By John William Howard, NWAACC.org
Most people understand what it’s like to attend a big sporting event. Fans stand up and cheer when their team does well, and sit and groan when their team stumbles. The mood of the evening is dependent on the outcome of the game, which is full of emotional highs and lows. Few people, by contrast, understand the game the way Robyn Filimaua does.
Filimaua, who is in her first year as head volleyball coach at Everett Community College, traveled to Louisville, Ky. last week to officiate the Final Four of the NCAA DI Women’s Volleyball Championships. She was on the crew for the Oregon vs. Penn State match, as well as the final between Oregon and Texas, and said that the pressure is much different from being a fan or a participant.
“You really know that you have to be paying attention at all times because your call can make or break a scenario in the sense that your call will dictate how that point will end,” said Filimaua, “and you have to make those calls. You have to be able to react in a split second to what’s going on in front of you.”
Last week’s matches weren’t Filimaua’s first on the national stage. This year was her fifth as an official for the NCAA Final Four, but she said that this experience was much different from her debut.
“I’d say the first time it was 10 times more nerve racking than this last one,” said Filimaua. “I’m always nervous before a match because you know you have to make decisions that affect the outcome, but I’d have to say that the first one was the most nerve racking just because it was the very first experience at that level.”
Larry Walker, who is the Athletic Director at Everett Community College, says that Filimaua’s experience as a referee gives her an interesting presence on the court as Everett’s head coach.
“She always holds the officials accountable,” said Walker, who said that he approached Filimaua and offered her the job. “She’s a fantastic official.”
According to Walker, the two had known one another for several years, as Filimaua rents the Everett facilities for her volleyball club, Northshore Juniors. Walker said that Filimaua’s involvement with the club gives her an edge in recruiting because of her visibility and connections within the volleyball community, and as a result her Everett roster is made up of all Washington players.
Filimaua’s introduction to officiating wasn’t quite as smooth. Shortly after moving to Seattle, Filimaua was coaching a second team 14 squad, and was approached by the opposing coach who asked her team to officiate.
“I said ‘no problem, they’re ready to go,’” said Filimaua. Then she found out that they expected her to be the R1, the official that stands at the referee stand and is in charge of the match.
“I was like ‘no, really? Ok, what am I supposed to do here?” said Filimaua with a laugh. “That was my intro to officiating, and it went on from there.”
That took place in 1997 while Filimaua was also an assistant at Everett, and 15 years later, things have definitely changed. Now Filimaua is a volleyball club director, a college head coach, and a nationally known referee. In addition, she’s also an elementary school teacher and a mother of two.