Changing the game: Meet Big Bend's first and only female crew chief

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By: Erika Fernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News
September 28, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Just two years ago, Sarah Thomas changed the history of sports as we know it when she became the NFL's first female official. She’s helped pave the way for women in a job that's been dominated by men for decades, even for one woman right here in the Big Bend whose goals once seemed unattainable.

When the whistle blows, the whole game stops and the whole stadium turns to the one in the white hat.

"It’s not the person in the uniform, it's the uniform that makes you the official, knowing what you're doing," said Georgette Robinson, a crew chief with the Big Bend Football Official Association.

But when this official makes a call, she's turning heads for a much different reason. Georgette Robinson knows the game of football like the back of her hand.

"I used to go to every state clinic every two years just to learn, I’ve been trained by some NFL officials, college officials," Robinson said.

Standing five feet tall, Georgette is the crew chief. On the field, you can spot her from a mile away.

"When I first came out here and I was by myself, just the attitude of them walking out on the field and being a referee, they kind of smirked and laughed,” Georgette continued. “You've got coaches on the sideline telling you, 'you belong in the kitchen.' 'No, I’m sorry. Say it again and you'll get a flag.’”

Life on the field is different now. In the past, she dealt with criticism from coaches, players and even her colleagues.

"I actually had the referee go up to both of the team members and tell them to take me out of the game. He did not want me walking off that field," Robinson said. "I said, go ahead. Do what you want. I did get hit a few times but I still walked off the field so he didn't win."

It's taken Robinson 20 years to get where she is, and she’s constantly proved she can do the job just as well as anyone else.

"It’s guys accepting you as a woman doing their job, and that's a struggle," Robinson said.

In a room full of guys, Georgette is one of six women here in the Big Bend who are striving to evolve the game.

"You have to still prove yourself more than the men do, you have to be excellent, not just better than them. Not just better than them, but you have to be more excellent to either get a spot, to do whatever the men do, and they may not be as good," said line judge, Fay Moten.

Moten is part of Georgette's crew, and the placement is no accident.

"I want to give her the opportunity that I never had," Robinson said.

Robinson handpicked Fay with hopes to help her succeed.

"I truly hope and pray the other women that want to come into these steps never, ever have to put up with anything that I’ve been through," Robinson said.

Each week, as she leads her team onto the varsity football field, Georgette knows that getting there has been a journey.

"I know I became a thorn in people's sides, but I don't care. You don't let other people dictate to you what you can and cannot do," Georgette said.

Her goal isn’t to be remembered as a female ref, but as a fair official. Georgette is one of six female officials in the area out of over 80. She plans on sticking with the job as long as she can keep up with the players on the field, who, right now, are 40 years younger than her.

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