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More women make it official on the sidelines

Jenifer Calhoun is leading the charge for more female officials after being the only woman in the Central Texas chapter.

LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY, Texas — Penalties. Whistles. Fourth downs. High school football in Texas is back, but the games could not go on without one group in stripes.

"I’ll be walking on the field and I’ll hear, 'It’s a woman. It’s a woman. It’s a woman.' So, that in itself is intimidating," Jenifer Calhoun, a TASO football official, said. 

Calhoun is a member of the Texas Association of Sports Officials as the only female football officiator in the Central Texas chapter. 

"I get tired of being the only one," Calhoun said. "I got to work the Big 12 Championship last year, one of the biggest games of college football, and I want other sports enthusiastic women to have these same experiences." 

With the current referee shortage in Texas, Calhoun is involved in launching a program to get more women into officiating called Women Officials Working (WOW).

"We’ve created this space for you through training, mentorship and education focused directly at women to get you into the world of sports officiating," Calhoun explained. "I mean, who doesn’t love the front row seat to the biggest games in Texas sports?”

In her fourth year officiating football, every game is a learning experience and a skill that takes time. 

"Especially in the beginning, you’re not good, it’s inevitable," Calhoun said. "So, to kind of grow and develop you have to see your own potential even when you have those games where maybe even anybody else doesn't and know that you can stick with it and get better." 

Calhoun remembers the first time she threw on her polo and stood on the field. She was the only woman in the Central Texas chapter to rep the stripes on the sideline.

"It was kind of intimidating, you’re getting there and it’s a room full of men," Calhoun said. "You’re not just a rookie, you’re a woman."

The other men Calhoun works with have taken her in with open arms. 

“What’s really great is they’ve all been really welcoming, they’re my brothers on the field," Calhoun said. 

The WOW program is the first step towards getting more women calling the game.

“Women sports are growing and the officiating area should evolve in the same manner," Calhoun said.

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