Life List: Become a College Football Ref
SPECIAL OFFER: - Limited Time Only!
(The ad below will not display on your printed page)


Life List: Become a College Football Ref

Write it down. Make it happen. Live your dream. Sarah Thomas' life list.
Sarah Thomas

Brandon, Mississippi
Age 35
Married, 2 boys
Pharmaceutical representative

My Goals

Become a college football ref
Go on safari
Raft the Grand Canyon

My Plan

My mother says that as a kid I was always on a field or a court playing basketball, baseball, whatever. But I loved football the best. When I was 23 my older brother told me he was going to train to be a referee. My first question was, "Can girls do that?"

I went to a referees' meeting and realized I didn't know as much about the sport as I thought I did. I didn't know how to speak football. They use all these abbreviations, like "DPI" for defensive pass interference, and I kept thinking, "What's that?"

But I kept at it. In my first year I officiated Pee Wee ball. The kids were so cute and I picked up so much. Then I became the first woman referee in the high school football association for the state of Mississippi. I reffed for 10 years but didn't think I would ever go to the college level because my family is my priority and Friday nights were theirs. But in 2006 I made a tough call working a high school state championship game and a scout saw it. He put me in touch with officials for Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division 1-A). Nine months later I was hired as an alternate official. This year I will be a line judge for the full season.

What I Learned

I love everything about reffing at this level: the kids, the crowds, the seriousness of managing the game.

It takes endurance -- in Houston you have to go four quarters in 100-degree heat -- so I exercise a lot. I've lost 20 pounds since I started officiating! And I've gotten to spend more time with my family. Now that I travel quite a bit my husband and kids often get to come with me. I'm not so crazy about the uniforms, though. Those white pants are made for men; they're huge in the waist but tight in the hips. They're hideous.

Being an NFL official is my new goal. In fact, I've already officiated at a New Orleans Saints scrimmage. People used to think that it would be impossible for a woman to break into this business. But I've learned that if you keep working and stay disciplined and never take anything for granted, you'll be rewarded.


Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, September 2009.