Tennessee's first black female ref also played, coached football

Photo: Mike Organ, Tennessean

Tennessee's first black female ref also played, coached football


Tennessee's first black female ref also played, coached football


Artenzia Young-Seigler is unique in that she is the state’s first African-American female high school football referee, but she’s also well-suited for the job.

She spent several years playing in the National Women’s Football Association and then coached her son’s youth football team in Murfreeseboro.

So becoming a referee just seemed like a natural progression for Young-Seigler, who has been a biology professor at Tennessee State for 17 years.

“I was playing football for awhile with the Nashville Dream and then the Tennessee Heat,” Young-Seigler said. “After playing five years I started coaching in my son’s youth league and one of the other coaches said, ‘Hey, you should officiate,’ and I was like, ‘That’s a good idea; I think I will.'”

Officiating became Young-Seigler’s way of satisfying the deep passion she developed for football.

“I just love the game and wanted to do something else in the game,” she said.

Young-Seigler has quickly climbed the ranks in her second year in the Middle Tennessee Football Officials Association, which provides officials for local high school games.

“She’s one of our top officials,” said MTFOA commissioner/assigning officer Junior Ward, who along with TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress did the research to determine Young-Seilger was the state’s first African-American female official. “She’s a hard worker, she’s knowledgeable of the rules, she administers a good game and she works well with her fellow officials.”

Young-Seigler is so good, in fact, that she is now also calling college games in the Big Ten, Mid-American, Missouri Valley and the Pioneer League.

She never set out to be a trailblazer by becoming the first African-American female to officiate high school games in Tennessee. In fact, she didn’t even know she had broken  the color and gender barrier until Ward informed her.

“I recognize there were women that came before that really sort of paved the way for me and I appreciate that,” Young-Seigler said. “And I will be paving the way for others coming behind me. I do recognize that I am the first (African-American woman) coming through. I want to just make sure I do a good job as an official. Not just gender-wise, just do a great job as an official.”

When Young-Seigler played football she was a starting quarterback and linebacker.

Because females could not play high school football when she was growing up in Centerville, Texas, Young-Seigler was a cheerleader and in the band during the fall. In the winter and spring she played basketball, volleyball, tennis and ran track.

“It was a small town and if you were an athlete you pretty much played every sport,” Young-Seilger said.

 Aside from her love for football, Young-Seigler believes she has the right temperament to be an official.

“You have to have the personality to deal with people,” she said. “You know they’re going to be angry; that’s a given. One side or the other is not going to appreciate the job you do. You want to be fair, you want to be impartial, you really don’t want to be that person that decides a game — that’s not your goal. You just want to make sure that you enforce the rules of fair play.”

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