Pati Rolf: “Commission members have helped me grow”

FIVB Rules of the Game & Refereeing Commission member and former international referee discusses her journey with

Pati Rolf is a former volleyball referee who spent 18 years at international level before retiring after the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. She was part of the historic all-female gold medal officiating crew at the Rio 2016 volleyball women’s final, and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the FIVB Rules of the Game & Refereeing Commission. recently sat down with Rolf, who is also the Director of Officials at USA Volleyball, to discuss her journey and illustrious career in volleyball.

What was your career path to become the FIVB Rules of the Game & Refereeing Commission member? 

I have always appreciated the support and coaching I have received as a FIVB International Referee. Many individuals on the commission have helped me personally to grow as an official, communicator and facilitator of the game. I have always appreciated the importance of management, having spent 25 years as a head coach at the college level in the USA and as a board member of volleyball and other professional organisations. However, I have always enjoyed the idea of serving others. I grew up in that environment due to my mother and service was always a big part of my life. 

My path to the Commission really was out of process.  I served as President of our North Country Region of USA Volleyball in the 90s and was a member of the USA Badger Region Board when I move to Wisconsin to coach at Marquette. I was elected the USA At-Large National Indoor Referees Representative to our Officials Assembly, then became Chair of the USA Rules of the Game Commission. Shortly after that, I decided to apply to be Director of Officials for USA Volleyball to help grow the love of officiating in the USA.

It was an honour to be asked by Mr Paredes to serve on the FIVB Rules of the Game & Refereeing Commission, particularly the duty of serving fellow referees as a Referee Coach. I am looking forward to this experience working with my colleagues.

 Pati Rolf officiating at a match of the Olympic Games Rio 2016


How do you overcome challenges in your professional career? 

I believe the most important core value is listening and respecting people’s views and ideas, and from this I have learnt a lot about how things work and how they/we look at the game and its future. I value other people’s input and opinions; I also love to read and reflect on the thoughts and ideas of others.  Education and learning are critical to growth, no matter the age. This has allowed me to continue to love the process of learning. When challenges arise, I simply slow down and listen, I reflect on what is being said, and learn from the experience. Life will always throw challenges at us. 

Do you have any special moments in your career that you remember and would like to share with the readers?

Goodness, I have so many tremendous moments, really, I have so many. I think the memory that really continues to carry me are the insane number of friends I have across the world due to my travels. From Brazil, to Peru, to Japan and China. I have done World Military Games in Canada, that event was amazing. I can really tell you every event has its beauty.  From the players and coaches, to the individuals working the event, and to my fellow referees that are like family to me.  I referee for reasons that are different than the act of officiating. I was a player and coach first.  Refereeing was to fill a gap. I knew as a child if could see the best teams in the world play, I would be a better player and coach, so refereeing was a means to an end, and I ended up loving it.

What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?

That is a difficult question, but I think I would say to be braver. As a referee, I was very brave which is hilarious to put on paper. I went everywhere to referee, there was no place I would not go to work. However, as a player I wish I had played longer, as a coach I wish I would have taken more interesting jobs and I wish I had gone overseas to play and coach. 

I know I would have loved it, just like I loved refereeing. In reality, at 25, I was focused on my family, I had a child and responsibilities. I was from a very traditional family. Moving around the country and world to gain experiences was not something that women did in the 80s. I would have told my younger self to go for it and bring my family with me, it would have been good for them. I will say I have a very full and healthy life so far and plenty of time for more adventures.