PORTLAND, Ore. — Jeana Fisher is in her 14th season as a football official. She started out playing the game, then injuries forced her to make the change to officiating.
“I feel so fortunate to have the outlet to be able to still be on the field with everybody — the camaraderie and all that as an official,” Fisher said before she officiated a Portland Fighting Shockwave game.
Fisher would like to see more female officials. During her time on the field, she's seen about a half dozen. She says they come and go just like many other referees.
“If I can implore any lady or man to get off the couch, come on out, it's a great time,” she said.
But it's not just female officials that the Portland Football Officials Association is looking for. They are in a dire situation.
Rob Fuller has been an official for more than two decades, and is one of the association's lead trainers.
“As of now, we're short about 50 [officials] from where we normally are, and that's a holdover from COVID,” said Fuller.
The shortage could create issues for fall football. Officials might have to do what they call "double dip" — work a freshman game at four o’clock, sit down for about 15 minutes and then go out and officiate a varsity game. The PFOA might also have to go deeper into their roster and use less experienced officials in big games, and some games might be moved to Saturdays.
Every summer the process starts for new officials. The PFOA holds a camp, then weekly classes for officials. In six weeks they'll have you ready to officiate youth and junior varsity games.
“Being an official is like nothing you've ever done before," said Fuller. "You've got the best seat in the house, yet you have to train yourself not to be a fan, not to be an observer, but to be an official.”