TORRINGTON – The day and time are etched in Mia Barbieri’s mind –
Tuesday, March 14, 5:41 p.m. The phone rang and on the end was David
Grossman the CIAC’s state tournament girls basketball official assigner
with an invitation. Do you want to officiate the Class S girls
championship game between Northwest Catholic and Kolbe Cathedral?
It was like asking someone if they want to win the lottery. Barbieri
embraced the opportunity.
“It was an overwhelming feeling of being humbled and elated,” Barbieri
said still in the glow of the experience. “I was fortunate to have
earned a spot on the Litchfield County Board 7 state tournament
On the big day, March 18, Barbieri soaked the honor in.
“I just said wow. I was given the pass, the CIAC lanyard and it was real
now,” Barbieri said. “I had spent the last four years observing all the
games, networking, watching officials, getting to see what officials do
and I felt I was officially official. I walked out there for the game
and just focused on enjoying the moment. After that it was down to
Barbieri officiated with two veteran officials, Tom Santos and Ed
Alicea, both of whom she had worked with in the past, and was pleased
with the way the game went which was won by Northwest, 74-65.
“We didn’t impact the game which is what you want,” Barbieri said. “The
second half was more competitive and we wanted to go unnoticed.”
Officiating a state championship game is to officials what playing for a
state title is to players. It is the pinnacle, the ultimate goal on a
high school level. And for Barbieri, a 26-year-old Torrington resident,
it is off the chart impressive.
Youthful and a referee for a relatively short period of seven seasons,
just four on a varsity level, it has been a meteoric rise for Barbieri
whose passion for the profession knows no bounds. If the general thought
on high school officials is one of men and women who like the sport and
want to stay involved while making some extra money, exclude Barbieri
from that idea or at least know that there is so much more to her
On the average it takes officials four to five years to get assigned to
regular high school varsity games, state tournament games and a
championship game much longer if ever. Barbieri was doing varsity games
at the end of her second season in officiating.
“I’ve put so much work into the last seven seasons. I think doing a
final was evidence of that hard work,” said Barbieri, a former player
for Torrington High and King’s College in Pennsylvania.
Barbieri’s season has never ended in March after the last games. It is a
“During the regular season and off-season I’ve attended 19 camps in the
last six seasons in Connecticut, Boston, Rhode Island, New Jersey and
Pennsylvania,” Barbieri said. “I’ve taken 5-6 hours to attend weekend
camps and did six camps last year.”
Barbieri has done Beginner Camps that address everything from court
positioning and game management to Varsity Officiating camps and
Continuing Education camps that work on aspects of the game such as
rules interpretation where she has been ranked No. 1 the last two years.
“Now a lot of it is fine tuning,” Barbieri said. “I compare it to like
AAU players who work on their craft in the off-season.”
Barbieri’s rapid rise goes beyond the hard work. Her desire to officiate
to continually get better at it has been fueled by a strong mentor
system. Long-time and big-time names in the business have helped
nurture her along. Bob Ferrarotti, Charlie Harbach, Mike Kersten, Jimmy
Lariccia, all area veterans with the whistle have helped her with
Ted Zaloski and Dick Kulmann have worked with her on game management.
Kulmann spotted her in 2017 while working a middle school game in
Watertown during her second year officiating. He connected her to Maggie
Tieman and Karen Robertson (now Preato), area officials who have risen
high in the ranks of women’s college basketball games, officiating the
best in the Division I business like UConn and South Carolina.
“I learned you never know who is watching,” Barbieri said. “Mr. Kulmann
took me under his wing and got me involved with Maggie and Karen. In
2018 I got invited to watch Maggie do games at Central Connecticut and
UConn. I have had less contact with Karen. Maggie has been a mentor.”
The ever zealous Barbieri has begun to expand the scope of her
officiating which included 100 games this past season. She has started
getting into men’s games on the college level doing 15-17 games
primarily in the Massachusetts, Albany and Connecticut area that
included Division III scrimmages including St. Joe’s in West Hartford
which was No. 1 in the country for a good part of the season, collegiate
prep with schools like St. Thomas Moore and South Kent and junior
colleges like Gateway Community.
Why men’s games?
“I love boys and girls, but you can’t do both on a college level,”
Barbieri explained. “I think I can always do women, so I said why not try
the boys’ side. Three years ago I was the only woman in Connecticut
doing boys’ games. I like being a minute pioneer.”
Barbieri is not leaving the high school game anytime soon if at all but
sees doing college as another learning tool.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned (doing college games) is that Mia you
need to be more assertive,” she said. “It almost was like flipping the
switch with me with play calling and game management. It pulled it out
Barbieri does not feed off of the women aspect of officiating
particularly in the boy’s game. She has the respect of the area coaches
from the three boards she currently serves, (Board 7 – Litchfield, Board
6 – Hartford, Board 9 – Fairfield). She doesn’t see herself immersed in
being a trailblazer in a sport that has very few women officials.
“I see myself as an official rather than a female official,” Barbieri
said. “On the court I’m treated as an official not a women official.”
Mia Barbieri’s journey has just started. But early indications suggest
it will continue to take her to new heights and wherever she wants to
“I see myself as like a seedling – I came in as a bright-eyed
19-year-old seed and sprouted through the ranks,” she said.
In her own words – “I’ve found my niche.”
The probability is that you will be seeing and hearing more of Mia
Barbieri in future days and seasons.