FELLOW OFFICIAL SPOT LIGHT IN LOCAL PAPER
Sue Rogers changed the game of officiating in a mostly male industry a little more than 21 years ago when the need for a part-time job brought her onto the basketball court as a referee.
Despite the initial challenges of her gender and petite stature, Rogers can’t see blowing the whistle on her drive any time soon.
“Where else are you going to have a job that allows flexible hours, they pay you to go to the gym and you get to travel?” Rogers asked.
A major life change challenged Rogers to find part-time employment and she needed a diversion. With a 4-year-old daughter, her schedule couldn’t be rigid. She asked her brother-in-law, who was a referee at the time, if women officiated any of the games. Rogers modestly admits being a cheerleader for seven years in her youth didn’t prepare her to be a basketball referee. Early in her career, she would referee five or six days a week. She now officiates volleyball games as well, but still works two or three basketball games weekly. She once officiated for seventh- and eighth-grader boys’ basketball in the past, but regularly officiates girls’ junior varsity basketball.
“The first time I walked into a boys’ game you could see the shock on their faces. They were warming up on the free throw line saying to each other ‘It’s a woman, it’s a woman,’” Rogers said.
“It’s a man’s world out there and it’s tough for a woman,” Rogers said. “At the time I started, it was typically men officiating. I was around basketball games for seven or eight years as a cheerleader and had never seen a female referee.”
When Rogers decided it was time to get into the game, there was only one other female referee, Linda Howard, in the fifth region. With a primarily male audience, Rogers didn’t allow any stereotype or pressure from coaches to intimidate her.
“If it gets to the point with coaches that I consider it unjust to the players and I can’t concentrate on the game,” Rogers said, “I will draw the line, call a technical and take back control of the game.”
In the beginning she had a babysitter for her daughter, but when she didn’t her daughter went to the games. Initially she set milestones for when she would give up refereeing. The milestones changed from her daughter graduating from high school, college and then when she got married. Nearing 50, Rogers jokes that as she gets older, the court’s floor get longer, but she doesn’t see retirement happening any time soon.
“I love the game and I love the activity,” Rogers said. “I will bronze those shoes when I give it up.”