Did you know that women football fans make up 44% of the viewing audience?
Many of us have become football widows since the fall and wonder why our husbands, fathers, sons, and partners spend so much time watching a game that has zero impact on our day-to-day lives. I was one of those women for many years. But this season was different. I decided to take an interest and embrace the excitement. It was actually entertaining following the details I had overlooked for so long. Was it the sexy players that piqued my curiosity, you might ask? Nope. It was the leadership and the referees who spoke to me, business professionals I could relate to a bit more than the young, genetically gifted men on the field. I looked into the various roles held by leaders in the sport, and found much to be intrigued by.
The leadership has many roles on the field, from the quarterback (QB), who is the leader on the field, to the coaches who lead the strategy promising wins, to the referees who insure the game played safely and according to the rules.
Last year, I recall a lot of hoopla around a notable referee, Ed Hochuli, a 66-year old practicing trial attorney who loves the game. Ed began officiating youth football during law school, continuing as he progressed in his legal career. He successfully balanced it all: family, job, and passion. Enough about Ed (but if you want read more, you can do so here). After finding a new point of interest in the sport, I began to wonder why I wasn’t seeing any women as professional referees—was there a rule against hiring women?
A bit of research led me to discover that there’s no rule opposing the hiring of women. Actually, last year the NFL institued a policy called the “Rooney Rule” which opens the door and requires women to be interviewed for coaching and executive positions.
Noted women trailblazers of the NFL, Sarah Thomas is the first full-time NFL Official and Jen Welter was appointed Assistant Coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
Sarah Thomas began as the first full-time NFL official in 2015. She is an accomplished athlete, wife, and mom of three children—sons Brindley, Brady, and daughter Bailey. During the Minnesota Viking vs. Green Bay Packers game over the holiday, Thomas, who was officiating, experienced a scary collision with two players and was thought to have hit her head on the turf. As quickly as she bounced back up from the hit, she exited for a medical evaluation, after which she returned to the game for the final minutes. I recall discussing the play with my family while watching the game. We shared our concerns for the official’s wellbeing and compassion for her as a mom. We also celebrated her determination and success in a job so dominated by men.
On the heels of learning about Sarah Thomas, I met a spirited young woman who is eager to enter the world of sports journalism. Alma Frontera is determined to achieve her goals as a Sportscaster, and shared her picks for the next round of division football games. Click here for those picks.