Fishertown’s Godissart paves way for women officials

Commentary

Friday nights are special for Annette Godissart of Fishertown.

Each week, she makes her way to a high school football field, not to watch from the bleachers or work the concession stand, but to put on her black and white uniform and referee the game.

“I love football … it’s just a lot of fun, and I really like to officiate,” said Godissart, a few hours before the season opener. “There’s nothing better than being out on a beautiful night on the football field, and quite frankly, there’s not enough people to do it.”

Godissart started officiating when her now-grown sons were participating in the Chestnut Ridge elementary football program. Coaches were required to help referee, and she was helping to coach, so she had studied the rule book and learned the game right along with her children.

Ron Koppenhaver, longtime president of the PIAA District 5 football officials, encouraged Godissart to take the officials test. She did, first for softball and then for football; she’s now starting her 15th year of wearing the whistle.

“There was no push-back at all,” Koppenhaver said. “Everyone has accepted her as one of our own. She does a great job, and the guys respect her knowledge.”

Annette worked sub-varsity games for several years before taking her spot on a varsity crew, where she usually works as line judge or head linesman, along with her husband, Al.

“They guys I work with have been phenomenal,” she said. “They’re a great group, and they’ve treated me very well. I had to prove myself, but everyone does.”

Her crew has been doing it so long, many local players have grown up with her working their games; so having a woman on the field doesn’t faze them at all. As for the fans, she tries not to take harsh comments personally.

“We’re out there trying to do our job as best as we can; none of us care who wins,” Godissart said. “I’m not cheating for a particular team. I’m doing the best I can with the knowledge that I have. Sometimes people don’t realize that high school rules are different from the NFL.”

Like all PIAA officials, she has invested a tremendous amount of time preparing for her time on the field. She attends conventions and meetings throughout the season, takes tests and studies game film.

“Football has a lot of technicalities,” Koppenhaver said. “Annette comes to meetings with good questions and always wants to learn more; that’s what makes a good official.”

Koppenhaver, who after 35 years still finds it rewarding to introduce young people to rules of the game and the value of good sportsmanship, says the PIAA needs more officials across the state. And just as he encouraged Godissart, she encourages both men and women who love sports to consider getting involved.

“Don’t let the fact that you’re a woman stand in your way,” she says. “Women have broken into the NFL and college football, and the kids are open to it — they think it’s cool.”

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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