Although she won’t actually compete at the Olympics, Nashville native Felicia Grinter will have a close-up view of those who do.
Grinter, a 1987 graduate of Glencliff High, will be a women’s basketball referee at the London Games, which open later this week. She will be the only American among those who will blow the whistle during women’s basketball contests.
At Glencliff, Grinter played volleyball (two years) and basketball (four years) for coach Glenn Falls. She also played softball as a centerfielder for Roy Singleton and ran track for Roosevelt Sanders.
She was all-city at least one year in all four sports.
“Felicia is one of the very few girls who graduated from Glencliff who lettered in four sports and excelled in all of them,” Falls, who recently retired from coaching, said. “It is no surprise to me that she was named as an official for the Olympics where she has reached the highest level of her profession.
“She was someone who was going to be successful in whatever she chose to do because of her work ethic. She wanted to be the best at whatever endeavor she chose.”
Falls said it was Grinter who served out the match clinching point in Glencliff’s state volleyball finals win over Bradley Central in 1986, the Colts’ lone title in that sport.
“She had forgotten that, but I remember it vividly,” he said. “Her philosophy was I’m going to be the best at what I’m doing, and if I’m not the best, then I’m going to be one of the best.”
Grinter ran the 400 and the relays for Sanders, who later became the school’s AD, then principal and is currently the AD for Nashville Metro Public Schools.
“The first time she ran the 400, she pushed herself hard and won the race. She fell over on the grass and said, ‘That’s the last time I’m ever running that race,’ although she ran many more.” Sanders said. “At that point, I knew I had something special in Felicia because she was someone who was going to give everything she had every race.”
Grinter focused on basketball in college and was a star point guard at Volunteer State in Gallatin. There she enrolled in a basketball officiating class because she needed a credit in health and PE. During those classes, the proverbial light bulb went off in her head.
She called high school games for the first three years of her career as a referee then, beginning in 1994, started to call Ohio Valley Conference contests. Her first action as a referee for international competitions came seven years ago and along the way she has worked for major college conference, the WNBA and the NBA Developmental League. She also has worked three of the last four Women’s Final Fours.
“This is definitely the highest point of my career,” Grinter, 43, told the blackamericaweb.com web site. “It’s been a blessing. All I could do was holler when I found out and give blessings to the Lord above for the path He has led me on.”
It was a recommendation by Charles Watkins, a long-time official who was among the first black referees to work a full schedule in the SEC, that started her on he path to becoming a referee. He spoke to Grinter’s class at Vol State during which time he had class members come on the floor and go through the mechanics.
“I saw something in her that was uniquely different,” he told the website. “The fact that she was so coachable made it a joy working with her. I never had to tell her to do anything more than once.”
• John Filson has been named girls basketball coach and Doug Kiel has been named the boys basketball coach at Glencliff.
• Roy Wolf Gholson has been named the girls basketball coach at Hillwood High School.
• Jarrett Jones has been named the boys head basketball coach at Antioch High School.