Twin Bridges resident Annette McLean was recently recognized as the 2011 Volleyball Official of the Year from the Montana High School Association by the National Federation of State High School Officials Association.
For the last 26 years McLean has officiated two to three matches a week for both varsity and junior varsity during volleyball season. Averaging two to three games per match, it’s a demanding schedule to keep up with. For McLean, being a referee is not about policing pickup games but giving something back to the community.
“Being able to give some time to help our local schools, whether its in officiating or in volunteering as a classroom aide, that goes so far in helping our schools extend a certain level of excellence and service to our kids, and it helps our kids to accept more learning opportunities from our community as a whole,” she said.
McLean first took interest in the sport and joined a pool of officials after her husband Bob became the first volleyball coach for the Twin Bridges Falcons.
While they’re compensated for mileage and matches they work, McLean and other officials logged a good amount of windshield time traveling around southwest Montana to officiate matches. Spending time on the road between Twin Bridges, Lima, Sheridan, Ennis, Harrison, Whitehall and Three Forks is a major commitment, McLean said.
“Any official in the state of Montana finds that they have to take time out of their work schedule and away from their family time to officiate high school athletics,” she said.
When she’s not officiating volleyball matches McLean works at the R.L. Winston Rod Company in Twin Bridges. For the last three years she has designed graphite fly rods, and has been the supervisor of bamboo rod construction for six years. Before that she was a production manager for the company. Growing up in southwest Montana, McLean has sent a good deal of time on the water knows a thing or two about the regions rivers.
“Over here in Twin Bridges, you have the best of all trout fishing opportunities.”
McLean chuckles as she recalls a road trip she took to Absarokee to officiate a volleyball match. Thinking ahead, she brought a rod and waders in hopes of getting away from the court to wet a line, but there just weren’t enough hours in the day.
“I never got off the gym floor in time to go fishing,” McLean laughs, “But had I been able to I was prepared.”
Throughout her career McLean has heard her fair share of comments about the ref coming from the stands. As a seasoned veteran, she knows that more often than not its just people getting excited and caught up in the spirit of competition, and its nothing personal.
“As an official, I realize its an important match for both sides and I realize that I need to come into the match prepared myself to try to call the best, most clean match I can,” she said. “Over the years I’ve worked to develop a sense of perspective. These communities have so much of their identity wrapped up in these schools and their athletic programs.”
Often times high school athletics are a community event and a source of social interaction. People come out to watch their kids put their best foot forward, and McLean enjoys playing a part in making that happen.
“While you develop your own individuality and become more confident in who you are, you still have to be able to apply that in a team format,” said McLean. “High school athletics in general are a great resource for the student athlete to learn self discipline, learn how to believe in themselves. They learn how to work as a member of a team to achieve a common goal, and to me that’s really important.”
She also points out that high school athletics wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and commitment of the officials.
“They’re just great people,” McLean says of the many high school officials she knows throughout the state. “They’re there so that these kids can enjoy the opportunity not only to compete but also to enjoy that format of competition.”