Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Calling the Shots Three-Sport Refs Work Hard to Cover Fields

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Calling the Shots Three-Sport Refs Work Hard to Cover Fields

Article excerpt

For Mary Jane Mellott, bolting from Greensburg to Mt. Lebanon through rush hour traffic might not be the most glamorous way to spend an evening, and by the time she gets home to her three children, her feet hurt. Her knees hurt. Her back hurts.

But that's all worth it for moments like the one she experienced in March when she was the lead official for the PIAA Class AAAA girls basketball championship.

These days, it's impressive to see a three-sport athlete at the high school level. They might not realize how much they have in common with three-sport officials like Mellott.

"This is what I do," she said last week between lacrosse games. "I'm a mom and I'm a sports official."

Mellott, 35, may be on the upper end of go-getters in her line of work, and she devotes much of her life to it. But many others officiate on the side and still somehow find the time to wear several different hats in several different sports.

"We have a lot of people who do two. A good bit do three, and that's about it," said Bill Sinning, the WPIAL's male officials representative. "There's one guy who does seven."

Mark Emmerling doesn't try to officiate seven sports, but he has refereed hulking athletic specimens on the football field, not to mention meaningful showdowns on the basketball court. But he tries to treat those opportunities with the same respect he does for a middle school lacrosse game.

"To the kids who are playing it, it's all pretty much the same," he said. "You have to have the integrity of a professional no matter what the level or sport it is. You have to try to remember it's big for somebody."

Emmerling, 55, is a physical education teacher at Burrell High School who sees officiating as an extension of his day job. But there's no doubt that he pours countless hours into his after-school craft as well. He gets a bit of a break in the summer, but even then he's working weekend basketball tournaments or lacrosse camps.

Experienced officials might be able to make it look easy, but jumping from sport to sport, season to season, is as much of a mental grind as it is physical. Mellott, who does field hockey, basketball and lacrosse, remembers getting an official she recruited for lacrosse to try basketball. …

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