Books are good sources of information, but sometimes if you can just see it being done, watch the actual process, the human brain can pick it up a little faster than – see chart, page 8.
Amanda Voss is quickly earning her stripes as one of the first women’s football referees in the Columbia Basin Football Officials Association. The first-year referee and Othello native is a quick study. When she’s not making the call, she’s walking the sidelines at varsity games taking mental notes and watching an experienced officiating crew at work. Since most first-year referees start out as a line judge, she’s able to pop off a question or two as she shadows the crew member working with the chain gang or making the call on illegal motion, illegal shifts, offsides or encroachment.
There’s a lot to take in on the fly, considerably more than the average armchair ref in the stands might see on game day. Officiating crews work together and the guys have been helpful with her questions and development, Voss said.
“I think Amanda’s our first female football referee. We’ve had some in basketball and baseball over the years, but not football,” said Dennis Duke, who has been officiating in the Columbia Basin since 1978.
“There’s so many games from middle school to varsity that we build crews on availability, but we usually start new officials at line judge, because it’s easiest to learn. That’s a good place to get started.”
Voss has always wanted to be a part of the game, and this job puts her up close and personal.
“I like being on the field and finding my way back on a varsity field of some sort is gratifying. Being a referee is on a different level than an athlete or coach, It’s still a way of giving something back,” she said. “I would say the toughest part, so far, is knowing all the rules. There’s rules for offense, there’s a new set of rules for defense. Then there’s different rules depending on the level: middle school, freshmen, JV to varsity.
“Even coaches aren’t always aware of some of the new rule changes from year to year. But it’s been a lot of fun so far.”
That’s where the shadowing on her off-nights is beneficial. She is there for the pre-game discussions among officiating crews. She’s also there at the halftime and for the post-game debriefing. So she has a chance take in the officiating work from start to finish.
They work five-man officiating crews at the Class 4A and 2A games in the area, which includes Lake Roosevelt, Wilbur, Soap Lake, Ephrata, Quincy, Othello, Moses Lake, Royal, Almira/Coulee-Hartline, Warden, Odessa and Mattawa.
Royal likes to have a five-man crew, so the school district is willing to pay for the extra crew member. Eight-man football is so fast and stretched out, sometimes it’s better to have an extra extra set of eyes on the play.
“A lot of times scheduling is about who’s available and who can go where,” said Voss, who has worked anything from middle school to varsity on Friday night. “You kind of get your feet wet with the high school because the junior high starts later. They try not to put you in too big of games right off the get-go.
“But in Week 2 I found myself on a varsity field on a Friday night.”
Her first official game was Sept. 4 and she’s been on the move up and down the Columbia Basin ever since.
So the next time you’re sitting in the stands watching a ballgame and think, “Hey, that referee throws the flag like a girl.”
You could be right.
Rodney Harwood is sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.