When Christina Snead first heard she was about to make North Carolina High School Athletic Association history as the first female to officiate a football state championship game, she wasn’t able to celebrate the news the way she wanted.
“I actually wanted to a do a cartwheel,’’ the 41-year-old graduate of Cape Fear High School said. “I couldn’t. I was at school.’’
The school she’s referring to is Fayetteville State University, where she teaches health and wellness, first aid, CPR and swimming. She’s also doing work there on a degree in accounting.
This is her third year working as a high school football official, but her love for the game goes back much further.
“I always enjoyed it growing up,’’ she said. “I volunteered around Fayetteville State, traveled with the team and started doing rec ball and moved up gradually. I wanted to be around it all the time.’’
She played for six years with Cape Fear Thunder, a semi-pro women’s team, seeing action at running back and quarterback.
Friends who recognized her love for the sport urged her to become a high school official, but she quickly realized her perspective toward football had to change.
“When you become an official, you have to see what’s right,’’ she said. “There’s a lot more perspective you have to look at when officiating versus playing the game.’’
Before calling this year’s state 2AA championship game at Kenan Stadium between East Dublin and Hibriten in December, Snead called games in the state playoffs. Tony Haire was the head of the officiating crew during Snead’s run to the finals and the title game.
“I don’t know of any situations where there was a problem with a coach or issues with players that created a problem,’’ Haire said of his game experience with Snead. “Everything was pretty smooth on her side of the field.’’
Snead’s position as an official was what’s now known as down judge. She oversaw operations of the chain crew and was responsible for calls on the line of scrimmage as well as plays run to her side of the field.
With a national shortage of officials a growing problem, Haire said it’s important to get qualified women like Snead involved in the officiating program. “Over 99 percent of officials are men,’’ he said. “If we can get more women involved in officiating as a whole, and definitely in football, it would ease the shortage we’re in.’’
Neil Buie, regional supervisor of football officials for the Cape Fear region, agrees. He added that Snead’s selection to call the state title game wasn’t some gimmick to spotlight female officials. She was picked because she was deserving of the honor.
“She did an excellent job in the state championship and throughout the playoffs,’’ Buie said.
He added that the barrier of women serving as officials for traditionally male sports is no longer there. “It comes down to a mindset of I enjoy sports and being around young people,’’ he said. “I enjoy giving back and want to be part of it.’’
Snead feels the same way. “I want any female to know nothing is impossible,’’ she said. “If there’s something they want to do in their lifetime, go for it.