Sarah Thomas empowers women through sports

By Jaylie Dice, photographer.

UNIVERSITY CENTER – Sarah Thomas, the first full-time female NFL referee, visited Delta College Feb. 7 as a part of the 19th annual President’s Speaker Series.

Thomas spoke to the audience about her life’s journey and love of sports. Thomas also shared what set her apart from other athletes, which led to her receiving a full-ride scholarship for basketball and academics at the University of Mobile in Alabama.

“My message to those of you still in college: It wasn’t that I missed the call, got the call right, worked every play the right way, but it was how I carried myself on the field. The field presence that I had; to have confidence when I’m going in to talk or address something. Not to be overpowering, but just my field presence, they said, is what separated me,” says Thomas.

Becoming an official referee for the National Football League in 2015 earned Thomas a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Her hard work, dedication, years of experience and love of sports brought her to this groundbreaking position where she can be an inspiration for young females aspiring to be in the same field.

“I do this because I love it, and when you go through life doing something because you love it, the recognition comes because people see it in your work ethic. Then you’re not going to be proving anyone wrong because you believe in yourself and you know you’re there for the right reason,” says Thomas.

By sharing words of empowerment from her experience in a male-dominated industry, Thomas stresses that whatever you do, you have to do it for you – not the recognition you may gain.

“What I say – especially to women or minorities – is that if there is an issue, it’s not with the woman, it’s usually with the insecure person you’re having to deal with. So just understand, don’t do it for the recognition. Do it for the right reasons,” says Thomas.

Thomas stresses the importance of maintaining pride while overcoming obstructions and avoiding bridges that could be unnecessarily burned along the way. Thomas also emphasized the importance of working hard in life to achieve your goals.

“If you believe in yourself, and if you’re doing it because you love it, not for the recognition, not to prove anyone wrong, but having a good attitude and putting in the work, then you can be successful. I’m here to tell you: Experience is irreplaceable, you cannot put a dollar sign on experience. You do yourself a good service by starting at the bottom and working your way up, so be proud of the situation,” says Thomas.

Alexis Gemmell, 19, thought Thomas was an inspirational speaker and enjoyed learning about her experience as a female in the sports industry.

“I thought Sarah Thomas did a really great job. She definitely showed that there’s a difference between men and women striving,” says Gemmell.

There were more than a few Delta students who attended and had the message resonate with them, and Thomas left the audience with one final thought as she concluded her speech.

“If my story or my journey can empower anybody to do what they want to do, regardless of their gender, their age, their race, their social background, then that is more meaningful to me than anything,” says Thomas.

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