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Out of everything Debbie Swiss has experienced in her life, she said officiating girls’ lacrosse is at the top of the list.

“I get to see it all,” Swiss said. “I get to see the joy of a 6-year-old scoring a goal. I get to see the defeat and the hugs. I see everything. It’s such an honor to be on the field with my partners and with the teams.”

Swiss played lacrosse herself for just one year, as a senior in 1967 at Towson High School in Baltimore County (Md.). She was a cheerleader at Towson State and then a cheerleader for the NFL’s Baltimore Colts from 1970-76.

It wasn’t until 1993 that she became an official under the tutelage of Fran Trumbo, the late Susie Ganzenmuller and other respected referees.

“I went to class and I became an official with 13 other people,” she said. “I studied hard. I still have my manual from back then. If you want to give back to a game that you absolutely adore, become an official. You can’t beat it. It’s the best employment ever.”

Swiss can still remember the first game she officiated. It was a junior varsity contest pitting Bryn Mawr (Md.) against Notre Dame Prep (Md.), a spirited private school rivalry in the Baltimore area between programs with fervent followers. She recalled being scared because both coaches were former All-Americans, but she settled into her own and has made an impact since.

With a background in education, Swiss didn’t shy away from educating while on the field, too. But not just the players. Swiss remembered one instance in which a parent was consistently giving her a hard time, so she invited him to shadow her on the field. It was an opportunity for him to see the game as she saw it.

He later became an official himself.

“I didn’t just want to officiate the game,” Swiss said. “But I wanted to preserve the game within US Lacrosse rules. After all, I’m an educator. I would go at halftime and talk to the parents to tell them why I’m making calls.”

Unfortunately, Swiss hasn’t been able to officiate on the field since a car accident in October 2018 left her with a “severe” injury. Now, she’s going back to her cheerleading days.

“I miss not being on the field after my injury,” she said, “but I’m still an official. Not on the field, but I’m the cheerleader. If I could support officials in any way, I’m there for them.”

That includes attending US Lacrosse conventions and encouraging other officials to do the same. Swiss said her and her husband Tom’s home in Roland Park, Md., is something of a hotel around LaxCon, as officials traveling from afar stop in for the weekend.

Connecting with other officials is something Swiss always enjoys. She would volunteer to officiate national tournaments — for no payment — so she could interact with officials from other walks of life and share experiences. That’s one of the ways she kept educating herself on ways the game is played.

Because of the global COVID-19 pandemic and cancellation of on-field activities, US Lacrosse has pivoted to educate in other ways. Through a collection of online webinars, parents, coaches, players and officials can still get the training they need to stay sharp.

“You’re doing all these webinars,” Swiss said. “I’ve been really promoting that with our membership. We’re not playing right now, but if you’re an official, you’re still an official. You’re just not on the field.”

Actually, Swiss said this is the perfect time to become an official. With so much free time and the opportunity to find a new passion, she thinks everyone interested should make the leap and give it a try — especially younger people. As the game gets faster, fresh legs are needed.

“We have made every effort to constantly get people to come and join us,” she said. “Right now, everyone should join US Lacrosse and become an official. Don’t be afraid of it. It’s a game, there are rules and you have the best mentors, guidelines and support you could ever get from US Lacrosse.

“Support US Lacrosse. It’s not very much, and the benefits last you a lifetime.”

After all, officiating has given Swiss “lifelong friends” and years of fulfillment on the field.

“Whenever I step on the field, I feel joy,” Swiss said. “My field of dreams was when I’d get in my car and know I would be on a lacrosse field.”