year of service for every one year of disservice, so to speak. Hence, a four-year stint was warranted.

So a couple of years out of my playing days and a couple of years into coaching, I signed up with the MOA for my public service sentence. In hindsight, though it was not easy by any means, it’s hard to consider it “punishment” when you’re running around a gym, watching a sport you love, AND getting paid, all in the name of paying your debt back to society. Regardless, walking the proverbial mile in another’s shoe (more like running, and you have no subs) taught me a lot about the sport (like the 50% of rules I hadn’t even heard of) and was truly amazed at the experience from the other side.

First of all – the cold hard facts about being a referee: The moment you dawn the zebra attire you simply lose your status as a human. You are granted no human error and certainly are not treated with everyday human manners.

Imagine walking down the aisle in the grocery store, reaching for your staple Lucky Charms and someone from the far end of the aisle yells at you in their fiercest, angry voice “My Grandma could have picked a better cereal than that!” That’s reffing. No matter your call, it’s wrong and even if it goes in a team’s favor, you don’t hear, “Great call, ref!” It’s more like, “Finally! Even a blind squirrel finds a nut eventually!”

Skyla (front row, center) with the 1995 Olympic Festival team.

You never get it right. You just don’t. And it doesn’t matter who you are (or used to be). In fact, it’s likely worse if you’re somewhat identifiable in the community because then the crowd knows your name! Case in point, from heckler at a Junior High game my first year: “Hey Sisco, how can you be that good of a player and THAT bad of a ref?!” (At least he called me a good player?)

But here’s the deal: I’m sure I wasn’t the best ref on the planet, but the fact, is the crowd was (and is) wrong – a lot. Passionately and egregiously wrong! For example, contrary to popular crowd belief, over and back is only a legitimate call when three points (ball and two feet) cross over the line and then one point goes back over. Yet, the dribbler hovers awkwardly anywhere near midcourt and the harmonious roar of boos begin!

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that part of the sixth man’s job is to make noise, fluster the opposing team, and, in general, give the officiating crew reason to hesitate a bit when making a call against the home team. I just think it can be done with less anger and more comedy. (Or maybe I’m getting really soft in my old age.)

Not that you’ve asked for it, but here’s my opinion on being a good fan of the game (and yes, I’m currently working on this as well). Passion and comedy are great, meanness is, well, mean. It turns out that officials are actually humans too, just incredibly thick-skinned ones. We already have the best fans in the world in Missoula, but let’s never drift to the negative world of fan bases that you see nearly everywhere today.

Officials appreciate a little humor and good spirited ribbing, so passionately heckle away, just keep it less personal and more comedic. And should you find yourself being a little harsh, I would recommend giving it a try – it’s, um, humbling.


Want more behind-the-scenes action from the Lady Griz? Check out other posts from Krista Redpath Pyron and more players: Once a Lady Griz, Always a Lady Griz, Reintroducing Shannon Cate, and Lady Griz Tradition: Some Get to Wear It.

   Visit the All Things Lady Griz archive.


Skyla played basketball for the Lady Griz from 1993-1998 and went on to play professionally in Luxembourg and Belgium. She currently works in the graphic design/media industry in Missoula. In her free time, she enjoys anything outdoors from gardening to backcountry skiing and spending time with her significant other, Michael Faris.