Tradition & History

Pati Rolf – Whistling Toward Brazil

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Pati Rolf has walked into hundreds of gymnasiums as a player, coach, fan and referee.

The former North Dakota State University volleyball and basketball player has also worn a few different university colors and collected 427 wins at the NCAA division I level, which makes her one of 46 active coaches with at least 400 wins.


From 1981 to 1984 she wore the Bison green and gold. From 1988 to 2001 she wore the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs’ maroon and gold. From 2002 to 2009 she wore the Marquette University blue and gold. A year later, she was wearing East Carolina University royal purple and old gold. And now she is wearing the black and white pinstripes while standing on the hardwood blowing her whistle as the volleyball soars over the net.

She had a successful coaching career with the Bulldogs, a decent record with the Golden Eagles and a disappointing run with the Pirates, but now she’s focused on the summer of 2016.

The 1999 NDSU Hall of Fame inductee is now attempting to receive an officiating invitation for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio, Brazil.

The line judge already officiated during one Summer Olympics in 1996 that took place in Atlanta.

She received her Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) International Officiating Certificate 12 years ago, becoming one of the 15 female international officials on the planet.

Her role from calling plays and getting on players when they underperform has transformed into getting yelled at by coaches and fans, laughed Rolf.

She officiates at nights and when she’s not doing that, she’s coaching a junior volleyball team and a U-17 girls’ team, but the stress and excitement of coaching college student-athletes is not quite there.

When she rolls out of her bed, coaching always crosses her mind. “It’s not easy not coaching,” the Hopkins, Minn., native said. “Every day I wake up (and) I feel that I should be in the gym, it’s kind of a weird thing.”

When she gets a breakfast and maybe even some coffee she heads down to her dock on Pewaukee Lake, Wis., where she is currently living and does a little fishing and a little relaxing. She helps out with neighbors’ lawns and any other projects they have.[/text_output]

[image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3650″ alt=”Pati Rolf ndsu bison volleyball olympic referee”]

[text_output]When the skies get darker and the lake gets calmer, Rolf starts her officiating job.

Lately, the Professional Association of Volleyball Officials (PAVO) Hall of Fame member has been flying around the world officiating volleyball World Championships and other big events to help her officiating resume for the Olympic Summer Games next year.

Soon she will fly off to Puerto Rico to officiate at the 2015 FIVB World Grand Prix Tournament. Then she will come back and later head north to Toronto for another event. After that, it will be time for her to travel to Peru to officiate the U-18 World Championships.

She’s on the run 24/7, just like she was when she coached, but this time it’s different.

When she was coaching, she had to be away from her family. When she accepted the job at East Carolina, she was away from her daughter Madison (21) for three years while she was finishing school.

Yes, Rolf is still away from home and family on occasion, but when she’s home, she’s home for a good amount of time.

It all evens out.

She said people always wonder why she officiates. The 52-year-old responds, “I get paid to go to Italy and be with the best players in the world.”

That’s a lot of pressure and a lot of negative noise if she makes the incorrect call.

“All these other challenges that come up (I can handle) because I’ve been trained well at NDSU to handle the pressure,” Rolf said.

Will she ever get back into coaching after her 25-year stint?

Her husband Kent, her daughter Madison and 28-year-old son named Graydon don’t even know that answer, only she does.

When she stepped away from the college coaching it was more than difficult, but she was able to focus on other parts of her life. And once the officiating gig is over she said it may be time to start looking for another coaching job or at the very least a position in the administrative field.

She’s blown her whistle in many different states and countries, represented a few prestigious universities, but the Bison is the mascot closest to her heart.

“I’ll always remember where I came from, trust me,” Rolf said. “I wear my NDSU gear when I’m on the road.”

And she might be able to wear that NDSU gear in Brazil.[/text_output]

Pati Rolf – Whistling Toward Brazil
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Published eight times a year, Bison Illustrated provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Bison community in order to help promote the university’s players, coaches, alumni, supporters, staff and fans.


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