PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — While Washington’s Hannah Heinz played high school volleyball, she never imagined she’d someday be an official.
“I even said right when I got (certified), I’ve joined the dark side,” Heinz said with a smile. “I’ve officially joined the dark side.”
Heinz, 23, is a bright, young face in a job where there aren’t many like her. There’s a shortage of Illinois High School Association referees and umpires in Illinois and many of the officials who are working games are well past their 50th birthdays.
Heinz, who played volleyball, basketball and soccer at Washington High School, is a recent graduate of Eastern Illinois, where she played soccer. Now that she’s out of college, her father thought she might want to give officiating a try.
“I knew there was a gap to be filled and I though she was a perfect candidate, with her exposure to different sports, coaches and referees,” said Chuck Heinz, who coached Hannah’s high school volleyball teams at Washington. “Seemed like a natural fit.”
Chuck Heinz has been a junior high volleyball official for six years and is starting his fifth working high school games. He made his pitch to his daughter and the she liked the idea of returning to high school gyms as a referee.
“I have a need for the adrenaline and everything. When you’re an athlete, that goes away and you need something to fill that,” said Hannah Heinz. “It’s nice to be back in that situation.”
The idea that Hannah would officiate volleyball seemed highly unlikely a couple years ago. In April 2018, she was diagnosed with Form B Cell Lymphoma, a form of cancer that ended her soccer career.
But just two weeks ago she celebrated the one-year anniversary of her last chemo treatment.
“I get up every day and say, ‘what can I accomplish today?'” Hannah Heinz said. “You take for granted a lot of the little things, like going on walks. I want to do it 10 times (what’s normal). I want to do everything I can possibly do.”
Including taking pride in being a high school volleyball official, a job she never thought she’d like.