HomeLearning CenterThe Trailblazing Referee Chasing Her World Cup ‘Dream’

The Trailblazing Referee Chasing Her World Cup ‘Dream’

Originally published by Adria R Walker for the Guardian

Earlier this year, Alyssa Nichols became the youngest Black woman, and the first from Mississippi, to earn a Fifa referee badge. She’s not fazed by being the youngest – she is one of only two Black American women to hold the distinction – but she understands her achievement as a chance to encourage others.

After Nichols started playing soccer at Murrah High School, in Jackson, Mississippi, one of her teammates, who worked as a youth officiator with Southwest Jackson Soccer League, a primarily Black club in the city, suggested that Nichols start officiating as a way to make money while balancing academics and athletics.

Lewis Williams was Nichols’ first referee assignor. After training her as a youth officiator, he told her to shadow her teammate, doing everything she did, to gain more familiarity with the role.

“It was amazing,” Williams remembers. “She loved it. When I went and watched her do it, I was amazed because she caught on so quick.”

In the decade since Nichols was initially certified as a soccer referee, she has proven her dedication to the field: At 23, she became the first woman from Mississippi to receive a National Referee License from the US Soccer Federation. Nichols is a Pro2 referee and she officiates in the United Soccer League, the MLS and the NWSL. Shortly after making the Fifa referee list, Nichols was part of refereeing crews for the 2023 SheBelieves Cup.

And, at 27, she’s just getting started.

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