Cabbrina Lennox, Gleaner Writer
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
TASHANA EARL, chairperson of the St Mary Referees Group, is working in a male-dominated field and is enjoying every moment of it.
A passionate, hard worker, Earl said she fell in love with the game because of her love for football and sports overall.
"Growing up, they called me the tomboy type. I stayed away from the kitchen, always playing sports, gun war, cricket, and football."
Earl said the support she got from her family allowed her to tap into her abilities and push for what she wanted.
"When I was in Marymount in grade eight, my coach, Mr Lincoln Small, we played football for a year, and then there was a referee course going on and seven of us went to that class, and I passed, and I continued from then," she told The Gleaner.
Earl said her involvement in football influenced her move to become a referee, which she said has become her life.
"I've been in refereeing since grade nine. I think football has influenced me. It was quite easy to move from football to refereeing. I live, breathe, eat, sleep, dress it," she said.
Earl said as a female in a male-dominated field, she has to work twice as hard to earn the respect of her players.
"Respect is something that is earned, and I think I earn that respect. When I go out on the field, I demand what I should get because without respect, the game will go wild - conflicts, melees - and you basically have a disaster on your hands; but when you earn the respect of the teams, they actually listen to you," Earl explained.
She said knowing the odds that she is playing against has made her job as a female referee more manageable.
"In my mind, sports is sports, people are people, and you make your choices. It's neither here nor there to me that I'm in a male-dominated field. The only thing is that the standards are different, and what is expected of you here is not what is expected of a male who is at the same level, but once you know, you realise how hard you have to work," Earl told The Gleaner.
She said during her referee career, she had come to realise that refereeing a female team was a lot harder than male teams, which may be a surprise to some people.
"Females in football are much more difficult to ref. They are much more impulsive, passionate, hot-tempered. At the drop of a hat, they might punch down someone while a guy will just cuss and move off," she explained.
Despite having an associate of science degree in natural science from the College of Agriculture Science and Education, Earl said her main priority was refereeing and hoped to fulfil her dream of being a FIFA referee, but she said that was a challenge.
"My position is a little more unique than others because I'm also the chairperson of the St Mary Referees Group. That in itself is a challenge. You will now have to think about yourself as a referee and exactly where you want to go and everybody wants to reach FIFA as long as you are eligible to. It's like a living in matrix."
She said that although refereeing has prevented her from having a social or personal life, she loved every minute of it and intended to change the professional standards of a referee.
"I've always said that if a referee is a guy, I wouldn't marry him. It is too much commitment. It's a fierce loyalty, but I'll do it for refereeing."
She continued: "Refereeing in Jamaica is not considered as a job, but in my mind it is a career. That's what I choose to do, and I've been doing it eight years now.
"After FIFA, I want to go into instructing refereeing. I want it to be not just a part-time job for some people. I want it to be viewed as a profession. I want a referee to be looked upon as you would view a judge."
Earl said after she terminates her referee career, she will commit herself to her first love: geography and virology.