Sarah Thomas is about to tackle some major gender barriers, evening one of America’s biggest playing fields—football. The 39-year-old Brandon, Mississippi resident and mother of three is set to make history as the first permanent female ref hopeful in the NFL this upcoming season. You go, girl!
Discovered by a scout after working her way up from peewee to college-level (she was the first female to officiate an NCAA game in 2007), Thomas is currently one of the 21 official finalists in the NFL’s higher-level training pool. Oh, and did we mention she has a full-time job in pharmaceutical sales? Plus a 7-month-old? No big deal.
The mentally demanding career is not all about snap judgments or pros/fans not approving your calls (insert obnoxious booing and trash talk here)—it’s also physical! Referees have to be fit so they can keep up with the players, plus agile enough to get out of a quick running back’s (or scary linebacker’s!) way. Not a problem for Thomas. According to The New York Times, she was the first athlete at her high school to letter five times in a sport (softball) and went onto the University of Mobile on a basketball scholarship.
Confidence is another one of Thomas’ strong (striped) suits, according to the NFL’s vice president of officiating, Dean Blandino. Being a woman doesn’t make her any less qualified or capable to officiate in her eyes. “I don’t feel that it’s been harder for me because I’m a female,” she told ABC News. The only time she ever felt out of place? When she sported her uniform during her pregnancy. “The spouses of my crew made me a maternity referee shirt,” Thomas told The Times in 2009.
Thomas did not set out to break a glass ceiling; she just followed her love of the game. And for that, we applaud Thomas and wish her nothing but the best of luck. Talk about girl power if she makes the cut! As she told Bloomberg last month, “If you’re doing things because you love them, then things have a tendency to just kind of fall into place.”
Now you tell us: What are your thoughts on Sarah Thomas becoming the first female NFL referee?