CHAPEL HILL – The snow was swirling around, as Hibriten and East Duplin prepared for their 2AA Football State Championship game in the cozy confines of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium on December 9th, 2017. History would be made in just a few minutes as the two teams prepared for what was the first appearance in the Football State Championships for both schools.
The teams weren’t the only ones making history on that picturesque snow-filled afternoon in Chapel Hill. Christina Snead was warming up with the officiating crew–the first female to officiate in an NCHSAA Football State Championship Game.
“To be honest with you, it was totally awesome,” said Snead as she added, “I’m a Carolina fan, and to be able to walk out on that field and be a part of that game was amazing.” Snead is no stranger to the college atmosphere, as she has also officiated NCAA Football games with the CIAA Conference.
Snead always leaned toward the “rougher” sports, as she described it, during her high school days at Fayetteville’s Cape Fear High School. Though she never played football while in high school, she loved the game, and that eventually led to her trying out for a Fayetteville semi-pro football team. She made the team, and for six years, was a quarterback and running back.
After leaving behind her semi-pro career, Christina started officiating recreational football to stay active in the game she loved, moving on to arena football, until three years ago, when she began officiating high school football. “I love being around the game. I love to interact with the players and coaches. I just really enjoy seeing the players go out on the field, trying to accomplish their goals and win a championship. I love being around students,” she said.
When she says she loves being around students, that’s an understatement. Snead is a Health & Wellness instructor at Fayetteville State University, where she teaches Swimming, First Aid and CPR. She was in class the day she received the call that she would be assigned to a State Championship crew for the NCHSAA.
“When I stepped out (of class) and gave Tony Haire a call back, he said, ‘You are going to go further in the playoffs,’ and I just said ‘Cool’; but, he was like ‘Christina, read between the lines, you know you’re going to the State Championship, right?’”
After a second for it to sink in, Snead responded to Haire with, “You’re kidding, right?” She went on to say, “I just could not believe him, because I was finding out all of a sudden! I was shocked! I went back to my classroom and told my students. I was just so giddy, that I had to cancel my class!”
Neil Buie, long-time regional supervisor for the Southeastern Football Officials Association, talked about Snead’s progression as an official over the last several years saying, “She’s very athletic and has grown to the point she is an official in the CIAA. She studies and works hard–paying attention to what she is doing and watching Hudl video to assess her performance.” Buie went on to say “She is very teachable and learns her lessons very well. Christina was very deserving of this assignment–she truly deserved to be there.”
“In the High School Association, you never work with the same crew,” Snead said as she described the people who helped her hone officiating skills. “You always have an opportunity to be around someone different and have them mentor and push you. It is really the whole Southeastern Football Officials Association that helped me—not just one or two people.”
Buie confirmed that, saying he is very proud of his officials for the way they have accepted and embraced the four female officials who work football in the Southeastern Association. “I see Christina out there (in a State Championship game), and my pride level expands to our group, because all of our female officials have been accepted by the group. They’ve been part of the training regimen that goes on. They have not been ostracized at all, and I attribute that to their fellow officials who are willing to treat them no differently than they would a male counterpart.”
NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said, “This milestone is attributable to many people, not the least of which is Christina Snead and her daily dedication to being the best official possible. Her accomplishment marks a wonderful day for women in all of the athletics community here in North Carolina.”
Tucker continued, “I’m proud of Christina and how she represents herself, the NCHSAA and her community, and hope that others, especially young women, will see her example and follow in her footsteps, giving back to their communities through officiating sports with the NCHSAA.”
“I would tell anyone trying to move up in any type of sport to not give up, no matter what anyone might do or say to you that would try to discourage you,” the glass-ceiling shattering Snead said. “Do not give up, because nothing is impossible.”