On January 19 when the NFL announced the names of the #SBLV Crew—the team that will be officiating the 2021 Super Bowl— I read, heard and discussed something I have never heard before: excitement about a referee. I have lived my entire life in appreciation of "the zebra" but it would be hard to find a sizable group that shares my enthusiasm. That is, until Sarah Thompson made history as the first woman to officiate the Super Bowl.
Thomas, who will work as the game's down judge has made history before. She was not only the first woman to officiate a major collegiate football game, including a bowl game, she is the first full-time female official in NFL history. In 2019, she officiated in an NFL playoff game and when asked about the upgrade this season, she said, “Being granted the honor of working a Super Bowl means you finished top of your position, If you get the call to work a Super Bowl, that’s awesome. But just being selected for it, can’t say it was a goal. My goal is just to be No. 1 in my position.” (Tampa Bay Times) Thomas' reputation speaks for itself. She is respected throughout the league and in particular by her fellow crew members.
There is plenty online for anyone who is interested to discover and learn about the 47-year old wife, mom, and former college athlete. And, I know many people will but my hope is that the excitement she generates, will only encourage young women and young men to seriously consider participation in sports through officiating.
At least once a week, I get an email for the NFHS Network encouraging and reminding those in athletics to spread the word, invite people to consider, assist in the process. Sarah! We need you!
As a high school coach, you’re making a difference in the lives of teenagers on a daily basis. Thank you!
As you probably know, there is a shortage of high school officials in your state. In some areas, the shortage is critical. As a well-connected and highly respected coach, you’re uniquely qualified to help us recruit someone who can make an official difference in the lives of our students—just like you do every day. All they have to do is become a high school official.
To be an official means you have thick skin. You must be resilient and remain calm under pressure. You cannot take things too personally. You must always keep learning and striving to do your best. You must take the satisfaction in knowing the usage of your gifts and talents makes a difference and, thanks to Sarah Thompson you might also know, you don't need to be a man to participate on the highest level. I hope her example will inspire countless others to consider the valuable role a referee plays in athletics
As suggested by NFHS Network, let me share the tweet I ought to offer:
As a coach, I’m making a difference in the lives of teens. You can make a difference too by becoming a high school official! Whether you’re a former athlete or an enthusiastic fan, click below to start officiating the sports you love. #BecomeAnOfficial.