Introducing Referee Lady

"Thanks Referee Lady" said the 7th grade football player as I handed him the football in preparation for kick-off. We both smiled, relieving the awkwardness of the moment. This was my first game as a football official and it was his first game with a female referee.

This was the beginning of the idea of Referee Lady. As a long time volleyball official, it was a dream of mine to be able to officiate a game with my Dad, a long time football and basketball official. So I took on learning high school football rules and on a beautiful fall day in October, the game was played.

I learned so much that day and even now, my appreciation for this opportunity runs very deep and is a highlight of my officiating career. This is how Referee Lady came about and I hope you find the information she represents useful as well as entertaining.

You Can Do This - Sports Officiating 101 Presented by Referee Lady

By Cindy C-Wilson

Sports Officiating 101 Presented by Referee Lady An overview of sports officiating for any sport. What it takes and how to enjoy your sport from a different perspective. A great book for those interested in officiating and a good review for those who are already involved in this part of the game. A quick read loaded with numerous 'words of wisdom' and a valuable training tool for all officials in any sport.

Read more and purchase here

Behind the Stripes: Stories of Your State Sports Officials

Be part of something AMAZING! Help us help others understand who we really are – more than for the few hours a week they see us officiate. This is a chance for you to tell your story. Click on the links below, fill out the form, save and email to to participate. Each state will have their own book of stories so please share this information with other officials in your state. We will post the most current book availability here once the book information is gathered, the book is written and subsequently published.

Thank you!

Behind the Stripes Chapter Submission Form
Note - If your browser does not support PDF forms download and save the form to fill out.

Here is a sample chapter for inspiration

Actually, It Is All About You…
By Cindy C-Wilson, From Referee Magazine, January 2013

As officials we have heard the mantra ‘it’s not about you.’ This is a great and applicable mantra once we are on the court/field/floor of our respective sport, but what about before we step out there? This is where it becomes All About You.

It’s all about you because you are doing your best to prepare for the game/match.

It’s all about you because you make sure you know the rules. You read the rule book and any case manual that may be available. You practice your skills at a scrimmage or in front of the mirror prior to the season to make sure your mechanics are crisp and correct. You make sure you take the appropriate test, clinic and attend meetings to catch up on the latest changes and applications.

It’s all about you to make sure you look professional and confident. Before the season you make sure you have the appropriate uniform. Make sure your uniform fits and is clean and in good repair. If you need to purchase new ones to replace the old or a different size, do it before the season begins. If it needs tailoring or altering, take care of that before the first contest.

It’s all about you because you take care of yourself physically, which means eating right, getting good rest and exercising. Exercising can be as simple as walking and as complex as hiring a personal trainer.

It’s all about you when you ensure your equipment is in good working order and you have all the right pieces - flags, a watch, cards and any other sport specific tools of the trade for your sport.

It’s all about you when you receive your assignment, accept it, check in with your team and get to the contest on time or early. It’s all about you taking responsibility and being accountable for your role in the contest.

It’s all about you when it comes time to making sure you thank those around you for allowing you to be part of the game. Family, friends and coworkers, unless they also officiate, often do not understand your passion for the game and what you do. Communicate with them and let them be part of your support team.

Once the contest begins, it is no longer about you….it now becomes “It’s NOT About You!” and that’s just fine because you know the time you spent preparing and having it be ‘All About You’ makes you be your best out on the field/court/pitch or wherever you officiate.

Two Women. Shopping? Lunch? Two Women and Four Men. Business meeting? Social event? Two Women, Four Men and a Football Game. HISTORY!

Two women and four men made up an NCAA football game officiating crew last October and made history. Although there has been a female official on other college football officiating crews, having two women was a first.

How did this happen? In an interview with Mike Burton, the Commissioner of Officials for the Northwest Football Intercollegiate Officials Association ( NFIOA) he was asked about this assignment for the Whitworth University/ Menlo College football game. Mike, who has been training football officials for more than 30 years, said “The strongest ability I look for in a good referee is communication skills. Anyone can be taught the rules of the game, but the ability to communicate clearly and calmly isn’t easily taught.” So why two women on this crew?“ Because they were the best officials for the game.” And what if the men had a problem working with women? “Then they don’t officiate.” Mike believes in putting the best officiating crew on the field, period.

Currently, Mike has only three female officials on his active collegiate roster and throughout the country there are just a few more. It is challenging for women to become officials because they often have to balance family life and work. While it is important to encourage women to become sports officials, more and more people like Mike believe an infrastructure that supports women and helps to strike a balance between life, work and officiating is the key.

One of the women on the history making officiating crew was Mary Podesta. Mary started officiating high school sports over eight years ago and has continually worked to improve her skills, mechanics and presence on the football field, no matter what level. From Pop Warner to high school to college, she has put in the time and effort it takes to advance to the college ranks.

Although Mary is one of only a handful of female referees, she has had overwhelmingly positive experiences working in this male-dominated field. Players and coaches tend to clean up their language when Mary is around and she uses the female locker room for wardrobe changes. The only issue Mary has when officiating is with the uniform. She has to purchase uniforms cut for men and take them to be altered so she can look professional.

When it comes to officiating, there is one requirement Mary says that she wouldn’t be able to do without - support. “Strong family support from spouses and friends allows women to step out of the traditional roles so that we can officiate.” In addition to family and friends, Mary has her “crew.” The crew is comprised of officials that work together as a team, providing guidance, mentoring and encouragement to each other.

Two Women. The dawning of a new era in college officiating or the natural evolution of the game? Women can and will make a difference. It will take time and involve leadership, mentoring and support from both male and female officials. Two women, three women, an all female crew? It will happen. History has been made, the novelty may still be there, but will soon wear off as more and more women become the ‘best official for the game’.

Thanks to Mike Burton and Mary Podesta and the entire crew of this game.

From the Left:
Rick Ross - Field Judge   |   Mary Podesta - Line Judge   |   John Love - Side Judge Bruce Bondi - Referee     |   Craig Lemster - Umpire        |    Cat Conti - Head Linesman   |
Jim Bruno - Back Judge


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