IN MY WORDS: Sammie Ellis, the first woman to referee a professional sport in the U.S

I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, but I moved to California when I was two years old. I grew up in Marin County and continue to call this place home to this day.

As a parent, I would spend many weekends watching each of my five children’s games. Parents were expected to either bring the players refreshments, make sure the kids' uniforms were ready to hand out. I really wasn’t into doing any of that. I was raising five kids by myself, and I didn’t have time for all that extra stuff. So, I asked the coach, “Is there something else I can do?”. The coach said “Well, you can referee if you want”. I repeated, “Referee?” and he said “Yeah, you have to go to class and learn how to do it but you could do that”. And so I did.

Over time my refereeing career began to blossom, and I had the opportunity to work in the NASL, the professional soccer league at the time. Refereeing my third professional game was a memorable one. It was the Calgary Boomers versus the San Jose Earthquakes. I came onto the field; the referees were introduced and the fans in the stadium gave me a standing ovation.

Becoming the first woman referee in the NASL was an incredible moment but it didn’t sink in right away. When you’re in the here-and-now for 90 minutes, with a bunch of players running around the field, you are completely present. When you come off the field, your adrenaline is so high, but it's a happy adrenaline because you're not focused on anything else.

I loved refereeing and I considered it a great honor. When John Davies, my mentor, asked me if I wanted to become a professional, I never had it in my mind that I was going to make a big impact. I also knew I had to be really good at my job so that I didn’t close the door on any other women who wanted to have a chance at officiating.

The San Jose Earthquakes will host Women’s Soccer Appreciation Night, Friday, August 13 when they host the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at PayPal Park. Kickoff for the match is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Fans can purchase their special event ticket here, which includes a ticket to the match, a Quakes scrunchie, and a pregame Q&A with Danielle Slaton, Sammie Ellis and Deleana Quan.