The “Say Yes to Officiating” website is a recruiting and retention tool NASO provides for the industry.
It is safe to say that USA Volleyball Director of Officials Development Pati Rolf is one of those who has lived that “say yes” mantra her whole life, much to her husband Kent’s chagrin.
“He does my taxes,” she said with a laugh, “and when he’s sitting there pouring over the paperwork, he asks me, ‘Where were you (on thus and such date)?’ And I’m thinking ‘Kansas, Tokyo, Mississippi, Penn State (etc.).
“I’m just a very curious person. I like doing new things and I find it hard to say no (laughs).”
Rolf has expressed her love for volleyball in all kinds of curious ways in the coaching, officiating and administrative realms and that is a major reason why NASO honored her with a Great Call
Award at the recently held Sports Officiating Summit in Spokane, Wash.
Her latest turn of curiosity led the close-to-30-year volleyball referee to accept the USA Volleyball position in early 2018 despite a schedule that would daunt an official with half her years of service.
She has been a certified FIVB official since 1999 and has earned vast international acclaim for her work. At the 2016 Rio Olympics Rolf became only the second woman to referee the women’s gold medal match (she worked the NCAA women’s final later that year). She also took part in the women’s gold medal match in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Rolf has worked all levels of volleyball officiating in her career (up to 500 matches a year at one point) and also has years of experience as chair of the USA Volleyball Rules Commission. For her efforts, she has been inducted into the PAVO Hall of Fame.
But still, she was restless.
“I really liked where my career was,” she said of when USA Volleyball came calling, “but like I said I wanted to try something new. As director of officials development I’m working with volleyball officials on all levels.
“From indoor to sitting (paralympic-style) to beach and from beginners to the most experienced veterans. It’s been a great challenge.”
But as noted, that was only part of the reason why she was the recipient of the Great Call Award at the NASO Summit. For along with her vast officiating experience, she has also been a hall of fame level college coach.
Often in concert with her officiating work.
Rolf coached for 25 years including 14 years of hall-of-fame work at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where she accrued over 300 wins. She also had very productive stints at Marquette and
East Carolina Universities, bringing her career win total to 425. She retired from coaching in 2012.
“I just kept reffing while I was coaching,” she said. “I would coach a game (at Duluth) and then hop in a car, drive hours and officiate a Big Ten game. I just have to laugh at myself thinking about that.”
The still-new USA post causes her to split her time between the USA Volleyball offices in Colorado Springs, Colo., and her home in Pewaukee, Wis.
Rolf said the Great Call Award is a terrific honor but that its scope takes in much more than just her own copious amount of work.
“The smartest thing I ever did was join NASO,” she said, “because an award like this represents the group, not your own individual accomplishments. It’s so great that NASO honors someone like me because it gives recognition to all the work that they (the people at USA Volleyball and all other volleyball officials) do.
“It is so neat to get this, because it gives you a chance to acknowledge all the great people and teammates you’re involved with.”
A native of Hopkins, Minn., Rolf was a hall-of-fame athlete in volleyball at North Dakota State back in the early 1980s. She credits her coach at Hopkins for getting her started in officiating in the late 1970s.
“We just didn’t have a lot of refs then so when he asked if anybody would want to I just raised my hand and said ‘I’ll ref,’” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of training at the time. A lot of it was on the job.”
And that’s where the “saying yes” part of her life began in earnest as Rolf would earn pocket money at North Dakota State by working recreation-level tournaments, sometimes up to 12 matches a day.
“It was like, ‘Do you want to work lines at this match?’ ‘Do you want this rec tournament?’ ‘Do you want to try a Big Ten match?’” she said.
“It was always, ‘Sure, yes!’ That was the story of my life.”
And she’s still not ready to start saying “no” just yet.
Rolf still worked a high-level collegiate schedule this past fall and also took part in the 2019 World Cup and though FIVB requires its officials to retire at a certain age, they agreed to extend Rolf’s career by another year which gives her a chance at potentially closing things out next year at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“Maybe they’ll ask,” she chuckled.
And if they do, everyone already knows what the answer will be.