Ellen Dvorak follows father as basketball official

Photo by Doug Beaver Veteran basketball official Dan Dvorak and his daughter, Ellen, speak to youngsters about rules of the game during the girls basketball camp held at The Hill School in Pottstown recently.
Photo by Doug Beaver Campers listen to basketball offcials Dan Dvorak and his daughter, Ellen Dvorak, during the recent girls basketball camp held at The Hill School.

On the concluding day of the recent girls basketball camp at The Hill School, directors Sue Repko and her sister, Michele Dunleavy, wanted the players to learn about some of the rules of the game.

They obtained the services of Phoeniville residents Dan Dvorak and his daughter, Ellen, to speak to the young campers about rules they will face on the court as they continue to play basketball.

Dan Dvorak is a longtime referee. Ellen Dvorak, who played basketball and water polo at The Hill School, has gone on to attend Eastern University. She has been an official for a year and a half after earning her certification with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA).

The officials answered questions from the girls. They also spent extra time on certain calls that are frequent in games and often misunderstood or misinterpreted.


“I focus on what they are going to see in fouling with handchecking and under the basket to clean up some things,” said Ellen Dvorak. “I talked about three-second violations and the different look for foul shots. I talked about some offense and defense, and when the whistle blows while dribbling at the top of the key for five-second violations.”

That five-second call is made when the player makes no attempt to move toward the basket or pass off to a teammate, in the mind of the referee making the call.

“I have played basketball pretty much my whole life,” said Dvorak. “I played a year in college and now focus on my schooling in exercise and science. I am still around sports and want to keep in touch with basketball on the side. I love the game and played it for so long that I knew I wanted to do something with that.”

Dvorak currently does an internship five days per week at the Malvern Fitness Trainers, Inc., where rehabilitation is done. She has one more year of studies at Eastern before graduating with the Class of 2015.

Thus far, Ellen has officiated mostly boys and girls middle school contests. Eventually, as she gains more experience, she would like to work her way up to the high school varsity ranks. She is one of a growing number of female referees who are pursuing basketball as officials after their playing days are over.

“There are definitely a lot more women coming out,” said Dvorak. “I talked to the assigners. They are looking for younger women. They are always looking for more woman referees. It should be more popular in coming years to see more women referees.”

Ellen has worked numerous games with her father as a team combination. That has helped make her feel more comfortable while at the same learning more and more about the details involved with officiating basketball.

“We work together quite a bit during the summertime with middle school girls and boys,” she said.

These include outdoor games in Phoenixville staged by the Phoenixville Area Positive Alternatives (PAPA) league.

Another call that is quite prevalent and often times most difficult is whether it is an offensive foul (charging) or a defensive foul (blocking) when players penetrate the lane and head toward the basket.

“The charge/block call can be a tough call,” said Dvorak. “You have to make sure you are in position to make the correct call. Some people in the stands and coaches are not seeing the same view as the official so it can be a tough call to make.”

Ellen is satisfied right now as to the level she is working on as a relative newcomer and beginning official. But in time, as the regular winter season takes shape later on, she would like to move up quickly and have the chance to work some high school games.

Follow Barry Sankey on Twitter @BarryBSankey1.