COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — A Denver girl made history Friday night, becoming the first-ever teenager to referee a Colorado High School Activities Association soccer championship game.
In a male-dominated profession, Patricia McCracken is breaking down barriers for a future generation of female referees.
“It’s a lot of old guys. And I think having such a young referee doing the top final will send a message and say that young referees can perform at this level,” McCracken told FOX31.
McCracken says she got certified as a referee about five years ago, wanting to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps.
At just 17 years old, her resume is already very impressive.
“U.S. Open Cup 4th official would be one of the biggest ones,” said McCracken.
However, being a referee hasn’t come without some challenges.
McCracken says the profession has tested her physically over the years.
“Refs are actually there, running with the players. I’m told I run as much as the players,” said McCracken. “I had one day where I ran over 8 miles.”
She says her job is just as challenging mentally as it is physically.
“I’ve definitely received some sexist comments in games, stuff like that. It’s just something that we have to deal with. We’re really pushing for reform to get those people that are saying the sexist things out of the system, and it’s working pretty well,” she said.
McCracken says she has learned to develop a thick skin over the years.
“The spectators can definitely get under your skin, but I’ve been in enough situations in front of enough people, I’m able to tune it out and focus on the game,” she said.
But just in case she needs some support, her family is almost always in the stands to cheer her on.
“When we go see her, we just kind of sit in the center and try and be low-key,” said McCracken’s mom, TC McCracken, laughing.
On Friday, they witnessed McCracken become the first ever teenager to ref a CHSAA state championship soccer game.
McCracken was one of the assistant referees, running along the sideline on the opposite side of where the teams sat Friday night — though she says she more commonly works as a center referee.
“She’s so strong, it’s been a really positive experience,” said TC McCracken.
It’s one more milestone in what Patricia McCracken hopes will be a long, successful career — one in which she doesn’t mind being underestimated.
“It definitely pushes me to over-perform and exceed expectations. But at the end of the day, I’m just reffing a soccer game how I want to and people like it. So it’s been working out for me,” she said.
McCracken graduated high school a year early to invest more time in refereeing. She is currently enrolled at University of Colorado Denver.
She says her dream game to ref would be a FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.