Beth Upshaw, left, receives a plaque from John Beck, an Oregon Athletic Coaches Association board member, naming her the official of the year by the OACA. Upshaw officiated for 37 years before retiring after last season. (Submitted photo)
Local volleyball referee named OACA’s official of the year at banquet
Officiating can be the most thankless job in all of sports. But there are rare moments when it can be rewarding.
For Beth Upshaw, 37 years of officiating volleyball culminated in perhaps her most rewarding moment recently when she was named the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association’s official of the year for all classifications and sports.
“It was very humbling and surprising,” said Upshaw, of Union.
“To be named that by the coaches — they don’t always get along with us — so I was surprised.”
Upshaw started her officiating career in 1976 when she was a student at Eastern Oregon State College.
“I had strictly a high school background. I just loved the sport,” Upshaw said.
Upshaw worked her way up to the commissioner of the Northeast Volleyball Officials Association, a title she has owned for a number of years.
“(Beth) has always been extremely professional and would fight for what she believed was right for our student-athletes, coaches and officials,” Imbler High School volleyball coach Jennifer Teeter said. “She demands excellence from herself and the officials she supervises.”
Upshaw said she has seen a lot of changes since she debuted on the court. But her favorite part has been watching the growth of those she has had the chance to work with.
“The most endearing part has been the coaches — the Jennifer Teeters, and (Powder Valley’s) Lasa Baxters and (La Grande’s) Melinda Beckers — watching the progression from player to adults or coaches. That has been the best part,” Upshaw said.
Upshaw said she has taken a lot of pride in advocating for schools in Union County, and she always felt a little pride when a local school played well in the postseason.
“I really admired when schools here made it far,” Upshaw said.
Upshaw was hard pressed to think of a career highlight, but when she did think of one it had to do with the sport of volleyball as a whole.
“I think just watching the sport go from not very competitive with no practice facilities to a viable sport and knowing I was a part of it is a highlight,” Upshaw said.
Upshaw’s admiration for the sport is easy to see.
“Beth truly loves the game of volleyball and is a huge advocate of young women athletes,” Teeter said. “When she isn’t working as an official, you can often find her in the crowd supporting our local teams.”
Upshaw said she has had plenty of run-ins with parents over the years.
Everything from receiving calls about a game to having one parent come up to her during a live game and put a finger on her officials patch.
But she never let that deter her from calling the game the way she saw it.
“To be an official you really have to love the sport,” Upshaw said.
“Luckily volleyball officials have a little more control (of the crowd) than other sports.”
Upshaw retired from officiating after last season, something she said was easy to do.
“I was able to walk away on my terms. It was the right time,” she said.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t see Beth Upshaw at a volleyball match this fall.
“I’ll always have my hand in it somehow. Now I’ll be able to go to a game and enjoy it,” Upshaw said.