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Jess McAlear Proves Passion is Everything for Referees

by Sarah Marshall, smarshall@usrowing.org | Nov 30, 2015
After a successful career as part of a highly successful crew at the Worcester Polytechnical Institute, a stint as a volunteer coach on Lake Quinsigamond and an active official in the busy northeast region of the country, Jess McAlear can now add the Joan Zandbergen “Mama Z” Award to her list.

Jess McAlear is considered young in the referee community, but she J_McAlear HOF 2012[2]has already begun to amass an impressive resume. After a successful career as part of a highly successful crew at the Worcester Polytechnical Institute, a stint as a volunteer coach on Lake Quinsigamond and an active official in the northeast region, McAlear can now add the Joan Zandbergen “Mama Z” Award to her list.

The "Mama Z" Award is given to a USRowing official who has demonstrated sustained superior performance during the course of their career. McAlear and her fellow award winners will be honored at the USRowing Annual Convention in Philadelphia on December 5. 

For McAlear, her journey as a USRowing official started a little over a decade ago, exactly where you can find her on any other normal weekend. Out on the water.


“I got into officiating because I started out as a coach,” said McAlear. “In 2005, when USRowing Masters Nationals was on Lake Quinsigamond, I was volunteering, driving a launch, and the referee started talking to me about furthering my referee opportunities. I just took it from there.

"John Quinn became my mentor and I ran with it. I loved being out on the water and I was constantly volunteering anyway, so why not do it in a more serious, official position."

MCALEAR with Sr II Trials referees 2015[2]After an active career in the northeast, McAlear moved to the Mid-Atlantic region. Despite spending almost every weekend on the Schuylkill River, she still finds time to chief races in Saratoga, N.Y., and at the AAC, MAAC and CAA Championships on Lake Mercer. She also officiated the 2015 USRowing Club and Masters National Championships, the Junior National Team and Paralympic Trials and the Senior II Trials this summer.

To young rowers considering the possibility of taking up officiating, McAlear passes along some very valuable advice.

“You only need to give as much time as you want to give. You don’t have to be a crazy person like me and work every weekend. The community is just awesome. They are so supportive and always quick with a good tip and just want to see you succeed at what you are doing because there are so few of us. Any help is always appreciated. The referee group has become my second family.”

The USRowing Annual Awards Reception, presented by Nathan Benderson Park, is the last chance to honor the best in the year of rowing. This year's reception will be held Saturday, December 5, 2015 in the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn's Landing. The night will begin with a cocktail hour, followed by the presentation of awards.

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