What started out as wanting to do more than offer just verbal gratitude to the people who choose to stand in harm’s way and provide the blanket of freedom and safety that we all live under, has grown into a vibrant program that introduces the world of sports officiating to the brave men and women standing on the front lines in our military, law enforcement agencies and fire departments across the country.
The Stars In Stripes™ program is the creation of Billy Martin and Tim Malloy two sports officials and co-founders of, “60 Seconds on Officiating™,” an educational website (Ref60.com) for basketball referees that has seen more than 130,000 visitors in over 90 countries since 2009.
“We wanted to introduce the joy of officiating to more people…
…while at the same time express our thanks to the people who run towards danger to protect others,” said Martin, “so we created a charitable 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called, ‘The Zebra Foundation’ to provide scholarships and training opportunities to these selected sports officiating candidates.”
Martin and Malloy oversee the Zebra Foundation (www.projectzebra.org) that funds the Stars In Stripes™ program, which is in its second season with five referees-in-training on full scholarship. The foundation has also partnered with companies like Salesforce.org, Cliff Keen Athletic, All Sports Officials (Newtown, PA), and various IAABO boards to outfit, train and support these scholarship recipients.
The three newest cadets, Greg Fischer, Lee Gill and Chris Moreno come out of IAABO Board 27 which provides certified basketball officials for the Eastern Massachusetts area, and will represent with distinction their military, law enforcement and first responder organizations that paved the way into the Stars In Stripes™ program.
The New England trio join New Jersey candidates, Bryant Petty (IAABO Board 196) and Greg Polanco (IAABO Board 34) in the program, and all share a love for basketball, excelled at the game as players and see officiating as a way to stay active in the game.
Their personal inner-drive and professional training will serve Fischer, Gill and Moreno well in managing the charged emotions of coaches, players and spectators.
“A big part of officiating is managing people under stressful conditions,” noted Malloy, “and the good men and women who work in these chosen professions are wired to likely excel as referees and umpires.”
The demonstrated body of work of Fischer, Lee and Moreno is not lost on the leaders of IAABO Board 27.
“We are very pleased to have Chris, Greg and Lee as a part of our referee family,” said Board 27 Executive Committee member for Middlesex County, Dan O’Neill. “I think their collective work experiences will enhance their enjoyment of officiating.”
O’Neill recognizes the critical components for officiating success in his three candidates.
“The importance of working as team under stress; trusting your partner; and enjoying the camaraderie of competition are all familiar concepts to Greg, Lee and Chris.”
Greg Fischer comes to officiating after a distinguished career in the Air Force and was a part of the historic 49th Fighter Wing and F-117A Night Hawk units.
Chris Moreno was a valued member of the Boston Police Department for 37 years and has now turned his focus to officiating where his respected people skills will undoubtedly serve him, and Board 27’s customers, quite well.
And Lee Gill will transition from basketball player and coach, to referee, and his calm demeanor as a Brookline Fire Department First Responder will certainly settle down any chaotic game situation he encounters.
Now it’s been said that,
“service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this Earth,”
and if that’s so, then Chris Moreno, Lee Gill, Greg Fischer, and countless other men and women just like them, are paid in full and are owed a debt of gratitude that we grateful recipients could never fully repay.
Martin and Malloy hope their Stars In Stripes™ program can deliver a small measure of their appreciation to the men and women who protect us and keep us free.