ROOTS WITH THE HOME TEAM: Former Lady Bison is first West River female high school football official
Photo by Richard Anderson/Fall River Count Herald-Star
Genevieve Dement-Osborn, a 1997 graduate of Hot Springs High School, speaks to new HSHS Activities Director Mike Deming during this past Saturday night’s football game at Woodward Field.
Publisher’s Note: This new monthly feature showcases former Fall River County high school athletes who continue to find success beyond the field of play. It is written by recently-retired Rapid City Journal Sports Editor Richard Anderson, who is a 1977 graduate of Hot Springs High School. Upcoming articles will feature alumni athletes from any of Fall River County’s high school sports teams.
By Richard Anderson
Hot Springs High School alumna Genevieve (Genny) DeMent-Osborn is a bit of a trailblazer when it comes to South Dakota high school officiating.
In 2019, she along with Amber Sierra and Mary Freddy, were the first three Indigenous women to work a Class AA basketball game together in South Dakota (Pierre). Two years ago she was the first Native American female to work a South Dakota championship basketball game when she officiated in the Class A girls’ tournament in Watertown. She did the same this past Class A girls’ tournament in Brookings.
Last Saturday night (Aug. 27), she worked as a line judge at the Hot Springs versus McCook Central/Montrose football game at Woodward Field, becoming only the fifth female in South Dakota to officiate a football game, the first from West River. Landon Kemp from Vermillion is the only other female currently registered to officiate football this season.
The other three include Vonda Bjorklund from Brookings, Cami Veire from Sioux Falls and Amanda Kuntz from Huron.
Finally talked into it
One of DeMent-Osborn’s mentors, Justin Ingalls, who hired her for her first college basketball conference (GPAC), came to Rapid City this summer for a camp and told her she needed to referee football.
DeMent-Osborn said she kind of giggled and told him, “yeah, OK,” not thinking the conversation was going far. But Ingalls, the South Dakota high school state officials’ coordinator for basketball and football, wouldn’t give up in his attempt to lure her to the sport of football.
She finally told him she would think about it.
“I had always been asked about doing football, but I hunt in the fall and it didn’t coincide with my hunting schedule,” she said. “But this year I thought I would try it, and I really love it so far.”
While living in New York in middle school, she and her twin sister, Jacqueline (DeMent) Melcher, played on the boys’ lacrosse team, again a first for the school.
“I guess I got a taste of a contact sport then, and I like watching football, so let’s give it a try. I’m always up for a challenge,” she said.
To get ready for the 2022 season, DeMent-Osborn worked three jamborees East River and scrimmages in Sturgis, Hot Springs and at Rapid City Central.
Originally at her first jamboree, she was a back judge, but she moved to line judge and that proved to be the right fit. She is also a fan of NFL line judge Sarah Thomas.
“What was interesting, I’m used to basketball, where I have to be on the sideline and baseline,” she said. “I’m used to looking into the play versus being in the middle, and if you are a back judge you are right in the middle of the play.”
DeMent-Osborn recently joined a women’s football officiating group called Women In Officiating. They text, send emails and meet through Zoom calls about different situations. There are 109 women in this group nationally, as well as three from abroad in all levels of football. She is the lone representative from South Dakota.
“I am humbled to see all of the women in all of the states with the love for officiating football, whether it is in the NFL, Division I or high school,” she said.
DeMent-Osborn feels that with being a female officiating a male sport, there is the perception that women can’t do similar things that men can do.
“For example, in high school in South Dakota, men can’t play volleyball, but you have a lot of male volleyball officials. So why wouldn’t it be the same for women to referee football, although there isn’t a sanctioned sport (football) for girls to play?” she said. “Women and men have differences, but I applaud it because that makes us unique. I think there is room for me to be an official. I understand the rules and I want to adjudicate that rulebook and watch a sport I love to watch anyway. So why not do it from the sidelines?”
Becoming a Lady Bison
Born in Pine Ridge, DeMent-Osborn’s parents, Harry F. DeMent, Jr. and Deborah Rooks-Cook, met in the Marine Corps, so they traveled all over the country. She and Jackie went to seven schools in 12 years -- in six different states -- before finishing up at Hot Springs High School her final two years, graduating in 1997.
Moving around, she always had her twin sister as her best friend and ally.
“It was difficult and always a challenge with a new school and new classmates to meet,” she said. “Sports always kept us grounded and gave us a place where we felt like it was home for us, where it was consistent. Sports were always the foundation that made us feel wanted, made us feel welcome. As I have gotten older, I still want to be involved. I coach my kids’ stuff whenever I can. It’s a lot of fun watching them compete in soccer and basketball.”
Genevieve played volleyball her senior year, while Jackie played both years. A cheerleader for boys’ basketball, Genny also played basketball and ran track, as did her sister.
DeMent-Osborn ran the 200-meter dash and also competed individually in the long jump and triple jump. She also competed in the 4X100 and 4X200 relays, with the 4X200 winning state her senior year. She was inducted in the Hot Springs Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019 as a member of the two-time (1996-1997) state champion Lady Bison track team.
“We always qualified in multiple events. One of the headlines (Rapid City Journal) said, ‘DeMents lament which events to run at State,’” she said with a laugh. “Coach (Dave) Scott put us where we were going to be most useful for the team. He put me in the relays and Jackie in the individual events so we could score more points. We had a lot of talent and opportunities as a team to decide where we could score the most points.”
When Genevieve and Jackie settled in Hot Springs to finish high school, they lived with their uncle, Dave Rooks. It proved to be a pretty good transition for the sisters who were always on the move.
“I remember when I first got there, it was so weird. It was 100 degrees and we were practicing in the gym for basketball; in Florida basketball was in the winter time. That was just foreign to me,” she said. “It was a nice time and everyone was so welcoming. You have a little bit of conflict when you first go to a new school because you are the new girls, but they were good memories.”
She said that when Jackie was inducted into the Hot Springs Bison Athletics Hall of Fame (2018) as an individual athlete, it brought her back to something that was a foundation of roots.
“Moving around growing up, we didn’t have kids you went to school with since kindergarten,” she said. “But we still see classmates occasionally. When Mickey Dennis got inducted to the Hall of Fame two years ago, it was great to see a bunch of my old classmates there. It was a lot of fun being in Hot Springs. It’s a beautiful town.”
Thinking back, DeMent-Osborn remembers all the road trips, coming back from games on the bus, singing to the radio with her teammates. Sunnie Fish, an outstanding athlete herself at HSHS, was a close friend of theirs. Joyce Farrell hired the DeMent twins for their first jobs as they worked for her in the summer recreation department.
Her first time going back to Hot Springs after graduation, she walked into the Case Auditorium gym to referee a basketball game.
“It was very nostalgic. It had been about 20 years and Joyce was announcing. There were hugs and familiar faces everywhere,” she said. “It was just so cool to go back. It had been a long time, but people still remember who you are.”
Saturday night was also special for DeMent-Osborn to be back again in Hot Springs.
“First, it was wonderful to be able to work my very first game at my alma mater,” she said. “I was excited, but got a little nervous during the anthem. Then once the game started, I was dialed in and focused.”
Giving back to HSHS
DeMent-Osborn runs a small accounting firm. She was in public accounting for several years and when she had her two daughters, she wanted more flexibility. She now works two days a week at a client’s office and then out of her home the rest of the time.
“I’ve always wanted to be an accountant, since I was a little girl, as long as I can remember,” she said. “I wanted to be an agent accountant for the FBI, investigating white collar crimes. I just love accounting. It is not a job if it’s something you enjoy. Going to work every day is fun.”
DeMent-Osborn has been on the Bison HOF committee for about three years. When Jackie was inducted, Genevieve presented her. There, she met HSHS Hall of Famer Quinten Hofer, who is also the committee’s chairperson, and she said they hit it off.
“I just said I want to help and be involved, do whatever I can to help out,” she said. “It is a lot of fun because of the love of the town, the love of the school, the loyalty. You don’t see that very often anymore. I see it in the smaller towns when I officiate, but in the bigger schools, it kind of gets lost, the pride of where you go to school and your hometown. Being in the Hall of Fame kind of brings that out, to be part of it.”
In addition, DeMent-Osborn is on the Board of Directors for Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, a Non-Profit by Porcupine, the Black Hills Sports Officials Association and the Black Hills Rapids Soccer Club.
Continuing on that officiating trail
DeMent-Osborn first became a basketball referee, again somewhat on a lark when she was asked to help officiate a middle school game in Winner in 2010.
It turned into much more, and little did she know at the time, it would take her to where she is today. Along with her high school duties on the basketball court, she officiates and is on staff for women’s basketball at the collegiate level in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, the Great Plains Athletic Conference and Region IX.
“When I worked games in the middle of the State, I would travel to a small gym and have people come up and say, ‘I’ve never seen a female ref before,’” she said. “In South Dakota we don’t have very many female officials at all. We’re hurting for officials period, much less females. It’s nice to be out there and show these young girls that you can be a mother and a professional and have a career, and still be able to do things that you really enjoy.”
DeMent-Osborn hopes she is a positive influence on her daughters with all of her activities.
“At dinner one night when I said I was going to be one of the first females officiating football in South Dakota, my oldest goes, ‘Really Mom? Wow, you are changing the world.’ I started laughing and said, ‘No, honey,’ but she thought it was the greatest thing ever.”
DeMent-Osborn has a goal someday to have one or both of her daughter’s officiate with her. She has a few years yet, but she hopes it becomes reality.
“You have father-son, father-daughter, but I never have seen a woman officiate with her daughter. That would be really cool,” she said.
Yet another officiating trail to blaze for DeMent-Osborn.