'Women in Sports': Softball Umpire Trina Comerford

Monday, December 8, 2014

Latest in a series

The second annual “Women in Sports” career seminar, presented by the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, will be held Saturday, Jan. 24 in Portland, Ore.

Designed for college and high school females interested in pursuing sports-related careers, the seminar will take place in the Georgia Pacific Room at Memorial Coliseum.

The event will feature panelists from a broad cross-section of occupational paths, including coaching, administration, business, marketing, media, media relations, NCAA compliance, sports medicine, ticket sales, and officiating. Attendees will have an opportunity to interact with -- and seek career advice from -- a slate of experienced sports professionals in a round-table format. In addition, the seminar will include a "professional development segment" and networking reception presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Below is a profile on a panelist who will be featured at this year's event.


Trina Comerford
College Softball Umpire 

Colleges attended:


  • Ricks College 1989-1990
  • Western Oregon State College 1990-1991
  • Chemeketa Community College 2004-2006

College major: Criminal Justice

Current position: NCAA umpire for the Big Sky, Pac-12 non conference, Big West, Mountain West, WAC, GNAC, NAIA and Northwest conferences; Perrydale School Board Member; OSBA Legislative Policy Committee; private in-home caregiver

Years in current position:  9 years as an NCAA softball official

Primary job responsibilities: To establish the fundamentals of officiating, they are the same in every sport, and apply to the level of competition. Understand the rules, be a student of the game and to train others in officiating at a higher level. Be a leader for my peers as well as other women so they know there are careers available to them in coaching, officiating, or sports administration. To stay physically and mentally fit. Break barriers.

Things I enjoy most about my job: Due to the ability to control my own schedule I'm able to participate in multiple activities that I love. These include my children's sporting events, serving as a member on my local school board, participating on the Oregon School Board Legislative Policy Committee, being part of sub-committees for my local county commissioners and running local health/dental screenings. I love that I can make a difference in my job and my community. I enjoy the social challenge of meeting new people and the excitement that comes with travel. Being the only DI female umpire in Oregon, traveling offers me the opportunity to meet other female officials throughout the nation. I love seeing lots of women who participate in sports these days and that they are also breaking barriers. I love it when I hear a coach say, "Wow, an all-woman crew today." I enjoy the opportunity to exceed expectations, to grow to a point of not being intimidated by coaches, to look back on my own personal development, work at a high competitive level and finally I enjoy watching those around me learn the game and growing as a crew.

First job in the sports industry: Youth umpire in 2003 for NAFA, ASA and OSAA


Previous jobs in the sports industry: I played softball from 1979-2002. My umpiring started in 2003

A key mentor who helped me on my career path: Kay Williamson. She was a pioneer in this region and blazed a trail for many women in sports as well as officiating. Most women don't realize the doors she has opened in Oregon sports. She demonstrated the ability to "rise above the noise.”


Most influential person in my early professional development: There are several influential persons in my early development: John Garrett, Oregon state UIC 2003-2012; he taught me to know the rules and learn the mechanics. He put in many long hours of hard work and practice with me. These skills are the foundation of my ability to achieve and move up. Emily Alexander is another strongly influential person in my early NCAA career. She encouraged me to "love the game from a new perspective" and to "enjoy being on the field or get off", which has helped prevent burnout and frustration. Emily has taught me to "always have a game plan" and to "be prepared, for when we are not we tend to under or overreact on the field.” She also taught me to set goals that are achievable while being honest with myself. Emily retired from officiating in her mid to late 50's and it is my goal to stay active in officiating at least that long or longer.


How I got involved in my professional career: Over the course of many years I'd repeatedly see a certain official. I'd challenge his rule knowledge with friendly conversation and he'd try to convince me to become an official, stating, "We need more women officials in the women's game.” One day while watching my daughters 10U softball game I witnessed an official make a poor call due to lack of physical mobility, lack of rule knowledge and lack of game experience. Softball is not baseball! I yelled at this official some unsporting and demonstrative statements and got myself kicked out of my daughter’s game. As I went to the parking lot I decided that these young female athletes deserved better. They deserved athletic and knowledgeable officials. From the parking lot that day I made a phone call and became a youth softball official.


Biggest hurdle I overcame breaking into the sports industry: Any time there is an established culture (such as a male dominated culture that exists in officiating), it can be a challenge to effect change. Women communicate differently than men, women are often expected to conform to outdated roles and it can be uncomfortable to change existing norms. When women are viewed as inferior (shorter distances in golf, shorter fences in softball, etc.), or quieter, or submissive, it can be uncomfortable when we do not adhere to these lowered expectations. For those of us who were raised to believe we can do anything, we can break any barrier, we are EXPECTED to achieve, we are EXPECTED not to conform. Sometimes, these cultures clash. Learning to navigate these cultures has been my biggest hurdle.


Key attributes that have helped shape my career path: My competitive nature and strong resolve drive me to get things done, and done right. I have a strong belief that anything worth doing should be done to the best of my ability and done correctly. It is difficult for me to accept the status quo such as a male dominated officiating crew for women's sports. I also enjoy being challenged to find success outside of my comfort zone that includes the ability to challenge authority when done right and for the right reasons. These attributes in high-level officiating have offered me opportunities for growth in my natural leadership skills. They have driven me to where I currently am and hope to go.


Knowing what I know now, the one thing I would do differently in college to help me on my career path: I wouldn't make decisions based on fear or guilt. I'd stay in school. Even if I had to slow down or take a break, I'd finish. Being educated allows you respect and opens doors of opportunities in your career paths.


Best advice I’d give to a young female wanting to work in sports: To get to know yourself and trust in your passions. To follow your dreams. To live in the present and not let stumbles become failures. To NEVER feel guilt for being different or being a working parent. To smile, love and enjoy all you do. Finally, take time for yourself; we always perform to our best when we are well rested both physically and mentally!


If I could spend the day with one person (past or present), who would it be? The Iron Lady -- Margaret Thatcher. I'd love to ask her about her fearless ability to work with strong, assertive men. To know how she balanced motherhood and work as well as how she personally handled defeat. Or I'd also love to shake the hand of Jackie Mitchell; she truck out Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.


Favorite sports team:

  • The Brooklyn Dodgers or now know as the LA Dodgers. I did a report in the 4th grade about the "gentleman's agreement" or the "color line". I fell in love with the Dodgers and the choice they made to allow Jackie Robinson to play on their pro baseball team. I admire the strength and fortitude it took to break those barriers. Dodgers fan for life!!
  • Stratford Brakettes. I always wanted to move to Ct and play ball for them.

Favorite athlete:

  • Billie Jean King!!! Loved her since I was a young girl. We have the same middle name and she defeated Bobby Riggs in the famous "battle of the sexes.” A great advocate of women's rights!
  • Jackie Robinson. Great athlete with incredible character. Able to rise above discrimination and hatred to chase his dreams.

Most memorable sports-related moments:

  • Umpiring the Women's 23U National at Brakettes Stadium in Stratford, Conn., in August, 2007
  • April 26, 2008, when Western Oregon softball player Sara Tucholsky hit a three-run shot over the fence against Central Washington giving the Wolves a lead. Sara rounded first and injured her knee. The amazing sportsmanship that the Central team members showed as they carried her around the bases will forever be a memorable moment for me.
  • My first DI softball game. Oregon State, April, 2006