Maripier Malo’s mission has always been clear: inspire others.
Whether it’s on the basketball court or in the classroom, the 37-year-old carries this philosophy with her in everything she does.
“I want to be an energy giver and inspire other people in my everyday life – that’s my motto,” Malo said.
Currently, Malo, known to colleagues, friends and basketball as “MP”, works as a full-time physical education teacher at Collège Jean-Eudes and is both the director of their basketball program and head coach. During her off-time, she also works as a referee at the U SPORTS and CCAA level and receives assignments to FIBA International competitions as one of 15 FIBA licensed officials in Canada. She looks for any opportunity to immerse herself in the game.
“I am truly passionate about the game of basketball,” she said. “[I remember] I was five years old and I had a hoop in my driveway and I was just playing ball imagining myself on TV – just doing the fade away.”
Malo began playing basketball competitively in high school. At the same time, she took an interest in refereeing. But between her studies and time on the court, she didn’t have room in her schedule to pursue officiating.
“I was playing full-time, but I always had that [officiating] in the back of my mind,” Malo explained.
Following high school, she went on to play at the CEGEP level with Collège Montmorency in Laval, Québec. During her time there, she helped lead Montmorency to two national championships and was recruited by St. Bonaventure University – a NCAA Division 1 basketball program in Allegany, New York.
After a successful playing career, Malo decided it was time to finally pursue her dream of working as an official. She listened to the voice in the back of her head and registered for her first officials training in 2008.
“I just went to the class and got into officiating and I fell in love,” she explained. “I was finding the same kind of traits that were driving me as an athlete in the officiating world.”
She spent the next three years learning the art of officiating when she was invited to attend a FIBA Americas referee clinic in South America in 2011. This changed everything.
“I was just going there for an experience, I didn’t know better,” Malo said. “When I got out of this opportunity, they recommended to Canada Basketball that I should be considered for a FIBA license.”
She quickly went from volunteering as a referee to representing Canada at the highest-level. As a FIBA certified official for the past decade, she’s had the opportunity to officiate at numerous FIBA competitions, including FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018, FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup 2019, FIBA Women's AmeriCup 2019, and most recently at the FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2020 in Bourges, France.
“Every year now I have the opportunity to represent Canada,” she explained. “It’s such a privilege, I dreamed about it as a little girl – obviously as an athlete – but now being able to do it as an official, it’s the exact same feeling.”
“It’s more than myself, it’s my mentors, it’s the people that I want to inspire, the people that helped me.”
Malo recalls first being inspired by her gym teacher in elementary school and high school, France St-Louis. She sat there in awe as she watched St-Louis, an Olympic hockey player for Canada’s national team, knowing she wanted to be just like her one day.
“She was one of the only women in a man’s world and she opened so many doors,” Malo said. “And I was like okay, I can do it too, it’s possible.”
Currently, just 18% of FIBA officials are female making Malo one of only a small group of women that hold a FIBA license worldwide.
“I’m very fortunate that some trailblazers of the last couple of years, the last decade, kind of paved the way… the doors were opened and the only thing we had to do was push and shine to the best of our abilities.”
Malo, too, has smashed the glass ceiling for many. In 2020, she became the first woman to officiate in a U SPORTS Men’s National Championship gold medal game.
While she was the first woman to ever accomplish such a feat, she saw it as any other game. “I felt like I belonged there… I am an official, I’m no different than anyone else. I can referee, I can do the job on the floor and I never felt that it was something different."
Next, Malo will look to inspire at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this summer. She was recently selected as one of three Canadians who were nominated to officiate at the Games – the only Canadian female.
“I’m very excited and honoured to be nominated to the Tokyo Olympics, it’s a dream come true… I am so grateful, and I will work hard to prepare and make the best of this amazing opportunity,” she said.
While she’s there, she hopes to inspire the next generation of women to follow their dreams.
“Hopefully I can be a France St-Louis for another girl or another woman,” she said. “I hope to inspire others to follow their heart, invest themselves into something they love, work hard with consistency and resilience, and most of all to show that anything is possible.”