Amy Ochkie vividly recalls when she first became a member of the Quad-City Officials Association more than 20 years ago.
In those days, the organization held its meetings at Halftime Sports Bar in Davenport.
“When I walked into my first meeting, they thought I was the waitress," Ochkie recalled. “They wanted to order drinks from me."
Ochkie then was one of only three women in the area officiating basketball games, and things haven’t changed much. The QCOA now has five women on its membership roster — out of 129 officials — and most of them do only volleyball.
QCOA vice president Tim Seward said he knows of only one woman anywhere in the Iowa-Illinois region who officiates football. There are no women doing baseball and only a few who do softball. In girls volleyball, he said, perhaps 40 percent of the officials are women.
“There needs to be more," he said.
Ochkie, a 44-year-old geometry and statistics teacher at Moline High School who has been doing basketball for 22 years and volleyball for 17, wholeheartedly agrees there should be more female officials in all sports.
So does Chuck Brittain, coordinator of basketball officials for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. He sees women as an untapped source of quality officials.
So does Lewie Curtis, director of officials for the Iowa High School Athletic Association.
“I think it would be fantastic if they did," Curtis said. “We just don’t see much interest from them."
Curtis said he recently went to a basketball officials clinic in Waverly, Iowa, that had 110 participants. Only five of them were women.
“Honestly, I would say if the male has to get out of officiating because of family responsibilities, that’s probably the same reason the female isn’t getting into officiating," Curtis said. “They might be OK with the husband being gone, but they can’t be gone. It’s a dilemma."
Ochkie acknowledges that family obligations have affected her availability to officiate. Now that she has three daughters, ages 8, 9 and 11, she limits herself to two or three volleyball games a week in the fall and two basketball games a week in the winter.
“When I first started, I could do a game every day of the week," she said, “and I’d go do 10 or 12 games a day on the weekend. Not anymore. I don’t want to spend that much time away from my kids."