Nelson County native Ramonia Vest always has been around the game of basketball.

She’s been playing the sport since she was a child, or, as she puts it, “basically all my life.” Then, as an adult, she took on coaching jobs in recreation leagues and was an assistant for the Nelson County High School varsity girls team.

Now, she’s using her experience and knowledge of the game in another way. Vest currently works as a referee in the Virginia High School League.

“It’s just been a desire I have: playing [basketball], teaching it, teaching the fundamentals of it and helping kids out that are struggling with it. I just enjoy doing that,” Vest said.

While many people may assume the hardest part of being a ref is dealing with angry coaches or fans, Vest said she hasn’t run into any such problems. Instead, she said, the most challenging part is understanding she has a job to do on the court.

She has to call the travels, fouls and double dribbles, and it can be hard for her to not go into coaching mode.

“I’m so passionate about the sport, and being out there seeing some kids do some stuff, I just want to go over to them and tell them, ‘This is how you should do it. Don’t do it this way,’” she said. “But I can’t do that.”

Even though she can’t demonstrate techniques like the proper shooting form during the game, though, she tries to relish the moments she has to explain to kids why she called something so they can improve.

Vest hopes in the near future she can move up through the ranks and eventually become a Division I referee.

In addition to working full time and refereeing six to nine games per week, Vest also is taking online classes as she pursues a master’s degree.

On top of the desire to make it to the Division I level as a referee, she has a desire to use that master’s to find a job in a Central Virginia school system, where she can work with special education students and also find a basketball coaching position.

In the offseason for high school basketball, Vest remains involved with the sport by organizing the annual “Keep Hope Alive” tournament. As an aunt to Alexis Murphy, who disappeared in Lovingston in August 2013, she believes it’s important to keep Alexis’ memory alive.

Randy Allen Taylor, who was convicted of abducting and murdering Murphy, was sentenced to two life sentences in July 2014.

Proceeds from the tournament all benefit the Alexis Murphy scholarship fund.