The Huddle

Sarah Thomas Set to Shatter the Next Glass Ceiling of Sports

Posted: 08-06-2013 | Categories: Football, Officials

The glass ceiling. We see it at all levels of just about every industry in our society. The world of sports is no exception. Sarah Thomas, however, is ready to shatter one: that of NFL officiating.

Thomas, a 39-year-old mother of two from Mississippi, is no stranger to glass ceilings. In 2007, she became the first woman to officiate an NCAA football game. Two years later, she became the first woman to officiate a collegiate bowl game in the 2009 Little Caesar’s Bowl.As a young adult, Thomas’ brother began his journey to become a football official. Before his first meeting, Thomas asked him if girls could do that. Three years later, she presided over her first varsity football game as a high school official.

Thomas is now considered a finalist in the NFL Officiating Development Program, which identifies and strengthens top-level officials with NFL potential. Last week, she worked with the New Orleans Saints during one of their practices as part of the program. If she successfully completes the program with numerous interviews and background checks, she would become the first full-time, permanent female official in the NFL’s organization. In an interview with the Associated Press, an NFL representative commented that 2014 could be the year of a potential debut for Thomas.

The transition for officials from college football to professional football is similar to that of the evolution of athletes themselves. According to Thomas, "The speed, yes, is there…. These are just phenomenal athletes on both sides of the ball. The game has a tendency to slow down the most snaps you get and repetition. So, hopefully, the more snaps I get, things will start slowing down a little bit."

The story of Sarah Thomas serves as a reminder that anything is possible with skill, hard work and perseverance. Each glass ceiling shattered is a step forward and paves the way for future generations to follow in pursuing their dreams. The LHSAA encourages all student-athletes to never give up even when times are tough and things seem impossible or too difficult. As Vince Lombardi said, “Success is like anything worthwhile. It has a price. You have to pay the price to win and you have to pay the price to get to the point where success is possible. Most important, you must pay the price to stay there.”

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