Aug 3, 2013; Metairie, LA, USA; NFL official trainee Sarah Thomas during a scrimmage for the New Orleans Saints at the team training facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Sarah Thomas and the Difficulties of Being an NFL Referee


Sarah Thomas might be one of the first women to find themselves on NFL fields in black and white stripes. First, a disclaimer: Sarah Thomas wouldn’t be the first woman to officiate for the NFL. That honor goes to Shannon Eastin who helped the NFL out last year during the referee strike. But Sarah Thomas could be the first permanent NFL referee and that is exciting, especially considering how hard it is to be an NFL referee in the first place.

NFL referees have a lot of experience before they step onto the field. Gary Mihoces of USA Today interviewed Tim Millis, the executive director of the NFL Referees Association back during the referee strike to get a feel on how referees begin their career. Millis says that refs usually started, “on a junior high or pee-wee football field,” and that “NFL officials typically spent five to 10 years doing high schools and five to 10 years doing colleges, with about five of those at the top level.” With the training and clinics available now, referees can start in their mid 30’s “if they’re on a really fast pace.”

Thomas certainly qualifies when it comes to experience. She has spent 16 years officiating everything from grade school to a college bowl game, spending the past 8 years as an official with Conference USA. So experience is not an issue.

There are other requirements, such as a physical, a psychological evaluation and input from the college conference. Seemingly, Thomas meets all of these requirements and could become a permanent official as early as 2014. The best part about this historic event is that she is treating it as if there were no gender issue. Below is an interview of her talking about the potential of becoming a referee for the NFL.

If she can stay this cool about becoming one of the first female referees then we can expect a great official for the NFL really soon.

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