DALLAS — Five female football officials from across Texas will make history Saturday.
According to the Texas Association of Sports Officials (TASO), Saturday’s Texas Six-Man Coach’s Association All-Star Game in Wichita Falls will mark the first time in Texas that a high school varsity football game will be officiated by an all-female officiating crew.
TASO is an independent organization, providing support, resources and training for Texas high school and middle school sports officials.
Crystal Cooksey of the Dallas Football Officials Association will serve as the referee. Cooksey made history earlier this year as the first female official to work a Texas high school football state title game. Cooksey served as a basketball official during college.
“Hopefully, [we're] inspiring others to get into the game, even more girls to see us and see what we do, and maybe come join us one day,” Cooksey said ahead of Saturday’s game.
Jenifer Calhoun of the Waco Football Chapter will serve as umpire. She also has experience officiating the Texas Rollergirls in Austin.
“I figured if I can take a hit from people flying off the sidelines on skates, football should be just fine,” Calhoun said.
Rachel Stepien of the Austin Football Officials Association will serve as the head line judge. She told WFAA she got into officiating “accidentally.”
“In undergrad at George Mason University, I filled out a [part-time job] form and I clicked ‘official.’ And I had no idea what that meant,” Stepien said.
Valerie McIntosh, also of the Austin Football Officials Association, will serve as back judge. She is also a girls’ lacrosse official.
“I think this is a great opportunity to show women who love football that you can actually be the third team on the field and that there's no barriers holding us back from being a part of this wonderful community,” McIntosh said.
Amy Smith of the Fort Worth Football Officials will serve as the line judge. Her husband, who is also a football official, got her interested.
“The coaches and the players tend to get thrown back when they see the female walk on the field. They're not used to that, but at the same time, they do think it's amazing. I haven't had any pushback from a coach or a player,” Smith said.
All five women told WFAA they’ve found a sense of acceptance and community in football officiating.
“Realistically, when we go out in the field, let's be real: People aren't the nicest. The stands are not always the nicest. People don't say the nicest things. So we have to be our own allies. So you're literally a family,” Calhoun said.