Sarah Thomas is currently on track to be the National Football League’s first permanent female referee. She is a finalist in their training program and there is a possibility she will be hired and on the field by 2014. Although Shannon Eastin was the first woman to officiate an NFL game, this is the first time that a woman would be hired as a full time official.
But this isn’t the first time that Thomas has broken down gender barriers in sports. In 2009, she became the first woman to officiate a college football bowl game during the Little Caesar Bowl between Ohio University and Marshall University. Thomas played basketball in college, but after college, she was kicked off of a Mississippi church-league team because they didn’t want any girls on the team. Determined to stay in sports, she decided to start officiating football.
Sarah Thomas has gotten herself noticed not only because she is a dynamic, fair, and accurate referee, but also because she is confident in what she is doing. Gerald Austin, former NFL referee and current coordinator of officials for Conference USA said of Thomas:
“Let the coaches coach the game, let the players play the game, but when there’s a call that needs to be made then have the wherewithal and courage to step up and make the call. She’s shown adeptness at knowing when you should pull the trigger.”
Thomas also works full time at a pharmaceutical company and is a mother of three, but with help from her husband, she makes time to referee and do what she loves.
The NFL is not the first professional sports league in the United States to hire a female official. The National Basketball Association has been using female referees since 1997 when Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner were first hired. Major Baseball League, however, has yet to hire a female umpire.
[Photo: Concord Monitor]