Insight, News, and Opinion by Nick Abramo
  • November 30, 2021
NFL Ref Matt Sumstine Calls Out For Women (And Men) To Learn How To Officiate

Sarah Thomas is a trailblazer for female football referees. She was the first woman to referee in the NFL and also the first to work a Super Bowl.

Females in Hawaii have an excellent opportunity to become football officials, and perhaps some day follow in the footsteps of Thomas.

Matt Sumstine, who works for the NFL as a replay official, is offering a program that gives opportunities for anyone (female or male) who wants to pursue refereeing in football.

“My intention is to make everyone more aware of the opportunities (for officiating) in all sports, particularly women because they make up a much smaller percentage in the officiating community,” said Sumstine, who is heavily involved in training referees as the officials coordinator for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association and Junior Prep sports.

Learning the craft: Some female officials began their training a few weeks ago
at a Junior Prep Sports game at Aloha Stadium. (Photo courtesy of Matt Sumstine).

Anyone who wants to be a football official, the first step is to call Sumstine at 808-927-8665 for a one-on-one conversation about your connection to sports, your level of interest in participating and the possibility of developing a schedule based on your needs.

For those who want to get started, a uniform and equipment will be ordered, with the $150 cost deducted from a participants’ game pay.

“That removes the financial barrier to entry,” Sumstine said.

New officials will work six games (during the Junior Prep Sports season that is underway now) and learn from a clinician how to make calls, with the clinician able to make corrections when needed. When the official in training feels comfortable, she (or he) will alternate snaps or series with constant coaching and feedback. Clinicians rotate so those in training learn different styles.

“The clinician will manage coaches’ questions and act as a buffer for the training official in order to maintain a comfortable environment,” Sumstine added.

After each game, clinicians report on the training officials, highlighting what was covered and what the next step will likely be as well as an evaluation of the participant’s comfortability.

When the six scheduled games with a clinician are completed, those deemed ready for a solo game will work a sixth-to-eighth grade game with an evaluator observing.

“Throughout the process, I and the clinicians are available to talk whenever coaching or guidance is needed,” Sumstine said. “We also provide access to training material in the form of a simplified and illustrated rule book and game video evaluations.”

Officials earn roughly $30 per hour for field time.

“It seems that all sports are short on qualified officials,” Sumstine said. “This process seems to be a way to ease officials in and provide a solid base of education to build on.”

Sumstine gave huge props to JPS, too.

“JPS is an innovator in the officiating world as they have agreed to the training program, even to the extent of compensating the clinicians,” he said. “Their willingness to pay competitive rates and compensate an additional official is what enables this program to be successful.”

In addition, Sumstine is in conversations with JPS leaders about starting a flag football league for girls in grades 9 through 12 that could start as early as this summer.

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