If you head out to Roy Wilkins Park in Queens, N.Y., on Wednesday evening, you might see a future NFL referee on the field at the NFL Officiating Academy. It's possible that one of the two women taking part in this year's program will someday work on NFL Sundays.
Since July 13, Annie Treherne and Jenice Hampton have been among the 60 New York City residents participating in the NFL Officiating Academy through a partnership with the New York City Public Housing Authority.
For the second consecutive summer, the NFL has partnered with the NYCPHA at this unique academy to provide basic officiating instruction as well as character development. The six-week-long series features instruction by New York Public Schools Athletic League referees as well as NFL officials, including Wayne Mackie. Mackie grew up in the NYCHA Linden Houses in the East New York and Starrett City neighborhoods of Brooklyn.
Participants will have an opportunity to secure entry-level officiating positions with youth and high school football leagues. Those opportunities could eventually lead to officiating positions at the college level and possibly in the NFL.
Annie Treherne, 43, a construction worker and fitness coach, is entering her third season as a line-of-scrimmage official in the PSAL. Jenice Hampton, an 18-year-old physical education major at Queens College, has no officiating experience and is participating in the academy for the first time this year.
Treherne has worked in the construction industry for 22 years, so she's no stranger to being a woman in a man's environment. She brings that same mental toughness to the football field, where she's one of only five female officials in her region and is usually the only female at her games.
"Construction has given me that extra strength to be confident around the men and to go out there and do what I have to do in terms of concentrating and getting the job done," Treherne said. "Because that's my main purpose: to get it right."
Treherne chose to attend this summer's officiating academy "to go back to the basics" and to deepen and enhance her understanding of both the rules and the game.
"I think with the women we not only have to understand the rules, but we have to understand the game altogether," Treherne said. "Because I didn't play football So you have to understand the game because these guys really take it seriously. If you're going to be out on the field and you're going to officiate, I feel that we have to do the same thing."
Hampton's father, Cornell, a basketball referee, suggested the officiating academy to his daughter, an avid NFL fan who has played softball throughout her life. Hampton loves watching NFL football and counts five teams -- including both the Jets and Giants -- as her favorites. Because the academy focuses on youth and high school league rules, Hampton was surprised to learn some of the differences between high school and NFL penalties.
"There are a whole lot of rules to learn," Hampton said. "Because I've watched NFL, I know now it's different from high school I didn't know how much, and over these past weeks I've learned that there are a lot of differences."
Hampton plans to teach high school physical education and coach softball. But now that she's been involved in the officiating academy, she's reconsidering her career aspirations. Could an officiating position in the NFL be in her future?
"I never really thought about it until I got into the program," Hampton said. "I think I could see myself actually being an official in the NFL -- that's if I get there. I would find that so amazing to be a female official among all the guys."
Treherne would love to officiate in the NFL someday, but she's keeping her expectations in check.
"Right now, I'm pretty much at the bottom," Treherne said. "Like all things, this will take time. You can't just jump into things. You have to take your time doing it.
"Right now I'm focusing on the PSAL because this is a new level for me I'm not looking to jump. I'm not going to have anybody push me into anything. I'm going to take my time. I'm going to get it right so that when I do finally get to that level, I should be pretty good by then."